Name: Fiona Shields
Job title: Marketing executive
Company & location: Belazu Ingredient Company, Greenford
Education: Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester
Why did you decide to go for a career in food? Food is so interesting as it is one of the common denominators of human behaviour, everyone has to eat and drink. I studied a lot about different food cultures, rituals and consumption in my degree and I have always loved cooking.
That, coupled with the part-time jobs I had at Hawksmoor and as a student brand ambassador for Sipsmith Gin while I was at university, really cemented my interest in a career in food. I enjoyed both those roles and was exposed to a lot of different elements of sales and marketing in the food, drinks and hospitality industries which was great footing to have going into the job market.
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): I help execute marketing campaigns for retail and e-commerce while also supporting trade marketing activities and continue to grow the Belazu community through digital channels.
What does a typical day look like for you? My role has a digital focus as I look after all the social channels, email marketing and online community while also helping maintain the website and e-commerce platforms.
I also get involved and stuck in with the wider marketing activities: PR, events, content production, brand partnerships, media, copywriting, market research and CSR. So my days do tend to be pretty varied which is great as I get exposure to so many parts of the business.
“It is great to see the community spirit within the hospitality and foodservice industry get even stronger during Covid”
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. I actually started at Belazu in 2018 as an account executive in the foodservice sales team, which was a three-stage interview process. First was a telephone interview, followed by an in-person interview with my line manager and the sales manager, and the final interview consisted of two parts: an informal interview with a director to see how my values aligned with the company culture and a maths aptitude test.
When applying for the marketing executive role I interviewed twice internally, once with my current line manager and the marketing director, and secondly with one of the founders of Belazu to discuss the role change and the move between teams. There was also a blog writing task and a social media task in the final interview.
What’s the best part about working for a food company? At the moment it is great to see the community spirit within the hospitality and foodservice industry get even stronger during Covid. The innovation that different companies and brands have developed so quickly to adapt their offering is amazing. I would say the brilliant innovation and the friendly industry and sense of community are some of the best things about working in food.
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? I often find that people are surprised by the breadth of roles that are available. You may not think about scientists working in food, or the suppliers and companies that are not as well known or recognised as the big brands, but there are so many opportunities out there.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Put yourself out there by taking advantage of any opportunity that arises and gives you the chance to gain more experience, learn a new skill or broaden your network. I have found Women in the Food Industry and Ladies of Restaurants run various events that give you a huge opportunity to meet people in the industry.
Do not underestimate the value of certain experiences – there is so much value to every position within the food industry and it will all pay dividends when it comes to finding your next role.
What’s your ultimate career dream? Working abroad is a goal of mine, it provides such an exciting opportunity to learn about different customer markets, ways of working and exposure to different ways of doing things. I can’t imagine not working in food or drink. In the future it would be incredible to have a job that intertwines sustainability, food politics and food systems, though I am not entirely sure what that job is yet.