Josh Horner, HelloFresh, Automation Engineer 5 - 📸  Rod Kirkpatrick

Name: Josh Horner

Age: 28

Job title: Automation engineer

Company & location: HelloFresh, Derby

Education: Motorsport Engineering at the University of Derby

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I always knew I wanted to be an engineer as Derby is a city rich in industrial history. I spent my childhood fascinated by how machines and tools worked.

Why did you decide to go for a career in food & drink? The dynamism of HelloFresh was what attracted me to start with. The fact that the business has gone from three people packing recipe boxes from a bedroom in Berlin to a truly global food solutions group with multiple brands operating in different categories in just under 12 years is pretty awe inspiring.

The idea that the business is disrupting the supermarkets’ traditional ways by using technology and automation to achieve a super convenient, highly personalised product is really exciting. This might sound corny, but I feel like my career has a new meaning.

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): I am responsible for the automated equipment inside our brand new distribution centre ‘The Windmill’ in Derby, which when open in 2024, will be HelloFresh’s first automated site in the UK.

I am one of the subject matter experts within the team, for all controls systems, maintenance engineering, sensors, programmable logic controllers, communication protocols, and automation for the entire 400,000 sq ft site (our largest outside the US).

“A summer job during uni at a nearby factory or distribution centre is a great introduction to the world of food”

What does a typical day look like for you? Alongside rolling projects, I’ll be found monitoring our system uptime and looking for any improvements to be made in order to prevent or reduce downtime and increase availability. If any equipment is unable to be fixed by our technicians, I act as a point of escalation and carry out a root cause analysis to get things up and running as quickly as possible to prevent downtime. It’s really rewarding to be working on such game-changing automation for our sector.

Tell us about how you went about applying for your job: A member of the senior management team reached out to me on LinkedIn asking if I would be interested in the role.

There were four interview stages before I had a job offer, a telephone interview with talent acquisition, a Google Meets interview with two members of senior management, a site tour interview, and a technical interview with a member of the global automation team.

The toughest part of the interview process was the technical interview due to being asked technical questions on the spot. The care and attention HelloFresh made to ensure they had found the right fit for the business was reassuring and pretty satisfying when I was offered the role. Once the business decides you’re the right person for the role, that’s it, they’ll then ensure you have everything you need to succeed and thrive – that’s a good feeling.

HelloFresh delivery box veg

What’s the best part about working for a food & drink company? We get a very very good discount on HelloFresh and Green Chef recipe boxes so the foodie in me is always excited to try the latest recipes and taste innovations from our talented culinary teams. It also means dinner time at my place is a very popular choice among my family and friends.

The culture of learning at HelloFresh makes it a great place to work. Our global scale means I’ve been able to visit in person and learn from my colleagues in Germany. As automation rolls out at our other sites, I’ll be able to share my skills and learnings from Derby around the world.

And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? I’m surprised when people assume that the food and drink industry is fully automated and no longer relies on people. They are a million miles away from the truth!

True, automation already plays a huge part in food and drink, and this will surely increase in the future, but there will be a need for many people in more expert roles like mine to maintain, program and improve our machinery.

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Look around to see what’s happening locally, you’ll be surprised to see the opportunities, often hidden away in a nondescript warehouse on the edge of your town or city. A summer job during uni at a nearby factory or distribution centre is a great introduction to the world of food and a good opportunity to see if it’s a career path you’d like to pursue. People are always going to want to eat!

Oh, and keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and looking smart, you never know who’s looking!

What’s your ultimate career dream? Automation is the future for food, so I feel like I’m in a good place in terms of my current pathway. I’m keen to see how far we can take the technology we currently have available and be part of the team that pulls together the next game-changing piece of automation for HelloFresh.

Interested in finding out more about food & drink careers? Check out GrocerJobs for the latest vacancies