Name: Samuel Higginson
Job title: Graduate Food Technologist
Company: Marks and Spencer, London
Education: BSc (Hons) Nutrition and Food Science, University of Nottingham
You didn’t really set out looking for a career in food. Tell us how you ended up working for M&S.
It’s great to attend the Food Science Summer Schools across the UK to represent M&S and help inspire the next generation of food scientists.
I always wanted to be a pathologist at school, but when I was 16 my chemistry teacher told me about the Reading University Food Science Summer School. This allowed me to spend three days learning about the world of food science and technology and all the opportunities that go with it, and I have never looked back. I went on to study nutrition and food science at the University of Nottingham, completing an industrial placement year with M&S and Greencore. It’s now great to attend the Food Science Summer Schools across the UK to represent M&S and help inspire the next generation of food scientists.
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two):
As an M&S food technologist, I am responsible for the safety, legality and quality of the products on shelf, as well as being a guardian of the M&S brand and to help deliver fantastic products for our customers, every time.
What does a typical day look like for you?
No day is ever the same, and that is why I love my job. Working on such a diverse range of products is really exciting; you never know what will happen next.
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. How many stages were there, what did you have to do? Any particularly tough interview questions?
I was very lucky when it came to getting a job after university. After completing my industrial placement year with Marks and Spencer, I was offered a chance to come back on the graduate scheme. Before that, I had a single interview for the placement scheme. Now, graduates go through a rigorous assessment centre and multiple online tests, so I got off lightly!
You have experience working for both a manufacturer (Greencore) and now a retailer (M&S). What’s the biggest difference?
It’s been great to get experience in both manufacturing and retail so early on in my career, giving me an understanding of the different pressures faced in both areas. For me, working at a manufacturer allowed me the opportunity to really get into the detail of a product, and focus on the process or project I was working on at the time. At a retailer, I am often dealing with several projects at the same time, whilst also thinking about what the next big thing is, and how we can continually push the boundaries of product innovation and quality.
What is M&S like to work for? What’s the culture like?
The culture is relaxed as we have open plan offices, and everyone is really approachable
The M&S Food Technology Graduate Scheme offers me lots of opportunities to cement my knowledge in food science, but to get involved in lots of activities across the business giving me a good grounding for my future career. The culture is relaxed as we have open plan offices, and everyone is really approachable, with lots of technologists having been through the graduate scheme themselves.
What’s the best part about working with food?
I love everything about food! Everyone has to eat, so it is something that is universal to everybody. Getting to be involved in creating and shaping future products is really exciting, and see it on the shelf makes all the hard work worthwhile. Eating delicious products on a daily basis is also a big bonus, though a gym membership is essential.
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink?
When I first said I was going to study food science at university, all my friends and family assumed I was training to be a chef. I think there is a misconception that the food on the shelves simply appears by magic, as there is often a lack of understanding about where food comes from. However, people are right when they say ‘do you have to wear a hairnet?’.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry?
I am always recommending the food industry to young people as a potential career option as the possibilities are endless, hoping they can enjoy the same experiences and opportunities I’ve been lucky enough to have. My motto is ‘Be keen and be seen’. Try to get any work experience you can to help you decide what part of industry you want to work in, and always follow up with a thank you email.
What’s your ultimate career dream?
At the moment I am focusing on completing my graduate scheme, but one day I hope to be a position where I can help shape the future of our business.