How did you get started in your role?
I first saw the graduate programme in an online career fair at University College Dublin. This was in September/October 2020 during the covid pandemic, so everything was online during this time. The programme immediately stood out to me compared to other programmes as I would be able to obtain a masters qualification as well as using my German language abilities. This was an extremely important aspect to me when searching for graduate programmes to apply to as I had studied German all throughout secondary school and in college and wanted to further my progress by using it in a work environment. So Bord Bia really was a great fit and was why I felt encouraged to apply for the programme.
Why did you choose to work with Bord Bia?
I always had an interest in the Irish food and drink industry and was very much leaning towards career opportunities that would let me work in this industry. I thought that Bord Bia would be a great fit for this purpose and also due to the fact that it had over 15 international offices and I would potentially have the opportunity to be placed in one of these offices and live abroad for a period of time. As Bord Bia wasn’t focused on one particular sector within the food and drink industry I also thought that it would be a great opportunity to see which sectors I had a particular interest in before deciding where to go next in my career.
What are you working on at present?
I work in the Düsseldorf office for Bord Bia and in Germany we have many trade shows happening throughout the year. I specifically work on 4 sectors which are PCF (prepared consumer foods), alcohol, dairy and seafood which means that most trade shows that we attend fall under my sectors. Therefore, most of my role includes project management for these trade shows. Recently, I was helping the alcohol sector team in Dublin prepare for Bar Convent Berlin which took place from October 10th – 12th in Berlin. We had a Bord Bia information stand at the show which I was manning for a period of time with my other colleagues and there was also a ‘Spirit of Ireland’ event taking place on the 10th in Berlin. All of that required a lot of organising and I helped out with this as much as possible by booking hotels, getting in contact with customers, helping design infographics for e-vites and generally offering a helping hand wherever was necessary for the preparations for the show.
What is the best part of your job?
It is hard to pick just one part, as I really do love so many aspects of my job, but I think the best aspect of my job is probably the variability of it. Everyday is different due to the number of sectors that I work in which gives me a great overview into so many aspects of the Irish food and drink industry. I have learned so much about Irish food and drink producers and having the opportunity to live in Germany and work from there not only allows me to use my German language abilities, but also to gain a deep understanding of the German market as a whole. I have gained invaluable insight into all channels in this market including retail, foodservice and manufacturing and all of this has been extremely interesting to learn about and I know will stand to me in the future.
What career moment are you particularly proud of?
Looking back on the programme to date, I think the proudest career moment for me was attending the Biofach Organic Trade Mission and seeing everything that I had helped plan come to fruition and not only this, but actually all go to plan without any hiccups! During the planning for this trade mission, a lot of change was taking place within the German team in Bord Bia as I gained a new line manager just before the show took place. However, as she came on quite late in the planning stages for the show, I was the main point of contact for the sectors teams and the ministerial party. I was very involved in the organisation of the itinerary for the trade mission, booking the hotels, helping contact customers and establish meetings for the trade mission and was a key point of contact for pretty much everyone during this time. This was an immense amount of responsibility for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting hands on and being involved in so many aspects of the planning for the trade mission. I learned so much from being so involved and there was a great sense of pride and accomplishment after the trade mission ended and everything had run smoothly.
Where do you see the food and drink industry five years from now?
I think a lot will change in the next five years as so much changes in this industry on a daily basis. I would think that there will be many more innovations in the plant-based sector as this is a growing sector for the industry at the moment. It will also be interesting to see how technologies progress within the industry and seeing what foods can be produced from the new technologies created. I think the organic sector will also grow and progress within the next five years. It is a huge sector here in Germany and Irish companies are very close to being/ if not already are practically organic, so seeing new products come into this sector will be very exciting.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you have ever received?
Saying ‘no’ is ok and delegating your work does not reflect badly on you. I have found that with working on so many sectors and depending on how busy the month is with trade events, saying no is so important and necessary if you are snowed under with other important tasks. I have also learned that delegating some of your less important tasks or ones that you might require more assistance with is also really important to do and does not reflect badly on you. If anything, it shows that you can prioritise and have trust in your team to do other tasks and offer a helping hand when needed.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about interviewing for your position?
I would tell them to be as prepared as possible. Make sure you know your CV inside and out, have gone through competency questions, visit your college career advisers and complete mock interviews as all of this will help you succeed in the interview process. I would also say research companies within the Irish food and drink industry that are of interest to you and have a look at some trends in the industry so that you have facts to pull on in the interview to make you stand out. If you have a language, make sure that your speaking and writing skills are up to scratch as both of these are tested in the interview process also. It is quite a difficult interview process overall, so you really need to be as prepared as possible when applying for this programme.
What are the key skills and capabilities necessary to be good at what you do?
A key skill necessary for this role is definitely communication. You have to have confidence in your ability to communicate your thoughts and opinions and be able to interact with your team and the teams in Ireland as well as with customers and clients. You also need to have good time management skills as many of the tasks given to a graduate will have a date that it needs to be completed by so being able to manage your time and priorities efficiently is key. You definitely need to be a competent person to be in this role and generally have the know-how to take on a task and be able to complete it without someone watching over you. You also need to be a team player in this role. We work within our own office teams and with the sectors teams in Dublin on a daily if not hourly basis, so being a team player and being able to offer a helping hand is crucial for this role.
If you were applying for this role today, how would you prepare?
I would start by getting in touch with my university career guidance team and book in a time to review my CV and cover letter. I would then look up past graduates from the programme on LinkedIn and get in touch and potentially set up a call with one of them. This can be really helpful in gaining a proper understanding of the role and the programme before entering the interview process. Then I would try talking with someone in the language that I am applying with as there are two stages in the application process in which language ability is tested. Finally, once through to the interview stage, I would again book in with the university career guidance team and do one or two mock interviews to make sure that I have all aspects of the competency questions covered and have an answer for everything. Like I said earlier, I would also research some news or new trends in the industry as well as key news surrounding the company to prepare for questions in relation to this area.