What made you want to begin a career working in the bakery industry?
I always enjoyed baking as it was something I shared with my mother and grandmother. I didn’t realize I could have such an amazing career as a baker outside of working in the world of food service until I found the program at Kansas State.
What challenges did you face starting out in your career?
In this industry, you go where the job takes you and there are so many jobs all over the world. I’ve only been in the industry full time for 2 years and am already seeing how you really can go anywhere and do anything, you just have to be willing to be flexible and have the drive to learn and grow. Basically my “challenge” has been figuring out what direction I want my career to go with so many different options available, even at this early stage of my career.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in the bakery industry and how did you overcome them?
I currently work more on the corporate side of the industry which naturally comes with its own challenges. I would say because of the fact that I am a woman and I work in corporate it makes it that much harder when I need to work with our manufacturing plants because it’s almost a “double stigma” for me: female and corporate. I’ve worked very hard to break down some of those barriers and really gain the trust and respect of my co-workers at our plants.
How long have you worked in the bakery industry?
2 years full-time post college, but I worked at a retail bakery for 2 ½ years in college
What is your career highlight?
My first project to execute solo involved 7 different SKU’s across 4 different manufacturing plants. It was a major formulation change and really challenged my baking science skills (and sanity). It was a very proud moment when I could look back and see that my very first plant trial to lead involved 7 different types of bread with a major formulation change that also saved our company over $500,000 a year without jeopardizing product quality.
If you could make one change to the bakery industry, what would that be and why?
I think something that can always be improved upon is bridging the gap between generations. The older generation is settled in their career and/or getting ready to retire while there are so many young professionals just starting out. If I’ve learned anything yet in my career it’s that knowledge is nothing without experience and the older generation has a plethora of both. We just need to make sure the more seasoned professionals take the time to share all that they can with the incoming bakers.
What does your job entail?
As a Technologist at Pepperidge Farm, I have a wide range of responsibilities. I work in R&D on our fresh bakery business (Swirl bread, sandwich bread, buns & rolls) as well as our frozen business (layer cakes, puff pastry, Texas Toast). I work on new product launches from bench top development all the way through commercialization at our 5 bakeries. As I’m a part of the base business as we call it, I work to maintain our current core products as well: technical trouble shooting at the plants, cost savings projects, quality improvements, etc. It’s a nice blend of lab work and traveling as well as project management.
What advice would you give to young people looking to get into the bakery industry?
Do it! It’s such a rewarding industry and one that everyone can relate to: people love to eat! It’s always changing and evolving, but at the same time bread is an ancient art and science which I think is what makes our industry so unique and special.
What are your hobbies and interests?
It goes without saying that I love to bake! I’m also a travel junkie. I’ll be heading to Iceland and Denmark in December. I’ve also always loved and admired sign language so I’m in the process of learning, hoping to be fluent in the near future.
Who is your role model and why?
Helen Keller – She overcame so many obstacles as not only a woman but a “disabled” woman at that. I’ve always admired how she viewed life and learning.
If you could invite anyone to a dinner party, who would it be and why?
Taylor Swift! She seems like such a down to earth person through all her fame and success. It’s refreshing to see that in someone so young!
If you could switch places with one other people, who would it be and why?
Princess Kate, because who wouldn’t want to be a Princess and live a fairy tale?!
What is your favourite bakery event and why?
I hope to have an opportunity to attend IBIE, but I really loved the chance to attend an RBA event in Birmingham, AL a few years back. Even though I grew up there, the event opened my eyes to so many great local bakeries in my area that I never knew existed.
If you could choose to eat one bakery product for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Cinnamon rolls! Any and all flavors or varieties.
If you could tell your younger self one thing you have learnt from your career, what would it be?
Be confident and humble. Your education is only the ground floor of your career so take the time to really learn and soak in all you can. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as you’re not expected to know everything right out of the gate. Be okay with admitting mistakes. It’s part of learning and growing, and your colleagues will respect you so much more for your courage and honesty.
How would you define success?
In my opinion, success is not always black and white. You can be successful in your actions when you’re able to look back and say you did everything in your power to work towards completing the task in front of you. The saying goes “Life is a journey, not a destination”. I think if you learn and grow through the journey and are better equipped for future challenges, you’ve achieved success.
What would say that your proudest moment has been in your career?
This year at ASB when I was able to give my baking instructor from K-State my business card. Everything felt like it had come full circle at that point!
What was your big break, and how did you reach it?
I’m not sure I’ve reached my big break, which is probably a good thing since I still have lots of learning to do!