Ivan moved to the UK from Argentina with his wife in September 2020, between lockdowns, to join the MDS training programme. “I was looking for a job in the UK to build on my Food Engineering degree and I came across MDS. I couldn’t believe it. It was just perfect. There are few chances like this to gain experience across the food industry, to discover the opportunities it involves and how I can best contribute to it.”
He studied Food Engineering in a five-year course at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata. His first secondment was with food manufacturing experts Protolan as a Project Manager and he is now working with agrichemical company, Syngenta, as a Responsible & Sustainable Business trainee.
What makes you tick?
Food, science and a career that takes me places. I feel at my best when I am challenged. I always strive to be better than yesterday. Therefore, I constantly aim at developing my skills and learning from my mistakes. Making an ambitious to do list in the morning might sound dull for some, but it greatly motivates me.
What’s cool about food engineering?
People often know about mechanical and chemical engineering but aren’t aware of food engineering as a career. Growing up, I was always interested in food, nutrition and science and food engineering marries this with critical solutions for the future of the industry – from sustainable packaging to efficient manufacturing lines and shelf life. It’s an exciting time to be part of the industry.
Why do you want to be part of it?
It’s full of opportunity to work together on reducing environmental impact and increasing production volume for a growing population. There are so many innovative people in the industry who want to deliver this and use technology to do so. I have seen the critical role engineering plays in food production, and how digital solutions can have a positive impact on farmers and the environment.
What skills do you need for engineering roles in the fresh food industry?
Ultimately, it’s critical thinking; always looking at the outcome and working out how to drive certain processes, machines and technology to achieve a concept as effectively and efficiently as possible. At Project Manager at Protolan, I was playing with numbers and researching equipment in detail and creating Autocad drawings of manufacturing lines to see where productivity and hygiene measures could be improved. Others may apply an environmental or social approach to the same principles.
What do degree engineers bring to the fresh food industry?
A critical mindset that uses facts before affirmation, and an understanding of technological aspects.
Where did you think your food engineering degree would take you?
I thought it might lead to a job as a supervisor in a factory or similar. MDS has opened my eyes to all the different areas of the food industry: researcher, quality assurance, food safety, supply chain manager…
What are you doing now?
I am currently involved in several roles for Syngenta. I am working as a co-ordinator in three Value Chain experiments to bring digital solutions to farmers in Europe. I am enjoying being out on farms, assisting in experiments related to Application Technology in crops to develop training material for Syngenta staff. I am project managing a similar initiative on soil health, and also involved in training farmers in the correct use of PPE when using crop protection products.
What would surprise us about you?
Only a few people know that I played the bass in a punk rock band for five years. We played Green Day covers and we even managed to play in some venues! Also, I used to surf in my hometown. Since I cannot do that in London, I changed that hobby to in-line skating.
Why did you want to join the MDS graduate scheme?
There are few opportunities to gain experience across the whole food industry like this. The alternative is to regularly move jobs which would suggest a lack of commitment and not be as fulfilling. I didn’t know agronomics would interest me so much, nor did I appreciate the innovation, research and investment involved in the food industry.
Already I have worked in manufacturing and in technology, in a company of 30 and a company of 40,000. The experience and training add value to me as a person, with a broader vision of the industry and equips me with the tools to make me a more attractive prospect for employers. Meeting people and networking within the industry is also a great benefit.
The MDS training gives us the skills, the support, the consultancy and the responsibility to equip us as graduates with the leadership assets to become senior business managers and it aligned with all of my objectives.