RAU Alumni Lectures – Career Advice from MDS Chair

RAU Alumni Lectures – Career Advice from MDS Chair

Despite the busy changeover period, MDS Trainees are continuing to demonstrate an enthusiastic can-do attitude! This month, group 48 Trainee Max Pitman took part in the exciting RAU 175 Alumni virtual Lecture event alongside MDS Chair Christine Tacon.


The Alumni Lecture series celebrates the university’s 175th anniversary and feature expert leaders from across the industry. Christine sat down with Max via the live webinar to discuss her fascinating career background, covering a portfolio of commercial expertise. Christine and Max had plenty of advice for young people interested in starting a food and fresh produce career.

Find a Mentor

Christine’s main advice for people starting a career in food and fresh produce? Finding a mentor.

“One of the things I advise people quite early on in their career now is to try and get themselves a mentor. Someone you pick up along your career that has an interest in helping you. If you identify somebody that is like that, cling on to them and ask them for advice as you go through your career.”

According to Christine, MDS opens Trainees up to a vast network of industry professionals who are willing to help them.

“There are around 22 Trainees starting with you and another 60 Trainees that are there to try and help you. There’s an Alumni network of around 500 people across the industry.”

Extensive Career Portfolio

Christine reflected on her extensive career that spans Vodafone, Mars, Cooperative Farms, her role as the first-ever Grocer Code Adjudicator (GCA), and, for the last five years, Chair of MDS.

“I think I could say in many ways actually that my career was a series of successes or sequence of failures. When I look back, the most enduring impact I had in my career has always been on people. Helping people achieve what they thought they couldn’t.”

MDS Graduate Scheme

Christine highlighted how the MDS graduate scheme is the perfect career step for “can-do” individuals who love a challenge.

“MDS Trainees are thrown more than they think they can handle, but their can-do attitude means they’re not easily fazed. There may be some placements they don’t enjoy, but they will get through it. The most common feedback is that they learn the most about themselves in the toughest six months.”


Max, who is currently going into his 2nd secondment, said the MDS programme has been the most extraordinary experience, particularly in a year dominated by lockdown: 

“The immersion I had was unbelievable. You join a company for six months and you have to make an impact. It’s full speed from day one! I was fortunate to be in the office every day, but some Trainees have never actually been to the office. I think if we can make it through this, normal life will seem relatively easy.”

“The support from MDS and Finsbury has been excellent. The way the Trainees club together and support each other is amazing.” 

Thank you RAU

Max found the virtual event very insightful. “I enjoyed the webinar! It was the first time I had done anything like that, so it was a very new experience. Christine answered every question brilliantly, and we had a very insightful discussion.”

Christine Tacon also enjoyed being part of the event.

“I was honoured to be asked to be part of the event. MDS has recruited a number of graduates from RAU, and I was pleased that Max was prepared to ask the questions. There were some very thought-provoking questions. I hope that the RAU students found it useful.”