‘I work with insects, teeth, hairs, bullets and faeces’
Working with “the weird and the wonderful” is one reason why Calum McOmish, laboratory manager at Mondelēz International Reading Science Centre hasn’t looked back since choosing a career in the food industry. He shares a day in his life with FoodManJobs.
Did you always want to work in the food industry?
I always liked science (especially Chemistry) at school and I wanted to do something in this area but I wasn’t sure what career or industry I wanted to work in. I started at Reading Scientific Services Limited (RSSL), one of the UK's leading independent provider of research, analysis and consultancy services to the food, beverage, pharmaceutical, healthcare and chemical industries on a year-long internship in the microscopy laboratory as part of my chemistry degree at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. I enjoyed my placement so much that I returned to the site in September 2003 and I haven’t’ looked back about choosing a career in the food and drink industry.
What skills do you need to do this job?
I am now responsible for running the metals laboratory. My team of seven work on the analysis of trace and ultra-trace levels of metals in pharmaceutical and food products using a range of atomic spectroscopy techniques. So I’d say for this job I need to have good problem solving ability, project management, listening, decision making, time management and lots more!
What training did you have for this role?
I studied Chemistry at University which gave me a very good grounding. As part of this I completed an internship in the microscopy laboratory which was a full year of hands-on training and responsibility, which equipped me with a variety of skills and knowledge. Throughout my 10 years in microscopy, as my technical knowledge expanded, so did my responsibility, which was recognised as I progressed to deputy manager of the lab. Since then the majority of my training has been on the job supplemented by short functional courses.
What’s the first thing you do every day?
Re-assess my priorities for the day ahead.
Is there a set routine to your day?
No. My role is very reactive and involves juggling priorities, which change throughout the day. No two days are ever the same! This was certainly the case when I worked in the Microscopy laboratory thanks to the vast array of foreign body samples which would arrive for identification; everything from fragments of glass, plastic and metal to the weird and wonderful, such as insects, teeth, hairs, bullets and faeces!
How would a typical day end?
Looking ahead to the next day to see what’s coming up and what we have to complete as a team.
What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job?
Not enough time in the day to get everything I want done and not knowing what is going to happen during the day!
What part of your day do you enjoy most?
Taking over the management of the recently expanded metals laboratory has allowed me to refresh my (rusty) chemistry knowledge whilst also learning about budgeting, strategy and other managerial aspects and to continue to develop my people management skills. I enjoy the problem solving aspect as well as seeing my team members grow and develop.
What would you say to any young person considering a career in the food industry?
Go for it! It is very rewarding and can be a lot of fun too.