Coming from a family with a keen interest in food already, Brad O’Callaghan was naturally drawn to a career in the industry after he left school. Now he plays a key role at The FoodBowl working with clients and engineers to help turn product dreams into realities.
HS: What is your role at NZFIN?
BO: I began here in November 2016 as a junior process engineer and have now moved on into becoming The FoodBowl’s client solutions manager – Basically I oversee the production schedule and also project planning. Planning our projects down to the finest detail is the basis for success when it comes to executing a project at The FoodBowl. Once the initial project scoping has been completed, one of The FoodBowl’s process engineers is assigned to the project and my role is to liaise between our client and our engineers to achieve the desired outcome.
How did you get into the food technology industry and what did you study?
My family has a business involved in the food industry and I was introduced to the industry through this business whilst in Year 12 at school. I then combined my skills in science (mainly chemistry) and love of food and researched about where a career in food technology could take me. I studied a Bachelor of Food Technology with the great team of lecturers at Massey University in Albany and the rest is history – I wouldn’t change any moment of it.
What do you enjoy about your work?
There are a few things that really stand-out to me around why I enjoy my work – friends, diversity, and the challenges. From my time at university and at The FoodBowl, I have met some amazing people which is something that makes the food industry in New Zealand a truly great network to be a part of. Every day at The FoodBowl, we are lucky enough to meet some very entrepreneurial and enterprising businesses with great ideas and innovations in a very diverse range of food and beverage products. We see the full range of customers from New Zealand’s largest food and beverage businesses to our smaller farmer’s market start-ups. It’s awesome to be a part of their story and to watch them build a successful food business or launch a new-to-the-world innovation. Challenges are a great way to learn, extend yourself and at times, put yourself outside your comfort zone. It’s an extremely satisfying feeling when you can go home at night having successfully completed a project even though it may not have gone to plan completely.
Were there any hurdles in your career that you had to overcome? What were they and how did you do it?
I have been fairly fortunate in my time at The FoodBowl. I haven’t come across what I would describe as a hurdle in my career so far. As everyone in the industry would be well aware, the nature of what we do at The FoodBowl means that each and every trial or production we run can’t be a 100% success. When we have clients working in ‘unchartered waters’ with brand new products that we are learning about, there is a great understanding between us that sometimes we do actually learn more from not getting things quite right at the scale-up stage.
Do you have any advice for young people starting out in this industry/ is there anything you wish you’d known before taking on the role you have now?
Advice to me is a tricky question. Everyone is their own individual, so they need to do what they feel is right for them. The food industry in New Zealand is a great industry to be involved in as the population will always need to eat. Never fear putting yourself out there in our industry as we are a very helpful bunch. I remember going out in the early days and getting some work experience in a QA lab for a couple of days to see what the whole thing was about. Taking trips out to different companies through careers programmes offered by places like the Rotary Science and Technology Forum and also Massey University. It was these kinds of days that cemented in my head that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
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