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Samantha Hale: 'Agriculture is a fast paced industry where every day is different'

Samantha Hale was enrolled on an MDS management course, since graduating she has taken up a role as a data analyst for Worldwide Fruit.

Samantha Hale at her MDS graduation
Samantha Hale at her MDS graduation
  • Age: 23
  • Location: Peterborough
  • Subject of study: Economics, Sheffield
  • Position: Business analyst, Worldwide Fruit

What is your current role?

 

I am a data analyst for the commercial team at Worldwide Fruit.

I work mainly on the Waitrose account, where we look at the sales data, tracking and forecasting for future market trends.

My job as data analyst is to present the data on how lines are selling to inform the team as well as the retailer for them to make decisions about how to grow sales.

What I do from a promotional point of view is look at the sales before and after to see the uplift driven by promotions.

This then is used to form future thinking about which products work on promotion as well as which promotional mechanic is used – for example Multibuy, Price Reduction, percentage price reduction.

I also track the continuous improvement efforts of the team.

Every retailer has their own targets on plastic reduction and, as a supplier, it is our job to facilitate reaching these specific targets.

For example, we monitor progress to targets for the tonnage of plastic removed.

We also look to make these changes sooner than the target time if at all possible.

 

How did you know what career path to pursue?

 

I did a degree in economics in Sheffield, it was really interesting.

I found while I was not as interested in the numerical and mathematics side, I was particularly interested in the impact on people and social economics.

This is the reason why I have steered away from a job in finance, about 80 per cent of people on the course wanted to do banking, finance or accountancy in London.

For me, what interested me more was poverty and food insecurity.

After graduating I gained a position on the management trainee course at MDS.

The course at MDS gave Samantha an opportunity to take a role with Worldwide Fruit
The course at MDS gave Samantha an opportunity to take a role with Worldwide Fruit

What was the management course you took at MDS?

 

The MDS course offered me the chance to try four different jobs; sustainability manager at QV Foods, project manager at Protolan, Warehouse Manager at Fold Hill Foods, and commercial account support at Barfoots of Botley.

When joining MDS you go in with the job title of management trainee and the aim of the scheme is to train people to be managers within the food industry.

The selection process was an application form, telephone interview and then assessment centre (including interview, presentation and team tasks).

I didn’t find any other graduate scheme offering me the opportunity for work in four different roles in four different businesses over two years.

This allowed me to experience multiple areas of the industry and get a feel for what type of roles I best suited.

When you graduate, MDS have 50 member companies which can advertise their jobs to MDS graduates.

They have an online portal displaying the job adverts and they can put you in touch with the companies.

 

What was the high and low point of the course?

 

The most difficult role for me was the warehouse management placement at Fold Hill.

I was completely out of my comfort zone in managing my own department of ten people at the age of 22, it was very daunting.

If you had asked me at the time I would say it was a low-point, but now I am proud I managed to do it and thankful to Foldhill for the opportunity.

There was a big learning curve; it is one of my biggest achievements.

It also gave me the chance to learn more about the supply chain.

The project manager role for Protolan was good because I got to work on lots of different projects for different companies.

For example, one was a capacity project aimed at looking at whether there was need to buy new machinery.

Data entry and understanding of the company processes were my main responsibilities.

This gave me an opportunity to liaise with employees at the sites we were working with to understand how their products were made.

The Protolan team were interested in options to remove plastic, as there are a lot of retailers who want to do this.

My job was to give them an overview of what options are out there.

I did a research presentation about the current state they could take forward to inform clients.

Out of the office

  • Favourite hobby?

Dancing

 

  • Any pets?

Cat called gizmo

 

  • Favourite animal?

Cats

 

  • How would you describe your job to a child?

I turn numbers into pictures (graphs)

 

  • What do you like most about your job?

The people

What are the biggest challenges you face in your current role?

 

We are working on a product range that is new to me; apples and pears.

There are a lot of reasons behind performance to understand, for example seasonality and quality.

I think my perspective has been valuable, the business awareness I gained through MDS has allowed me to understand the supply chain.

In a commercial based role you can be in a bubble of focusing on sales and customer requirements, but it’s very useful to have seen the bigger picture and how it fits together.

I’ve worked in production and with different people and different teams which makes it easier to integrate.

I’m definitely a people person and I love to work with teams.

A lot of training with MDS centered around personality types, so seeing it play out in the workplace is great.

It gives you the confidence to build relationships and learn about people.

 

Why do you have such a strong interest in people?

 

Seeing how data trends translate to real life is really interesting.

A lot of what you learn in economics is theory, in real life data gives way to show the impact of these theories on people’s lives.

Data analysis might sound boring but when you see it a bit deeper it all starts to come to life.

I’m much more of a macroeconomist than a microeconomist.

Experience

  • Business Analyst

Worldwide Fruit LTD

Sep 2019 - Present

 

  • Management Trainee

Management Development Services (MDS) ltd.

Sep 2017 - Oct 2019

 

  • Sustainability Manager

QV Foods Limited

April 2019 - Sep 2019

 

  • Project Manager

Protolan Limited

Nov 2018 - Apr 2019

 

  • Warehouse Manager

Fold Hill Foods Ltd.

Apr 2018 - Oct 2018

 

  • Commercial Account Support

Barfoots of Botley Ltd.

Sep 2017 - Apr 2018

What are your career ambitions for the future?

 

At the moment, commercial account management is my aim and my current role is great experience for this.

I work closely with the account manager, understanding the data that informs decisions is vital should I move into this type of role in the future.

It’s difficult to say because the industry is always changing.

There is a lot that people don’t know about the food industry, and that can cause issues.

What we are doing at the moment with plastic is an example.

Currently, there is a lot of pressure from consumers on retailers to remove plastic from the supply chain.

However, you can’t take it out overnight.

If you put everything in a paper bag then it increases the bulk weight and space taken up by the packaging, which means more Lorries and more fuel are needed to transport it.

It’s not a quick-fix situation.

The infrastructure we have may not allow for what is compostable to be composted, or what is recyclable to be recycled.

These are the fine details of data analysis.

Educating the retailers until we can get the system we need is a big challenge for the industry.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career in agriculture?

 

Agriculture is a fast-paced industry where every day is different.

Now, I can’t see myself working in any other industry but two years ago I was completely unaware of it.

Without MDS I don’t think I would be working in the food industry.

I really enjoy it and you are always going to have a job in food because people need to eat.

The biggest challenge is knowing what the opportunities are.

The obvious career paths do not show agriculture as an option.

Unless you go to an agricultural university, you are not likely to be aware of the vast range of opportunities available.

People obviously know farming and agriculture and the retail side of the supermarkets, but what I hadn’t appreciated was the supply chain.

I am amazed by the amount of things that need to happen to get a bag of apples onto the shelf, how many people are involved.

Unless you’re part of the industry you just don’t know.

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