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Hannah's career journey to Category Market Executive

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14 October 2020

From a love of animals to Category Market Executive, Hannah Lomas has pushed the boundaries to find a career that caters to her interest in both sales and agriculture. Hannah studied BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare from 2013 to 2017 and shares where her career path has taken her so far.

“I’ve always had an interest in animals,” Hannah began. “And wanted to go to a university that would support this interest further through my studies.

“I loved that Harper combined the theoretical work in lecture theatres and classrooms with the practical experience you can gain through the on site farm, small animal centre and surrounding countryside. The curriculum for animal behaviour and welfare at Harper appealed to me with the broad modules on offer to support studies in all different animals from companion, farm through to zoo.

“I always wanted to study more about animals, but I was unsure on the specific career path I wanted to take when I started university. This breadth of studies helped me to understand where my core interests were and tailor my degree towards this.”

Career options were also important to Hannah. She said: “A second really big draw for me to go to Harper was the year placement in industry as I felt that this was a really strong way to put what you have studied into action, develop networks within the industry and give a real insight into the world of work.”

Enthusiastic about the opportunity, Hannah shared the role she undertook during her third year of study. She commented: “For my placement year I joined A-One Feed Supplements in North Yorkshire looking specifically at pig feed.

“During this year I spent time working with different teams within the business to get a full overview. In my day to day I spent time in the onsite lab quality testing feed samples and spent time supporting the nutrition team with diets. I also spent time with the field reps visiting farms to support feed sales and completing feed trials to help formulate strong diets with high feed conversion to growth.”

It was this working experience that gave Hannah pause for consideration about her future career path. She explained: “I initially attended a Harper Adams career fair when I was looking at what I wanted to do following the completion of my final year studies. After my placement year looking at pig nutrition I understood the process of raising pigs but was interested in the next step of the process when the pigs leave the farm and enter into the food chain, looking at the whole farm to fork supply chain.

“Whilst at the careers fair I spoke to a representative from Cranswick and was discussing the company and the graduate scheme they have available. I was initially concerned having studied Animal Behaviour and Welfare that I would not even be considered for a graduate role in the food industry but was soon reassured by the representative that this would not hold me back or be a barrier as they were looking for individual characteristics rather than someone being defined by their degree.

“Following on from this initial discussion, I submitted my CV and cover letter to be considered and was invited for an initial phone interview. Following this I went to a face to face interview then completed a two day assessment centre to then be told that I have been successful!

“I started at Cranswick on a two year graduate scheme. On joining the company, the graduates spent the initial six weeks as a group spending time together going around each of the food production sites; then we spent a week on the farm, and two weeks learning to butcher a pig shoulder!

“After this, my assigned site for my first year was at the cooked meat site in Milton Keynes where I completed rotations in each department to understand the full working of the site including technical, finance, planning, production, sales, new product development and marketing. Following each rotation I would complete a presentation to senior members of the team to show understanding and specific projects undertaken during this time.

“My second year was an opportunity to have longer rotations in a department that I wanted to spend more time in. I chose Category Marketing and spent five months working in a retailer team and moved to a site in Sherburn in Elmet, North Yorkshire, to gain a more detailed placement opportunity in the team looking at consumer trends, shopper behaviours and the retailer landscapes.

“I then went into the agriculture team for three months to further understand the process of farm to fork within Cranswick, supporting the office and field team, shadowing red tractor and freedom food audits, loading and unloading pigs on farms, vaccinating and ensuring stocking density of farm floor plans were correct to the standards.

“As a result of these experiences, I took a permanent position on a retailer account as a Category Marketing Executive for cooked chicken and that is where I have been for the last fourteen months.”

Looking to the future, Hannah is keen to progress in her role to a managerial position.

While Hannah’s career has been incredibly varied and helped her to build a repertoire of skills, it was the opportunity to try working out in the sector that spurred on her decision. The placement year is a time to explore and discover, putting your degree that matters to the test.

However, Hannah’s whole Harper experience was a positive one, not just her placement year. She said: “It’s difficult to say the thing that I enjoyed the most about my time at Harper Adams as it is the overall experience of Harper that made my four years great!

“I’ve made many lifelong connections and friends both on my course, in my halls of residence and in the netball team and took full advantage of the ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’ ethos that Harper prides itself on. I really couldn’t have imagined having a better university experience anywhere else and would do it all over again given the chance.

“Just grab every opportunity with both hands, ask plenty of questions and don’t be defined only by the title of your degree.”

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