Hailing from Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Rachel McMurray is currently working as a Technical Graduate at Devenish.
Before embarking on her current role, the 23-year-old graduated from Ulster University, Coleraine with a BSc in Human Nutrition.
Although not from a farming background, animals have played a huge role in her life from a young age, particularly horses. Her first job was a local riding school and over the years she has volunteered at local animal shelters and at the Balmoral Show.
In the first instalment of a new series on That’s Farming, Rachel gives us an insight into a day in the life of a Devenish Graduate.
What is your current job title?
I am a Technical Graduate with agri technology company Devenish. I was part of a large graduate intake in September 2019. This was the company’s new approach to nurturing graduate talent.
It runs across two years and every six months we rotate departments to gain a more in-depth knowledge and understanding of the area we were hired into, which for me, was the technical side of Devenish.
Where are you based?
I am currently based in the Food Innovation department and spend the majority of my time at the Devenish Head Office in Belfast. However, I often travel to other Devenish sites and have worked at both our feed mill production facility in Belfast and one of our Pig Performance Houses in England.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am currently working from home. Prior to the lockdown, I worked in a shared office environment with five others – including current and former graduates. It is really valuable to work alongside people who have been in my position before, helping me settle in.
What does your day currently consist of?
No two days are the same. Of the eight months I have worked at Devenish, three have been spent at a pig farm in England and another in the feed mill. I spend the rest of my time in the Belfast offices. As my days are so varied, I always keep my to-do list updated in order of priority.
A typical day in the office starts at 8 am with checking my emails. I always have a literature review on the go so I aim to set aside time each day to add to it. I work as part of the research and development team and therefore it is imperative that I stay on top of current science. I often participate in webinars, attend conferences and share useful information from them with the wider team. We work closely with other teams across the business to develop innovative new ideas for the company.
Who do you liaise with on a daily basis?
At our Belfast offices, I would be working with and meeting many people from various teams on a daily basis. Working from home during the pandemic, I am still able to keep in touch with colleagues using video technology – we have regular team video calls and Devenish has excellent internal communication channels to allow people to stay in touch. The 2019 graduate recruits all stay in contact with work updates and a weekly quiz night!
When the company recently asked for volunteers to support the Operations Team as a result of COVID-19, I was happy to put myself forward to work in the feed mill, our main production site. It enabled me to do my bit in providing a vital service as part of the wider food supply chain. It also meant that I could meet new people within the business and experience a whole new side of the company outside of research and development.
What kind of responsibilities do you have currently?
I have been able to take the lead in the laboratory kitchens as part of our ongoing nutrition research. I often attend external conferences in order to gather information and relay it back to the team, while proudly representing Devenish at networking events.
Favourite part of your role?
I love the diversity of it all. In the food innovation team, we work alongside the company’s various species teams whilst also focusing on human health. Every day is different, and I would not want it any other way.
The most challenging part of your role?
I am a hands-on learner and I enjoy getting stuck into new tasks, learning as I go. However, not coming from an agricultural background I often find myself having to ask for extra information or spending some time conducting additional research. Luckily, Devenish are very supportive in this regard and since starting my role I have been able to enrol in online courses to further my knowledge of agriculture and animal feed.
Has this role met your expectations?
I had no idea what to expect walking into my current role. I had never had any previous food industry or agricultural work experience. However, my general expectations of the world of work have been exceeded. The company puts great emphasis on employee training and wellbeing, and they have made the transition from full-time education to full time work an easy and enjoyable one.
What plans/hopes do you have for career progression?
I still have some more departments in the company to experience through the graduate programme and I am looking forward to this. My academic background and personal interest in human health underpin an interest in the ‘one health from soil to society’ strategy that is central to Devenish’s work, so I would love to continue in a role that supports this.
Why should younger generations follow in your footsteps?
Working for a company like Devenish provides the opportunity to make a big impact on the lives of animals and people. I would especially encourage those who may not have a clear career path in mind to join a graduate programme. The diversity and variety that I have experienced so far have been amazing and I’m discovering a passion for agriculture that I didn’t know I had before.
When I left high school and went to study human nutrition, I never would have thought that I would end up working on a pig farm or in a feed mill! Not only have I been able to apply my academic knowledge in this environment, but I am discovering new ways I can help make a difference to people’s health through nutrition in agriculture. There are opportunities everywhere, you just have to stay open-minded.
If you want to get involved, email [email protected]