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Career Center

Mary Winger

K-State graduation year: May 2006
Degree: B.S. in Food Science
Other degree received: M.S. in Food Science (Focus on Product Development)
Current Employer: Caravan Ingredients
Position: Scientist in the Product Development Center

Describe the process of choosing your major.

I learned about Food Science in my Physics class during my junior year of high school.  My teacher brought in an article about students who had developed a new frozen food product and unique packaging for the product.  I immediately investigated the degrees these students were pursuing.  I could not believe there was actually a degree where you developed food products.  I loved science and being able to apply it towards food seemed fascinating.  I decided right then that was going to be my degree and I have never been disappointed with that decision.

What activities/organizations were you involved in while in college?
  • Food Science Club
  • Food Science Quiz Bowl Team
  • Food Product Development Team
  • Chi Omega Sorority
  • National Society for Collegiate Scholars
  • St. Isidore’s Catholic Church choir
Did you complete an internship or have related work experience prior to receiving your job?

Yes, I had two internships prior to my career.  My first internship was in Quality Assurance at Applebee's International.  My second internship was in Research and Development at Kellogg Company.   I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do an internship in both Quality Assurance and Research and Development.  As much as I enjoyed my Quality Assurance internship, I found my true passion was in Research and Development.  I knew that was the direction I wanted to take in my career.

Describe the process of finding your first job.

I grew up in the Kansas City area and wanted to find a job close.  I posted my resume on a few different websites.  I also used websites, such as the IFT website, to search for current job postings in the food industry.  However, what really worked was e-mailing contacts I had gained from school, internships, and professional groups.

Briefly describe a typical day at your job.
  • Completes assigned projects per defined objectives with agility and thoroughness
  • Develops concentrates, bases, and mixes in the Product Development Bakery Group by working closely with customers, sales, marketing, and internal functioning groups
  • Assists Enrichment and Fortification group with development of premixes to provide health claims and benefits; verifies application functionality and survivability
  • Utilizes problem solving and analytical skills to assist Procurement with approving alternative raw material suppliers
  • Executed sensory evaluations on a scientific level for the R&D group.  Professionalized current sensory testing by teaching Caravan employees to become trained panelists
  • Organizes and manages the R&D lab’s raw material inventory
What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love how I never get bored!  I am constantly taking on new projects and learning new ways to solve a problem.  I truly do learn something new every day.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Being a planner, the most challenging part of my job is having to constantly change my schedule.  My department works closely with our customers and it is unpredictable when they will need help or assistance immediately.  Therefore, what I have planned for the week (or even day for that matter) could change at any minute.  I have to be very flexible and be able to juggle multiple projects.

What advice would you give someone interested in your field?

I would definitely recommend doing at least one internship.  I think it is very important to understand whether or not the career is a good fit for you.  I also would recommend getting involved in groups, such as the Food Science Club or the Quiz Bowl Team.  You gain knowledge, networking skills, and opportunities to have leadership roles.

How have any changes in your life situation affected your career path?

Yes.  My first job after Graduate school was at Kerry Ingredients and Flavours.  A few months later, the company had built a new headquarters in Beloit, Wisconsin.  My department was relocating to Beloit and I was not interested in going.  I was engaged and trying to plan my wedding in Kansas City.  My fiancé had a job waiting for him in Kansas City once he finished Graduate school.  Both of our families also live in the Kansas City area and we wanted to stay close if possible.  Therefore, I found myself job hunting just a few months after I started my first job.  Fortunately, I had a contact at Caravan Ingredients.  I e-mail him and the rest is history.

What job have you enjoyed the most and why?

My current job at Caravan Ingredients has been the best job for my career.  I work with fun, intelligent people and have an amazing manager.  Aside from the wonderful people, I also enjoy my day to day tasks.  I am constantly being challenged and I certainly learn something new every day.  I am able to take charge of projects and use my own knowledge to complete my work, while at the same time have coworkers willing to answer questions or lend a helping hand.  I could not ask for a better job to start off my career.

What were the major lifestyle changes your first year out of college that made the transition hard from college to the world of work and how did you adapt?

I would say one major change is not having constant feedback on your performance.  When you are in school, you are constantly doing assignments and taking tests where you get a grade.  There is a certain structure of going to class which is no longer there when you start a career.  It is important to understand that now you will be getting feedback in different ways.

What was the one thing you did in college that has had the most impact on your life or career?

I worked as Dr. Fadi Aramouni's assistant during my undergraduate years.  During these years, I performed physical, chemical, microbiological, and sensory tests on various products.  I provided technical assistance to food companies including formulation development, ingredient functionality, and regulatory compliance.  I developed nutrition labels using the Genesis program.  I also researched information to help with Graduate students' and Extension projects.  Most importantly, I gained an incredible friend who later became my major professor in Graduate school.  The knowledge and skills I learned from this job still helps me with my career today.

Was there a specific class you remember that sparked your interest in your career direction?

I honestly can't think of just one.  I was so excited about a career in Food Science once I started my Intro to Food Science class my Freshman year of college.

Do you keep in touch with your college classmates? How have those relationships influenced your career?

Yes, I keep in touch with some college classmates.  I have continued to be involved in the Kansas City Section of IFT and I see some classmates at our meetings.  I also work with some of my classmates.