Can you describe your job?
I develop education initiatives both internally and externally that are tailored towards a variety of audiences to empower them in the area of nutrition and sports nutrition. I represent GPN as a public facing “Sport and Active Nutrition Expert” in brand Communications, at Conferences and Events and I educate audiences that vary from employees to customers, personal trainers to athletes, as well as our senior leadership team.
Working with clients also keeps me relevant in terms of what is going on at the cold face of sports nutrition and how to implement it on a practical level. I educate athletes on the science behind what they should eat and why to support performance. Again this audience varies from an U12 GAA team, where I would educate them about what food to eat to support their body to play fast to a one to one with an International athlete during which we discuss the basics of how many calories they need to support different training blocks to what supplements they need to gain that extra edge.
Needless to say my communication and personal skills are important as I need to build relationships and influence different roles on the importance of education to drive business in the corporate sector and also be able to convince the U12’s player that broccoli is going to help them play better- I don’t know which is harder!
What subjects did you in school and college?
I did Chemistry and Biology. I always liked Science and like most girls will tell you, Maths was not my forte. I had to work really hard at Chemistry, especially when it came to formulas, I didn’t have that natural ability. I loved biology. I didn’t realise all the Maths that went into the Chemistry so when I got to secondary school I was a little bit dismayed because I felt I wasn’t strong enough. Then when I got to college and started doing biochemistry, which is about how substances influence processes in the body, I realised that I loved that. I did a Bachelor of Science, specialising in Biochemistry, then a HDip in Nutrition and then my PhD at 28.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I don’t have a typical day. It could be a meeting with our brand, education and innovations teams, discussing how to use science in consumer friendly language to educate the consumer on how to use food and supplements to support their performance. Or it could be what trending ingredients to use in a product. To be effective at this role I have to understand the science behind each ingredient but also how it interacts with the body, therefore I also spend time reading and disseminating research. And then, after hours, I may be working with a client, so motivation is key.
Do you have a good work/life balance?
Yes but organisation is key. Some days will inevitably be longer if I have my own clients but the reward of seeing them perform better, finish a 5k or just feeling healthier makes it worthwhile.
Who influenced or encouraged you?
My parents are probably my biggest influencers. They encouraged me to get into a field that I enjoyed and that there was diversity in job potentials and they supported me in continuing my education to find my niche in the science field. If they hadn’t done that I might not have found the thing I truly loved within the science sector.
What do you love about your job?
I am lucky as I love it all and I think it all comes back to my love of science. I love figuring out why and how the body responds to different stimuli and then how to translate that into practical terms. I love that I have the autonomy in my role in GPN to educate and inform on the science behind the ingredients, regardless of what the marketing department want to communicate.
I am in a privileged position being able to work on a product from its conception to seeing people use a product and get performance benefits from it.
It’s also great to be part of a team that values education and understands how it can drive the credibility of our brands.
The field is constantly changing and not just from a science perspective and our understanding of the body but also in relation to how we communicate our message and the technology people are using to measure health and performance outcomes and improvements. I love that I am constantly learning new skills too.
What inspires you?
It sounds cheesy but to make life a little easier for people. I want people to understand why food and certain ingredients can be so powerful to their health, wellbeing and sporting career at every stage of life.
Obviously, it is great to be part of a successful sports team but it’s also great when you figure out how to resonate with a client who is struggling with their weight, who has tried numerous diets but failed, but then the penny drops and they finally make changes to their lifestyle and the weight starts to move, you are affecting long term health.
I want to educate and influence them on how to ‘fit’ food into their lifestyle to help them achieve their goals. I want to make nutrition part of their lifestyle, not just something they do to support performance; it’s a life skill.
Has your opinion of STEM changed since your teenage years?
Definitely, when I was young I thought that STEM was only about working in a lab. I completely underestimated the sector, which is filled with unlimited opportunity that can allow you to mould your interest and passion into a career. There is a huge diversity of roles in STEM from working in a lab to educating people on how science can empower people to live a more fulfilled and healthier life. STEM offers you the ability to use science and technology to affect the long term health of your generation which is pretty amazing.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in STEM?
Choose something you like and/or are good at and persevere until you find the job in the STEM sector that marries your love of science with your personality. It look 10 years for me to find my niche role and all the education and work experience in those 10 years influenced my career to date and culminated in a job that I love.
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