Have you ever woken up and wondered, “Am I ready for this?’’ I remember that thought haunting me as I tied my shoes before my first half marathon. It returned the morning I arrived at the hospital to give birth to my daughter. Self-doubt reared its ugly head again over the last few months as I considered entering the consulting world.
Self-doubt is something we all experience time and time again….but why?
In my opinion, it is the gift of reflection. Sometimes you just need to be reminded of what you have done.
Over my 20 year career as a food scientist and business leader, I have completed many projects. Early in my career I built out a business unit dedicated to food quality. When I assumed the role, I did shelf life studies and cooking validations. In my first year, I added Hunter color analysis, viscosity analysis, sensory testing, and even did some ingredient application studies. (The idea of carrot fiber in hotdogs still gives me nightmares.) In my second year, I hired 2 full time food scientists and built out the first supplier monitoring program for our group. Year three included additional food service clients coming onboard for supplier monitoring programs and our team developing product specifications and corrective action management programs. I was building a business and I had a strong P&L. During those first 3 years, I grew as a scientist, a manager, and as a business person.
As I moved farther away from the lab bench, I still kept my lab coat on. In my commercial roles, I helped clients design experiments for our scientists to execute. Each day I was filled with understanding the client’s quality and safety metrics and what goals they were trying to achieve or what regulation they hoped to fulfill. As I created analytical testing schemes and research proposals, I balanced FDA and USDA regulations, quality metrics, and budgetary constraints to create practical solutions for clients' problems. I advised on methods, required sample size, how many replicates to conduct, and what statistics I would use to analyze the data. I would even debrief with clients and advise them on next steps. I was just as much a scientist as my colleagues with pipette in hand. And, being one of only a few PhDs on staff, I was encouraged to write professional statements for insurance claims and unknown id cases. Often what a client needs is a definitive statement----an expert to look at the data available and synthesize a conclusion. I was (and still am) happy to be that expert.
In the most recent years, I was running a team of technical business developers. My team was still the first line with the client to advise on how to meet their food safety and quality goals. I continued to advise on sensory and consumer insights testing, cooking and cooling validations, shelf life studies, and (if it was a good day) I would get pulled into something fun like an unknown ID case or a quality troubleshooting discussion.
Ranch dressing bags exploding? Right this way, sir. Step into my office….
Today, as I launch Food Improved Consulting Group, I may reread this blog post for encouragement…multiple times…possibly out loud…in front of a mirror….and followed by blasting Lose Yourself by Eminem. And I will accept this gift of reflection.