Case study

Data analyst and researcher — James Huscroft

After completing a food science degree followed by a PhD, James went on to work for Warburtons. Find out more about why he chose to work in the food industry and how his degree helped him

What degree did you study?

I graduated with a BSc (Hons) Food Science from the University of Nottingham in 2016 and then went on to study for a PhD, also in food science, graduating in 2020.

How did you get your job?

I had always planned on joining the food industry, but wasn't sure whether to choose the world of academic research or manufacturing. I chose manufacturing for a different challenge after spending three and a half years in the world of academic research as I felt it was a more appropriate career path for me. I always saw myself as making a difference to the food industry and this was a way to really make my mark.

I saw the job advert for a data analyst and researcher (quality) at Warburtons on LinkedIn and then applied to the business via Jobtrain. 

One of the things that really helped me when applying for jobs was that I had already created a large network during my studies. This meant I could ask my contacts questions to find out greater detail about a business before applying. Starting to build your network early on is a must.

How relevant is your degree?

My degree is very relevant as in my role I apply the knowledge of food science that I gained during my studies to the world of bread manufacture.

My PhD is most relevant as it helped me develop a different approach to, and understanding of, fundamental data, trends and experimental planning.

What's a typical working day like?

I'm based at the Warburtons head office in Bolton. My main focus is on applied food science, data analysis, and research and development. There are also lots of meetings.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It's hugely motivating to know that I am actively making a difference to our organisation, which makes me excited to come to work every day.

What are the challenges?

Having to think on your feet can be challenging, as well as being asked for deliverables that are time critical to aid with decisions up and down the managerial chain.

What are your top tips for choosing a postgraduate degree?

  • Choose a course that really excites you, otherwise it can be a challenge to get through it.
  • If you're doing a PhD, make sure that you have a supervisor.
  • Get some work experience before you choose to do a postgraduate course. This can help strengthen your course application and give you a practical insight into potential jobs.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I hope to have moved into line management in my specific field within the business.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions - it's all part of learning the ropes. You're not expected to be completely business savvy or a fully-fledged food scientist from day one.
  • You get out what you put in - I found that putting the extra effort in outside of my degree while studying has really helped me to get to where I am. It showed me the bigger picture, not just the world of academia.  
  • Make time to reflect on what you have learned and take stock of how far you have progressed.

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