Callum O'Neill Health Foods New Product Development (NPD) Food Technologist at Linwoods.

Meet Callum O’Neill who tells us about his new product development career at Linwoods

Callum O’Neill, a sports enthusiast from Belleeks in south Armagh, is Health Foods New Product Development (NPD) Food Technologist at Linwoods.

By his own admission he sort of stumbled into the role due to a number of factors, but it’s a career he is relishing growing in.

Q: What does a typical day entail?

Working in new product development, no two days look alike. One minute you could be researching into new market trends, the next you might be on the production floor running a trial on a potential new product, or you might be in the lab tweaking and developing recipes. The variety is great and keeps me on my toes – there is always something different to be doing and working on.

Q: What was your route into the company? 

I started in Linwoods on my placement year as part of my university degree in June 2018. Following that I then worked part-time when finishing my degree, before taking up a full time role again after I graduated last year. I was lucky to secure a full time role.

Q: How long have you been involved in this type of work?

I had my first job in the food industry aged 17 working as an operative in a factory in Monaghan, which gave me a good insight into what goes into making the food that goes on our tables. After that I started here in Linwoods – so around 6 years in total at this stage.

Q: What did you do before this? 

Like most young people, I have always had some part time summer and weekend jobs during my time in school and university. This was mainly in book shops and supermarkets doing the usual stacking shelves etc until I started here at Linwoods.

Q: What were your favourite subjects at school and why?

Playing plenty of sport as a child the obvious answer was P.E! Besides this, I always enjoyed the sciences and did Biology and Chemistry at A-Level. More literature based subjects like English or History were never my thing.

Q: Did you go on to university or further education and what did you study?

Yes. I studied Food Quality, Safety and Nutrition at Queens University Belfast, graduating in June 2020. I sort of fell into the course after I decided I didn’t want to go to Coleraine to study dietetics or nutrition, but it worked out brilliantly and I really enjoyed it!

Q: Did you always have this career in mind?

Not at all! I’m very interested in sports, and started out wanting a job in this area. Like most people, I thought physiotherapy would be the way to do this but I soon realised that there is a lot more to that than I imagined, and quickly changed tact to something more nutrition based, as I was starting to take more of an interest in this. Coleraine or England were too far away to study this, so I took the next best thing – a course in Belfast with nutrition in the title! It ended up being more about how the production and processing of food, but I really enjoyed it and continue to do so.

Q: What do you enjoy about your job?

I would say the problem solving. Almost every day there is a new dilemma to find the answer to in order to progress with a new project. It’s not always straightforward, but there is great satisfaction in working to find a solution and putting it into action.

Q: What are the main skills required?

Organisation and time management definitely! With so many different projects on at once you need to be able to keep track of all the tasks that need done during the day and be able to plan accordingly. Good people skills also go a long way as nobody has all the answers!

Q: What would your advice be to anyone thinking of it as a career?

Go for it! Northern Ireland is a great place for producing great food – something many of us don’t realise until we go abroad. There are so many different opportunities in the food industry here that I would encourage anyone to pursue it. We all need to eat!

Q: Is there career progress within the company?

Yes – as with any small business you are exposed to lots of different scenarios which provides great experience when trying to progress in your career, especially in the early stages like myself.

Q: If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?

I would have to give a stereotypical answer here and say a professional athlete. I love playing GAA and training, so having the ability to do something like that as a job would be dream come true.

Q: How do you relax when you’re not working?

At the weekends I like to go for a nice breakfast or lunch during the day, or meet friends for a coffee or a couple of drinks. I like going on short city breaks through the year too – so I’m waiting on the chance to do that again!

This article first appeared in Armagh I’s weekly newsletter. You can sign up here to get it directly into your inbox every week.

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