Welcoming Student Naela Azhar Sharief on a years placement at Puratos Simonswood

14 Feb 2023


In September 2022, Puratos UK welcomed Naela Azhar Sharief to the team on a 12-month placement as a Quality Assurance Technician at our site in Liverpool. Naela courageously relocated over 200 miles for this opportunity; moving away from Wales where she is studying for a Master’s in Food Science and Technology at Cardiff Metropolitan University.  We spent time getting to know more about how Naela’s first few months in the business have been. 

What were your initial thoughts on relocating and how did the relocation go for you?  

I had mixed feelings about relocating to a new place and starting all over again. I was very comfortable in Cardiff and moving to a new place was difficult, but I was ready for it. I moved to Liverpool within 10 days, I found a place for myself and with the company’s help, sorted the documentation and was ready to start work the following week. Relocating to Liverpool was unexpectedly smooth, and I am glad it went that way. 

What is your experience of Liverpool, and would you recommend it to other students? 

Liverpool is a lovely city! It’s not only home to the world’s biggest music band - The Beatles, but also houses one of the biggest football clubs in the world! There’s so much to do, I love exploring and I have seen a lot of it already. This city has something for everyone, and it is affordable. I would recommend it to other students.

What has your experience been of working in the food manufacturing industry so far? 

It’s been wonderful. I have learnt something new every day and enjoyed every bit of it. No two days are the same, with such a wide range of products, there is always something new and exciting to look forward to. It makes me very happy to see the products (that I have worked on) in the market. And, while developing a single product, we also develop numerous skills such as logical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, organisation, communication and much more.

What has been your highlight or most enjoyable moment so far? 

Hmm, this is a difficult one because I love coming to work and I enjoy every single day at work. But, If I had to choose one, it would be the time I worked by myself when my colleagues had emergencies and they were off. I had to work on my own for about a week. I was terrified at the beginning, but by the end of the week, I knew what I was doing, and I was confident with my job. I enjoyed doing what I did. I was also recognized on the company’s reward platform ‘Perkbox’ for my work that week, and that recognition was the highlight of the month for me! 

What technical skills from your education have you been able to put into practice or draw upon?  

In my role as a placement student, I have been able to develop my technical skills and I can confidently use them to get my work done. Here are some of the skills I have developed since working at Puratos:

-        Equipment calibration 

-        Metal detector calibration and analysis 

-        Running the SAP software 

-        Scientific Research 

-        Academic writing 

Have you been able to learn or experience anything new?  

Yes, working in the food industry is very fast paced and every day is an opportunity to see or learn something new. Since joining, we have had a BRC audit and customer audits which we needed to prepare for and work together on. I helped to showcase our paperless traceability system to some visitors from other food manufacturing companies. I have seen new technologies being used in the factory and I have been trained to use an electrical pump truck. I have done some training in HACCP, allergen control, pest control and internal auditing as well. 

I was recognized on the company’s reward platform ‘Perkbox’ for my work that week, and that recognition was the highlight of the month for me!

How else have you ensured that you are making the most of your time on placement?  

I am building my network at Puratos so that I can access many different personal and professional learning opportunities. For example, I recently asked to be part of a Puratos training session delivered at Sheffield College and Cardiff Metropolitan University showing the students how to reduce sugar in baked goods. I have also asked to support the R&D team in Liverpool with customer briefs and new product launches and volunteered to help Marketing with the Puratos Sensobus when it returns to the UK to help with consumer research. Every month I have a meeting with the HR Business Partner and we review how the last month has been for me and we discuss any learnings or reflections together and agree any actions to ensure my placement is a success.  

What advice would you give to placement students or job seekers when applying for roles? 

Apply to roles not only because you want to earn money, but because you have a passion for this industry and only then you will make a difference and feel good about it. Don’t settle for just any role, it might take time, but you will get what you deserve. Keep applying, all the best! 

What are your plans and goals for the next few months? 

I will continue to learn and grow in the QA role, support the R&D department with launches, learn more about the business in general and how Puratos is making a difference in the baking industry.