Talented Culinary Arts professional successfully transitions to Consumer Brand as a Product Developer

Gulf Stream Growth > Individual Coaching > Talented Culinary Arts professional successfully transitions to Consumer Brand as a Product Developer

In January, 2019 we began working with an individual that was looking to make a significant transition in their career and had, up to that point, run into roadblocks along the way.

This individual had a Culinary Arts degree from that was looking to make a big shift into a Product Development role within an established CPG brand, preferably in a similar category as she had been working previously.

This person currently worked as an Application Specialist for an ingredient and flavor company that primarily worked with high-end restaurant groups, specialty grocery and other narrow niches.

Although the work was challenging, she had a desire to stretch her wings and work for a major CPG brand – ideally, she would work in a similar category(baked goods, snacks, ice cream, confectionery) as that is where she had the most comfort and familiarity.


Because of our depth of experience within the food & beverage industry, we were aware of the nuances and challenges that people without category and/or educational background have when they look for a new career.

On the flip side, individuals with these backgrounds don’t have confidence(because they can’t point to applicable accomplishments) during the interview process to express how their background would fit.

That lack of confidence, however slight it is, seeps through during the interview process.

Hiring Managers, even if they bring someone without a “perfect” background in, already have a bias to screen this person out, so any misstep or lack of confidence or slip in demeanor can be doubly impactful.


The challenge in the food industry, however, is when CPG brands look at candidates, they typically have several criteria as must-haves.

Experience developing product from concept through commercialization
Experience working in a CPG environment
Bachelors Degree and/or Masters in Food Science

They had no experience working in a manufacturing setting, had never “brought a product to market”, and in their career had never had to work cross-functionally to get projects completed.

This person was 0-3 against those main criteria and was having a hard time getting through to prospective companies.

One of the frustrations this person shared with us is that she felt like she was on the defensive during interviews.

She felt like she was trying to defend her educational background and how it was similar to a Food Science degree; the same thing went for having to defend her lack of experience in a big company with “lots of moving parts”.

She was normally confident about her skills and knowledge of product development and baked goods, but she was finding that she was constantly being asked about what she had not done versus what she was capable of.

Prior to working with us, this person was having a hard time getting through to face to face interviews; in some cases, she wasn’t getting past the initial phone calls with internal recruiters.

At the core of the issue was that she didn’t know how to market herself and her skills appropriately – she didn’t know how to tie her skills against a role, a company and a team that she would eventually work with.

The Toolbox

The Be Iconic™ program helps individuals find their core, innate strengths.

Additionally, it illuminates pockets of industries and companies where they have a high degree of interest and passion.

The interest & passion is not always self-evident.

In cases where an individual does not have previous experience working in a particular environment(say manufacturing or in a corporate setting), it can be difficult to project how one will fare unless a thorough assessment of their background, interests, thinking and work styles is done.

In our Diagnostic Phase, we evaluated this individual against 3 potential performance profiles that would give us a good benchmark from which she could assess how her skills aligned with the environment(CPG) she desired.

Food Scientist
Process Engineer / Commercialization Specialist
Product Developer

This person’s JOB MATCH quotient against these profiles was excellent across the board, but the candidate’s interests and working style was particularly strong for the Product Developer role.

That performance profile requires a significant amount of cross-functional communication in addition to someone who can artfully balance scientific rigor with creative processes throughout the launch process.

The assessment tool we completed and discussed with this person outlined some significant AND hidden strengths this person had.

Upon reflection, she realized a couple things about her past work and how it would align moving forward.

a) she was particularly adept working with her current customers, who were often buyers or Product Development Managers at high-end grocery chains or high-end chefs.  She shared that she was good at it, and it was fairly effortless, because she enjoyed working with all different clientele and helping them get what they needed.   She was able to relate how this interest and skill would align in a CPG environment, where she would be tasked with working with Marketing, Innovation, Sensory, Packaging, etc.

b) one particular interest was not immediately evident in our previous conversations and that was a very strong orientation and interest in mechanical work.  That along with strong numerical reasoning was something that she agreed with but wasn’t sure how it would manifest in a CPG role, if at all.

By conducting such a thorough diagnostic step against real performance profiles directly applicable to the roles this person was considering, we shined light on how this person’s skill set and interests fell in line for each particular role.

This allowed for the interview team to think about what lay behind the superficial “must haves” and articulate what is it about that experience that made it so important.

When the conversation elevated to this level, our client could share how she applied her skills in previous work; although not always directly applicable in the application, it was close enough to show the company’s hiring team that she “got it” and understand they “why” behind what they were looking for.


Ultimately, our client was able to secure interviews with 2 companies for mid-level, pre-Sr. Product Developer roles with CPG companies, one of which was going to be focused in baked goods, a strength and passion of hers.

After the work we had done, the interviews were a breeze.  Her discovery process, getting clarity around her strengths and how they apply in a CPG environment, was really all she needed.

When we spoke after her offer, she drew a big contrast between how much more in control of the interview process she felt – she felt as if she knew herself better and she knew, not hoped, that she was capable and well-matched for the role.  She thought the confidence she had transferred to the interview team.

That confidence, along with enthusiasm(genuine), hunger(she wanted it more than others), and interest in working with a diverse group of people(not always present with R&D) allowed her to elevate above other candidates for the role.

One of the resume “gaps” this person had was a lack of experience working in a manufacturing setting.

This is a requirement of many CPG and contract manufacturing companies because of the need to coordinate and liaise between a technical team and production – the R&D team and the Plant Manager’s team.

The skills necessary are excellent communication skills and ability to empathize and work with different motivations and different communication styles.

It also requires “thinking on the fly” – what works in a pilot plant may not work once a prototype hits the production floor, and adjustments may need to be made, still ensuring safety, product integrity, etc. – that requires an adaptive nature and an ability to work with and manipulate original specifications.

That’s where this person’s “hidden interests” – mechanical orientation and strong numerical reasoning came into play.  For the company, this person ultimately came in and solved a massive, massive problem – the company was having a hard time bridging Innovation’s concepts with the plant production capabilities.

What was not immediately evident in either this person’s background(resume) or prior to our working together(pre-assessment) shone through in her assessments.

Once she put 2+2 together, she dove into this area of her responsibilities, made an immediate impact, and carved out a career path for herself.

Within 7 months of hire, this person moved into a newly created role focused on helping the company formalize how they brought new products to the market.

With her cross-functional skills and category experience leading as strengths, she now oversees helping other areas of the business bring their products to market faster.

In her role, she brings together cross-functional pods made up of manufacturing, marketing, R&D and Quality and helps them refine how they work together.

In our coaching, we’re spending a lot of time refining how she interacts with each team member – at this point, we’re really focused on identifying ways she can apply lessons learned in each interaction she has, constantly looking for ways to get stronger at communicating…and leading.


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