Creating Your Own Career Pathway At FGF: An Interview With Nina Villanueva

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Nina, how did you start your journey at FGF?

I have been part of the Research and Development Team at FGF for 12 years. I started my journey in 2011 as a food scientist for one of our sites that was still being commissioned. My role was to ensure that the products were operating smoothly on the lines. In 2014, I embraced an exciting new chapter, by joining the Product Development Team at the Technology and Development Centre. Two years later, I became a Team Leader, and I then took on my current role in 2020 as an R&D Technical Director.

The past 12 years have been a remarkable journey of growth, achievement, and collaboration!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Prior to embarking on my journey to Canada from the Philippines, I pursued my academic aspirations at the University of the Philippines. I pursued a degree in Food Technology and furthered my expertise with a Master’s in Food Science. I began my career at a bakery supplier in the Philippines, where I contributed my skills and passion to the industry for 10 years. Life took an exciting turn when I moved to Canada and found myself joining FGF, specializing in Research and Development. I am a wife, and a mother, and have enjoyed watching my teenagers grow. I can’t help but reflect on my early years at FGF when my children were small – time truly flies! In my time off I love going on hikes and camping, and each year I go on camping trips to enjoy the great outdoors!

What do you do at FGF?

In my current role at FGF, I lead a team of food scientists involved in the development of muffins and sweet goods. As part of the Research and Development Team, my team’s responsibilities span across various areas. We contribute to new product development, ensuring that ingredients and process changes are evaluated and approved. We also support identifying and implementing improvements within the plant as we are always striving for enhanced efficiency and quality. When there are any issues that the plants are experiencing, we support troubleshooting to help find solutions. Besides supporting plant operations, we also extend technical assistance to the Sales Team, to provide valuable insights and expertise, especially during customer visits.

What do you love about your role?

First and foremost, being part of a dynamic and passionate Team has been an amazing experience. The continued support of both Tejus and Ojus allows us to act swiftly and decisively, fostering an environment where getting the job done is a shared commitment across all Teams.

Passion and pride are ingrained in every aspect of our work, and I thank my Leader, Ivani, for helping instill this in me and our Team. No task seems impossible, and we go above and beyond to achieve our goals. What truly sets us apart is the unwavering dedication and care everyone has for their job and our products. And it’s not just in my Team, it’s from R&D and every other Team in the organization, the cross-functional collaboration here is second to none, and we hold ourselves to high standards in everything that we do.

As a part of the R&D team, every day brings something new and exciting. The fast-paced nature of our work ensures there’s never a dull moment. We face constant challenges, from developing a myriad of flavors at a moment’s notice to exploring and mastering new ingredients and commissioning cutting-edge plants.

Time flies in this fast-paced environment; it’s like dog years with the amount we learn in such a short period. Customer demands are high, and we must deliver results swiftly. Yet, it’s this very intensity that fuels our growth and enriches our experience. We embrace each opportunity to learn and expand our horizons, creating an atmosphere of constant development and innovation.

In your opinion, what’s the secret sauce that makes FGF a great place to work?

It’s the people – it’s woven into our very DNA to do whatever it takes. Working alongside individuals who share the same mindset is fulfilling. Nothing is impossible in our world; we firmly believe that we can make it happen. We thrive on speed and embrace uncertainty with open arms. This unwavering determination is a shared trait among everyone who chooses to stay with FGF, be it in the plants, the home office, or out in the field – the spirit is the same. We all share common goals, work ethic, and passion for what we do. It was an easy decision for me; I didn’t even have to think twice. FGF is a fantastic place to work because of the united mindset and the exceptional people who make it all possible.

How has your team changed since you started at FGF?

The journey has been quite transformative – I still remember when I initially started, I was operating solo in the plant. Transitioning to the realm of Product Development marked a significant shift, and I was thrilled to become an integral part of a team. As the company steadily expanded, the growth was evident as we brought in new Team Members. Over the course of the past decade, our Team has evolved and flourished.

With the expanding Team, our capabilities have multiplied. We can now dedicate more focus to developing new products, with each Team Member specializing in different elements. This has allowed us to channel our collective expertise towards delivering excellence across various product categories. Notably, our efforts have also positively impacted the work-life balance of our Team Members. It’s paramount that our Team not only excels in their roles but also finds time to cherish moments with their loved ones. This aspect has significantly improved over the past decade, ensuring that our Team not only loves what they do but also enjoys a fulfilling personal life.

What advice do you have for anyone starting a job at FGF?

Embark on your journey with an unwavering passion for learning and a commitment to being relentlessly productive. As you become part of a company that thrives on action and innovation, prepare to immerse yourself in a culture of doers and thinkers. Embrace the pace of change and the unpredictability that comes with it – not every organization operates with such zing. Get ready to roll up your sleeves and dive into tasks that might get your hands dirty, for it’s through such involvement that growth truly flourishes.

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