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Two Weeks as a Food Safety Consultant

5/25/23- My first two and a half weeks as an independent consultant have been busy! As I said to a friend, I’m ‘filling my cup’ although not quite ‘filling my wallet’. Those of you who know me know I love food safety. I’m not one to sit around and ‘relax’. I would be so bored. Have you thought about how you would spend two weeks if you had the professional liberty to do whatever you wanted? Or if you had that time with very few things on the calendar, would you rearrange your pantry, fix up your bike, or head to the beach before getting back into work mode? Here’s how I’ve spent the last two weeks. (and next week, I'll post a new food safety community FOMO update; I've already got a list of items to share)


The tone for my next phase was well set with my first Zoom at 9 am Monday morning: meeting with my new IAFP mentee. I’ve served as a mentor for several years and love following the careers of the students I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. Later Monday I shared with the IFPA food safety council the great news that Natalie Dyenson had accepted the role of Chief Food Safety & Regulatory Officer. I’m glad the industry will have her support.


Week one included time getting the business up and running. I had already built the website (using a template on Wix- thanks to Amy Philpott at Philpott PR Solutions for that referral). If you’ve ever seen my presentations, you know that graphical creativity is not my forte. Any pretty slides are from the built in ‘designer’ function. So I was initially intimidated at the idea of building the website. While it might not be award winning, I’m proud that I was able to get it functional with just a bit of help from my 17 year old daughter.


I’d engaged a graphic designer to work on my logo, so once that was in hand I ordered business cards (thanks to a coupon from my partner, Doug’s, mom). They arrived this week. Conventional business cards may be old school and not aligned with sustainability efforts, but I find much of the food industry to still be pretty old school, and I wanted cards, especially with the AFDO, CPS, and IAFP meetings coming up this summer. But I also remembered my awe when Deon Mahoney, my Australian counterpart at IFPA, showed his hard plastic business card that transmitted his contact info straight to my phone. So I ordered one of those too, along with the keychain fob version.


I also got business insurance, met with my financial advisor, ordered a replacement Global Entry card (even though I never received my first one last year; fortunately, I this one came yesterday) and compared health insurance plans: not particularly fun. More fun was speaking with the IFPA Produce Safety Immersion Class 4 about the concept of risk in general, delving into how people justify their decisions, and illustrating how this same thought process can and should be applied to produce safety decisions. Risk and hazard are not synonymous!


Week one also saw me reviewing and writing lots of papers—one for CPS, one for Food Protection Trends, writing, with Gretchen Wall, one for IFPA on best practices for CEA production, one for IFT/CAST, and a few for friends. Bob Whitaker and I have been working on a paper for Don Schaffner for nearly two years, and we actually spent a day together in week 2 to try to wrap it up. It’s not done, but it’s getting there!


In week 2 I moderated an IFPA Virtual Town Hall on Cyclospora. I’ve often commented that if I were in grad school today, I’d want to work with Cyclospora because I find it such a challenge. We had speakers from FDA’s Cyclospora Task Force, CPS, and AOAC talk about progress that’s been made.


Both weeks included lots of other calls and virtual meetings: CPS, PSA, prep for some IAFP sessions I’m involved in, some prospective clients and professional friends, and additional industry service opportunities. Twice I took the opportunity to walk in my neighborhood while on phone calls. I got fresh air, exercise, and it allowed me to focus (vs checking email).


I also started a 6-month online Project Management Certificate Course offered by my local community college, provided by Coursera and developed by Google. With scores of projects under my belt, some of which were very complex, I both wanted recognition for my abilities to manage projects as well as some additional skills. It’s been really interesting thus far.


Being a compulsive list maker I also started a long list of topics that I’ll write about in the future. I promise that subsequent posts will focus more on food safety than ramblings about my week. Shoot me a note or leave a comment if there’s a particular topic you want to hear my opinion on. I’ve really enjoyed having an 80% reduction in meetings these past couple of weeks, giving me time to think and write. So I welcome your thoughts!

Shout out to the Strawn Lab for making a cartoon version of me!

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