Lorenzo del Grosso, a BSc Food Science & Nutrition student on an Industrial placement working at Waitrose as a Nutrition Assistant

Lorenzo del Grosso

What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?

My industrial placement is with Waitrose, a premium UK grocery retailer. Waitrose owns the food stores of the John Lewis Partnership.

What is your role within the company?

My role in the business is ‘Nutrition Assistant’, one of the twelve industrial placement roles offered at Waitrose Head Office for the 2017/2018 year. The Nutrition team form part of the wider Technical and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) department.

Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?

My typical day generally involves a couple of informal meetings with partners across the business, and some desk time to deliver my tasks, but each day is different as there is so much going on at head office. Some days I will be in the Waitrose test kitchens sampling new products, others I’ll be out of the office at various conferences, and others are mostly desk-based. My standard working hours are 8:30-5pm but we always make time for breaks, including a delicious lunch in the partner dining room cooked up by the Waitrose chefs as well as a few coffee breaks.

What do you enjoy the most and do you get involved in any interesting projects?

Nutrition and Health is a key focus for the business so there are a number of exciting projects, both short and longer term, that I’m able to work on. I really enjoy the communication aspects of the nutrition role, in particular how we communicate nutrition and health messages through our publications and website. I work closely with the Waitrose Weekend and Waitrose Food Magazine editors and it’s great to see pieces I’ve worked on go to print. My major project has been sugar reduction of Waitrose own label products. As part of this project I’ve had the opportunity to present my work to senior directors and represent Waitrose at external stakeholder meetings. I also really enjoy working with Senior Nutritionists to help deliver key projects, such as the launch of the new ‘Good Health’ logo and ‘Cookwell with Waitrose’. My favourite thing about working for Waitrose as a business is the passion to delight customers with uncompromisingly good food, and the collective drive for success that comes with the being a ‘partner’ - a co-owner of the business. However, in terms of my role, I love that the nutrition team is close-knit and we get to work with so many different teams.

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

The world of food and nutrition in theory and in reality are two very different things - it’s so important to get the industry experience. A year in industry was the perfect opportunity to put all I’ve learnt in my degree into context and to transfer my skills and knowledge to a working environment. I was really keen to deliver a key project - something that I could say that I achieved on my CV. I wanted to improve my self-confidence and organisational skills too, to put me in the best position to succeed in my final year of University.  A big part of undertaking a placement year for me was to get out of the university bubble for a while - moving to a new city, meeting new people and settling into a 9 to 5 work routine.

What do you think you have got out of this experience so far?

The personal and professional experience I’ve gained is so valuable. I’m working in a team of experts in nutrition and retail so I’m constantly learning. In my role I’ve been given opportunities to visit suppliers as well as conferences and other events, so have made lots of new contacts. I’m really interested in food blogging, journalism and recipe development, so I’m delighted to say that I’ve been able to develop some recipes for Waitrose. This work has given me great exposure to the world of print media and publications. My confidence has grown significantly, especially in presenting and communicating with others to get my points across effectively. I’ve also developed my organisational and time management skills through managing my work diary. On a personal level, I’ve met lovely people and work with several other placement students who I’ve become great friends with. I live with 4 of the other Waitrose students in a shared house in Reading, which has been amazing and so much fun.

Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?

My advice would be to find the placement that is right for you. As much as the company are looking for the right student, the company and the role needs to be right for you too. Waitrose feels like a perfect fit for me, and I can see from other students at Leeds that they really fit in with their companies too and are having a great time. I’d also say aim high and don’t be disheartened by the competition. If you’ve worked hard, got a great application and can perform well in the application process you can get yourself a really sought after placement. However, there's a lot of stages in the application process where you can fail so take the time to give yourself the best chance possible: write a great CV and cover letter, practice interview questions, get yourself on LinkedIn, research the company and really prepare for your assessment day. The careers centre at the University of Leeds really helped me with my CV - it looked so much neater and impressive than before. My course also ran a module relating to careers in Food and Nutrition and getting a placement, which was invaluable - particularly the interview practice!