Welcome to our newest blog series, where we’ll be introducing one member of our fantastic team in each post. First up is our Sustainability Lead Coordinator, Laura Kirwan, who is passionate about sustainability, good food and cute donkeys.
Read on and get to know Laura…
Tell us about yourself — what has your career path been to date, and how did it lead you to where you are today?
My career has been varied to date, but food has been the common theme running through all of it, starting with part-time jobs in hospitality throughout school and college. After the Leaving Cert, I studied a BSc in Human Nutrition at University College Dublin (UCD) and spent a year at the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health in Aberdeen, Scotland as my third-year placement, where I loved learning about the research side of food and nutrition. I presented two of my projects; a qualitative study and one on the NeuroFAST study at the Nutrition Society conference when I finished.
I then moved to Parma in Italy to start a DATA traineeship in the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), where I worked on a number of interesting projects such as EU MENU and a technical report I co-authored was published, which was great. This was a brilliant experience. I then came back to UCD in 2018 to complete a PhD on sustainable diets with Dr. Breige McNulty, which I’ve just finished after a challenging but rewarding three years. For my PhD, I researched nutritional adequacy, the environmental impact of diets, and dietary expenditure across the Irish population.
During my PhD, I was asked to work as a consultant on an EFSA project with the European Food Information Resource (EUROFir), which is ongoing, and last year I was selected as Vice-Chair of the Sustainable Health Systems committee in the European Health Parliament. This has allowed me to develop skills and expertise in food safety and sustainability, in healthcare systems. This year, I was chosen to participate in a nine-month Climate Leadership course with the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC); I’m really looking forward to that.
How long have you been part of Nutritics?
I’ve been here over a month now, but I’ve been working as a consultant on one of Nutritics’ projects for the last six months.
What attracted you to the company?
I used the Nutritics software for data entry in my PhD, so I was very familiar with their products. After my PhD, I had been doing some work with Damian and Sinead and found it to be a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere. I was particularly excited about Foodprint, a new project they were developing in relation to climate change and the environmental impact of food, which I felt would allow me to make a tangible impact on climate change mitigation within the food sector, and to empower consumers to make informed food choices.
What’s your current job title, and what does your role entail?
My job in Nutritics is Sustainability Lead Coordinator, which involves developing and planning strategies around quantifying and reporting the environmental impact of food, and transitioning the company to a climate neutral status.
What do you like most about your job?
From the very beginning it’s been clear that management is invested in developing their employees so they can reach their full potential, and I have a lot of control over my role and which aspects of the job I want to explore or expand further. They were really encouraging about my joining the EIT-FOOD KIC Climate Leadership course and other suggestions I’ve made; it’s a supportive and encouraging environment to be in. I feel like you are seen as an individual in this company, as opposed to just filling a role.
What’s your favourite thing about working for Nutritics?
Everyone in the company is very approachable and friendly. Because it’s a smaller company, you get a sense of community and looking out for one another that can be lost in larger organisations.
How do you define success?
I would define success as not seeing your job as something you do to make money, but as something you look forward to each day. I’d also say it’s being able to make consistent progress towards reaching your potential.
Tell us one thing you’ve learned in the last month — work-related or otherwise?
I have been working on developing recommendations as a member of the European Health Parliament (EHP), and I was surprised at the anti-microbial risk (AMR) that’s associated with pharmaceutical residues in wastewater, which is something I had never thought about before.
What is the best career lesson you’ve learned so far?
I’ve been lucky to have had some great mentors over the years, but one piece of advice that resonated with me was the importance of networking. You should always say ‘yes’ to a chat or a coffee, because you can learn so much from people. Socialising and building relationships is an integral part of enjoying and succeeding in your career.
What do you like to do when you're not working?
I play tag rugby in a social league in UCD a few times a week, which is really enjoyable and is great at getting me out of the house to exercise during the winter. I also have a lot of plants that I am trying to keep alive! I love food, so I tend to eat out with friends at the weekends.
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Food! A lot of my social interactions involve food and I really enjoy a nice meal out. I am going to Chapter One for a second time this year with some of my friends. I’m also attending a meeting for a European project, Climate Smart Chef, in which Nutritics is involved. This is in ALMA in Italy, a famous international school for Italian cuisine. I’m really excited for that.
Where’s your favourite place in the world?
I lived in Italy for a year, and I had such a fantastic time that I would have to say Parma… but Borris in Ossory in Laois, Ireland would have to be another favourite!
What are the three words that describe you best?
Outgoing, motivated and caring.
What’s the one food you cannot resist?
Tell us a fun fact about you that not many people know.
During COVID lockdowns, my sister and I set up an Instagram account for two of our Donkey Sanctuary rescues Alfie and Francis (@Alfie_and_francis). Unfortunately, we are still waiting on an endorsement deal!
Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for more of our wonderful employees. Looking for a career move yourself? Check out our Careers page and join the team!