IFT Annual Meetings: Looking Back

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By: Shivangi Kelkar

Recently, I got in touch with an alumnus from my university, Shriram Paranjpe, now a scientist at McCormick and Company, a leading supplier of spices in the USA. He was planting chives in his balcony garden, when I called him! After getting a few tips about maintaining a garden (he has tomatoes, hot and bell peppers, cucumbers, and jasmine!), I asked him about his experiences as a student and a professional in the industry and how IFT meetings played a major role in his academic life.

Shriram completed his BS in Food Technology and Engineering at Institute of Chemical Technology in India and then proceeded to a PhD degree at Purdue University. I asked him about his IFT experience as a student and Shriram said, “IFT meant an excellent journal (JFS) as a free add-on and the IFT Annual Meeting to look forward to every year. I also remember attending several rapid networking meetings arranged by the Chicago section of the IFT and a few by the Hoosier IFT. All of these events were fun and were great networking opportunities. The smaller meetings, in my mind, were better as the barrier to interaction was lower”. 

On asking further about the IFT Annual Meeting, he said, “As a student, the Annual Meeting was a great place to network. It was a place to meet colleagues working in similar areas, friends from past alma maters and people from the industry. Also, as I came closer to graduation, IFT was a great place to look for jobs.” Although, he did not get his current position at the IFT Annual Meeting, he mentioned that the meeting did give him several opportunities to start his career in the food industry!

Realizing that the key word I had been hearing all along was ‘networking’, I probed him for details. “I hated hearing this when I was a student, but the key is networking, networking, networking. The more people you know and the more people you impress, the better are your chances of finding a job”, he said. He breaks down this process further by illustrating an example, “If you find a job opportunity advertised on the company website, contacts can make it easier for your resume to get noticed by the company”. However, this definitely does not guarantee a job, but it does increase your chances. Also, he stated the importance of tailoring the resume for each position and to focus on positions that best suit your profile.

Nowadays, working as a scientist for McCormick, he designs encapsulation systems for seasonings and flavors for McCormick’s customers, which are the leading food manufacturers in the country. His daily routine involves creating great flavor experiences by protecting flavors from degradation in tough environments of heat and shear involved in food processing. In the evenings and on weekends, he spends time with his wife, who finally joined him after 6 years of a long distance relationship!

So if you are attending the IFT Annual Meeting in Las Vegas in June, make sure you meet new people and catch up with the old ones! There are a few on-demand webcasts available for student members for FREE on the IFT website to assist in making the most of your IFT experience. Don’t forget to check them out!

Hope to see you all in Vegas! How has your IFT experience been so far? Do share your stories and tips below!

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Science Meets Food

The IFT Student Association (IFTSA) is a forward-looking, student-governed community of IFT members. Through competitions, scholarships, networking, and leadership opportunities, you’ll set yourself apart from your classmates (unless they’re members too).