Within this special feature, we introduce you to Mary Donovan, one of Food Alert’s Senior Consultants, who has been working with the company for almost two years. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience and is dedicated to ensuring that clients meet stringent health and safety and food safety standards.
Before joining Food Alert, Mary studied nursing in Dublin and worked as an intensive care nurse. Whilst nursing she expressed an interest in food safety and health and safety in the workplace and made the bold decision to re-train and gain employment in this industry.
Mary relocated to London and successfully completed a Masters degree in Environmental Health at Middlesex University. After graduating, she began working at Food Alert and has recently been promoted to the position of Senior Consultant.
To gain an insight into her prominent and diverse role, we conducted a Q&A with Mary. Here, she gives us a fascinating summary of her key responsibilities and an interesting overview of her daily schedule at Food Alert.
Tell us about your role?
“As a Senior Consultant at Food Alert, one of my primary functions is to complete health and safety and food safety audits for our clients.
I undertake detailed inspections of clients’ premises to ensure that their health and safety and food safety compliance levels are meticulously examined and maintained.
In addition, I complete coaching sessions and carry out investigations into alleged food poisoning cases and incidents and accidents. I also act as account manager for several of our clients.”
What is your typical working day like?
“The day usually begins with administration tasks. I receive many emails from clients and I need to respond to them quickly to ensure that they are receiving the best advice and support from us.
The partnership approach is extremely important to the team here at Food Alert and we work hard to maintain and strengthen our relationships with all of our clients.
Clients contact us for many reasons and the topics of my emails range from general account management to more specific issues such as alleged food poisoning cases, incidents and accidents, and information relating to recent EHO visits.
Next, I visit clients’ premises to implement my audits for the day. Many of my clients are located in central London and I usually complete two audits a day, most of which are typically both food safety and health and safety audits combined.
For lunch, I often meet up with colleagues who are working in the area, otherwise I’ll pop back into the Food Alert office at Earls Court to catch up with the client support team.
I spend the rest of the day focusing on my reports. I want to give my clients an efficient service, so I aim to report back to them promptly. I prefer to complete my reports by the end of the day so that a swift turnaround is guaranteed.
Aside from completing my reports, I study the food hygiene ratings website to check my clients who have been inspected recently. I also like to keep informed of the latest news from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Food Standards Agency (FSA) websites.”
What are the best aspects of your job?
“For me, it’s all about establishing great relationships with both my colleagues and of course with clients. I work with a great team here at Food Alert, all of whom are knowledgeable and well-informed on food safety and health and safety issues.
Our primary aim is to provide a professional and supportive service to our clients. I particularly enjoy working closely with my clients and developing excellent affiliations with them.
A huge part of being fulfilled and happy in your job comes from the individuals that you are surrounded by – and that includes colleagues and clients. I am very fortunate to be working with some super people.
I find my role very rewarding. I work predominantly with small independent businesses, helping them to implement effective management systems and maintain high levels of health and safety and food safety, whilst always remaining compliant.
My job has allowed me to explore many different restaurants in London, which I really enjoy, especially as I’m from Ireland. It’s great to be able to travel around the city, assisting clients and strengthening corporate relations.”
What is your proudest achievement since joining Food Alert?
“My proudest achievement at Food Alert was being promoted to senior consultant after only a year and a half of working for the company. My new role introduces me to even more challenges and allows me to gain valuable experience in all aspects of health and safety and food safety. I look forward to continuing my progression in the business and to further consolidating my connections with our clients.”
What do you find challenging about your role?
“Probably the logistics of the job. My clients are spread out across London and, as a newcomer to the city, it took me some time to get used to the different locations. I audit restaurants and cafes in various London boroughs and, initially, I found the huge scale of the city rather daunting. However, after living here for almost two years, I am much more confident and now enjoy navigating my way around the capital.”
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of moving into food safety consultancy?
“If you would like to work as a food safety consultant, I think it is important to talk to other people who are already employed in the industry.
A fellow consultant, with knowledge and experience of food safety and auditing, will be able to give you a thorough overview of the qualifications required and the most important aspects of a job in this sector.
It is also important to gain experience wherever possible and develop a deeper understanding of the importance of food safety compliance.”
Finally, what do you like to do in your spare time?
“My free time tends to revolve around socialising with friends - enjoying good food and drinks.
I love dining out at new restaurants. I have just gone vegan, so it is great exploring all the vegan restaurants around the city. I especially love Mildreds, which is a client of ours, and I also really like Wahaca’s new vegan menu, which is delicious.
It is great fun discovering all that London has to offer, but I also love to go back to Ireland when I can, to spend time with my family in Limerick.”