Food Standards Scotland is supporting the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People and this is the first blog celebrating some of our young talent.
Gill Campbell, a 26 year old working in our Nutrition, Science and Policy team – read on to find out more about Gill, her role and her advice to other ambitious young people.
Tell us about your role as a Higher Dietary Advisor at FSS
I’m a registered associate nutritionist (ANutr) working towards becoming a fully registered public health nutritionist (RNutr Public Health) within the next year.
I work in a very busy team of five who are all registered public health nutritionists. Most of my time is spent looking at what people eat, monitoring what people buy and translating research and scientific results into expert evidence based nutrition advice to improve the Scottish diet.
It’s clear that we need to focus on improving Scotland’s diet and diet-related health with the majority of us now overweight or obese, although more of us are now accepting that this is an issue. This can’t be done in isolation so I work closely with a variety of stakeholders including NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government.
I’ve been very lucky and have had the opportunity to work on a number of exciting projects during my time at FSS, and one in particular really stands out for me. This was reviewing the food and drink regulations for Scottish schools.
This was my first experience of supporting a working group with a number of experts from different organisations. The work involved was challenging as it was a technically complex piece. I learnt a lot over the course of this project and developed some valuable skills, particularly in problem solving and drafting technical reports.
What does a typical day in your working life look like?
My role can be very varied on a day to day basis and a typical day can include gathering and analysing data, drafting presentations or reports and attending meetings on various projects. An example of a project I’m currently working on is analysing retail purchases for Scotland, which is all food and drink bought by people to consume at home, such as a supermarket shop. This gives us information on what people are buying so we can look at the amount of calories, sugar, fats and salt in our shopping baskets.
I also respond to a range of diverse enquiries providing evidence based advice on diet and nutrition relevant to Scotland.
FSS supports a healthy work life balance and I enjoy getting some fresh air on my lunch break - our office in Aberdeen is very near the city’s largest shopping centre so it is hard to resist having the odd browse around the shops.
Occasionally, I travel to conferences on diet and nutrition – I really appreciate that FSS gives us the opportunity to attend events like this, which are educational, great for development and a fantastic way to meet and network with experts in my field.
After the working day is finished, I like to wind down with a swim or gym class.
Tell us about your progression within FSS?
I’ve been working at FSS for three years and started as a Personal Assistant to the Director of Policy and Evidence. After six months, I moved into my role as a Dietary Advisor. This was a great move for me as after almost two years working in other roles, I finally had my first nutrition job.
I was absolutely delighted as it was what I’d studied for at Robert Gordon University and graduated with a BA (Hons) Degree in Nutrition in July 2014.
In April this year, with some very hard work and the support from my colleagues in the team I was promoted to Higher Dietary Advisor.
I’m very grateful to all of my team colleagues. Each one of them has such a wide breadth and depth of experience across the diet and nutrition remit, and a real passion for what they do, which inspires me to be the very best I can be.
What advice would you give to other budding nutritionists looking to follow in your footsteps?
When I graduated, I really struggled to find a nutrition related job as there didn’t seem to be many nutrition related opportunities, particularly in Scotland, which was really disheartening.
My advice would be to persevere and keep applying. Don’t give up as there will be a job out there for you - it just might not be as soon as you finish Uni.
Start to think about applying for jobs in the run up to graduating too, and make the most of your Uni’s career resources to help you with this.
Also, if you have the opportunity to do a placement at Uni try to make the most of it as it can provide valuable work experience.
I had a 12 week placement with the Scottish Food and Drink Federation (now Food and Drink Federation Scotland) working on a reformulation programme targeted at small and medium sized food businesses. This gave me real work experience and the opportunity to develop a number of skills, particularly in how to communicate with food businesses and how to translate complex nutrition information in a way that a lay person could understand.
What does the Year of Young People mean to you?
The Year of Young People is a great idea, and an excellent opportunity to showcase the wide array of things that young people are doing.
At FSS there’s lots of great opportunities for young people and those just starting out in their careers. An example of this would be that each year FSS provide the opportunity to attend the Young Scot Programme, which I did last year. This was an intense but rewarding three days with like-minded people focussing on developing our communications skills, building confidence and gaining inspiration for our careers.
Advice for eating a healthy balanced diet when you’re a busy professional?
The Eatwell Guide shows the types and proportions of foods and drinks that are required for a healthy balanced diet.
Personally I find that being organised helps me to eat healthy, especially during the working week.
I always try to make sure that I have fruit to snack on at work - my favourite ‘go to’ is blueberries or raspberries - and I try to take in my lunch most days too. I mix up my lunches at work so I don’t get bored - my typical lunches are couscous salads, hummus or soup and bread, and I normally have a yoghurt and fruit to keep me going through the day.
Tell us an interesting fact about you?
I actually started my degree in nutrition and dietetics but changed to nutrition after my first dietetic placement when I realised that the clinical setting definitely wasn’t for me.
Oh, and I love going on holidays!