From Physics to Food Safety in a Candy Factory
As a student at Beloit College, Mark Anderson’17 majored in physics, studied Chinese, and served as the philanthropy chair for the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi. On the side when at home, he worked as a delivery driver for Edible Arrangements, where he not only planned routes and paid attention to customer service, but did fruit design work.
In his career today working in food safety and quality control, he benefits from his diverse learning experiences while at Beloit.
“In addition to physics and Chinese, I took courses in computer science, math, anthropology, and gender studies. The cross-cultural, lab, and math skills I developed at Beloit are very helpful for my work.”
But his out-of-classroom experiences also matter in his work today. In various roles with the Phi Kappa Psi, including as philanthropy chair, he acquired transferable skills by organizing events and taking on leadership roles. He also learned to learn from mistakes.
“I wasn’t always successful as an event organizer. Once I brought a self-defense speaker to campus. I expected an audience of 20, but only 2 people came. I’ve used that experience in job interviews when I’ve been asked about learning from failure.”
His organizational skills improved the more he practiced them.
“Classes are valuable, but the skills you acquire outside the classroom are what will get you promoted once you start working. Running a bake sale teaches you a lot, for example. And serving as philanthropy chair for Phi Kappa Psi taught me a lot about supervising people.”
Those skills are coming into play now, as he runs the food safety program at a Badger Murphy’s warehouse. Long-term, Mark would like to become a food safety auditor or a quality control manager at a larger facility.
A career in the food industry might not seem to be an obvious choice for a physics major. While participating in physics research in his senior year, however, Mark realized that although he liked the brain-teaser aspects of the research, he was more interested in a career where the impact of his work would be clear. That’s why food safety appealed. “My work helps ensure that people don’t suffer from food-poisoning.”
Mark’s STEM education gave him a leg up in his chosen career field, which began with a one-year stint working as a quality control microbiologist for Berner Food and Beverage. His next job took him, yes, to work in a candy factory, this time as a quality assurance laboratory technician for the Ferrara Candy Company. He then elected to leave the lab to assume more managerial responsibilities, bringing him to his current position supervising food safety for the food distributor Badger Murphy.
“Beloit College gives you a wide skill set. My education at Beloit helped prepare me to work in fast-paced environments where I am constantly needing to learn new things.”
“Beloit also offers a forgiving environment. I once failed a chemistry assignment when I didn’t realize I’d completed only one half of it. After I explained my mistake, I was given a chance to complete the full assignment. I lost points because the assignment was late, but I didn’t fail.”
The individual attention from faculty that led to that result is one of factors that attracted to Mark to Beloit. Other factors included its friendly environment, clubs, and its art and sci fi residential houses, all of which helped Mark feel at home.
“I really enjoy it when I meet fellow Beloiters today, such as a manager at Badger Murphy who graduated from Beloit, and an alum who works at one of the tea shops I visit. It feels good to be part of the Beloit College community.”