Women in the Food Industry – Chinenyenwa N. Obiagboso

Today, Obiagboso from Nigeria walks us through her corporate journey in the food industry, as a Plant Quality Assurance Manager;

Hi Obiagboso, thank you for accepting the nomination by Chidinma. It is an honor for us to share all these stories about powerful African women in various STEM fields
Hello Winnie, having gone through your website I must say it’s very intriguing. Lovely how you project STEM women to the world by sharing their stories. This will channel young girls in the right direction and help build a strong system where women are heard.

Thank you!

Briefly introduce yourself to our audience
My names are Chinenyenwa Nwadiuto Obiagboso from Nigeria. Currently, I work as a Plant Quality Assurance Manager in the foods sector of OLAM Nigeria. I am responsible for overseeing the activities of the entire quality assurance department. I develop and maintain a system of quality control and reliable validation of processes, especially the manufacturing process. It is also my responsibility to drive accountability with team leaders and ensure that program standards are met on a weekly basis.

As a manager, I provide leadership to ensure that organizational policies, regulations, and procedures are in-line with Food Safety Standards. Working closely with the Research and Development, Production, and Technical Support teams, we identify opportunities for improvement while maintaining adherence to project-driven key performance requirements. I also drive reviews with top management on the performance of food safety audits and corrective actions for quality compliance.

We come from an agricultural background as a continent, but, what triggered your passion for a career in the food industry?
My journey to the role of Quality Assurance Manager was indeed a tough one. I started off my career as a quality control officer. This role required me to ensure that production complied with all process parameters so that there were no complaints from customers. Having handled this role to the top management’s satisfaction, I was promoted to Shift Production Manager. In this role, I managed a team of over 200 workforces while ensuring that production output targets were met without compromising quality standards and GMP.

During this period as Shift Production Manager, my team won the Excellent Team of the year two (2) years in a roll. These contributions led to my promotion as the Quality Assurance Manager of the organization which saddled me with the responsibility of ensuring process control, QMS, and Food Safety Management. These have translated into a paradigm shift in my career.

My mum is a retired Home Economics Teacher but has played a great role in my career path. While in active service and during my secondary school days, the Home Economics Teachers Association of Nigeria (HETAN) conducted annual general meetings which they rotated state-wise. She always carried me along to these annual meetings which mostly came up during long vacations.

I remember telling her at some point that “mummy I want to be like you but in a more advanced career path”. She then told me about Food Science and Technology and how this role could take me high in the Food Industry. Today I am glad I made the right decision (big shout out to my mum). I am living my dream while I strive to go higher in the Manufacturing Industry.

Let us talk about some of the challenges you have faced while building your career in the food industry
Some of the challenges I face in delivering my current role are;

  • Output target – Sometimes production wants to drive volume at the expense of quality. We control this by ensuring continuous team engagement and strict adherence to SOPs.

  • Having to build a strong quality team from scratch.

  • Testing gap – Recently I improved the company’s sample retention and the sensory process. I proposed building a retention sample and sensory room as a basic requirement for the quality department. Management approved my cost-of-quality business, leading to project completion. I have applied the same approach for the expansion of the physiochemical lab, which is ongoing.

  • The current economic crisis poses a challenge in terms of product innovation for business growth. We have to do this without impacting the quality of our products.

Generally, I view my job as an opportunity to add value to the organization. So, I see challenges as stepping stones to success. I strongly believe in continuous improvement.

What inspires you to continue moving forward when faced with these challenges?
I am inspired first by my mum. Growing up, I have always admired how well she navigates through performing her role as a mother as well as giving her best to her job while leading different societies/organizations. To be candid, I see her as a wonder woman, and this hugely contributes to my drive to succeed and even surpass her achievements (smiles). Secondly, the late Dora Akunyili was a huge inspiration aside from my mother. I admire the great role she played in the Food and Drug Sector. She carried out her task without favoritism.

If I am to pick their qualities to emulate, I will always want to lead by example. I want to show my team how to accomplish tasks and be knowledgeable about what I’m doing. All this while maintaining my integrity. The ability to lead by example is an important characteristic of a good leader.

Tell us about some of your most prestigious moments in the food industry
Among my key achievements in this food industry, I led the project team in the migration of QMS from ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015 when I was the QAM at Beloxxi Industries Ltd. I also assisted the production team in my former organization to implement a system that helps to track material usage. This was adopted as KPI to ensure process improvement and reduce material usage variance from 70% to 98%.

Setting up of Physio-Chemical Laboratory and Sample retention room to meet with the approved standard Laboratory while ensuring Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) for my current employer. I developed a strong quality team that consistently ensured that all quality metrics were met. This led to growth in business and a 90% reduction in customer complaints.

We have seen you doing what you love most in the food industry, but, who are you outside of work?
Naturally, I am a fashion lover who also enjoys cooking. So outside of work I often watch cooking programs to learn new cooking techniques and dishes. Sometimes I also rummage through nets for the trends in Fashions to be up to date. This helps me to work on my personal fashion sense.

What is your favorite quote?
All our dreams can come through if we have the courage to pursue them” ~ Walt Disney.

What is your word of encouragement for a young girl who wants to join the food industry?
My advice for young people who aspire to be in my career path is to be objective about what they want. Have mentors and coaches with whom they can tailor their careers. Do not allow anybody to tell you otherwise in relation to your course of study and chosen career path. People may tease you but do not lose focus. Have your mind on the bigger picture.

Thank you, Obiagboso, for sharing a part of yourself with the world through our platform. We are happy to host someone from the food industry to inspire our readers, especially young girls.

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