Like most people working in the food and restaurant industry, Taylor Pond has moved around a lot, rarely spending more than a year in any job.
Taylor has worked as a line cook at Miami University, a recipe developer in New York City, and as manager of a 15 strong kitchen team in LA.
Now, having enrolled in the International MBA at IE Business School (IMBA), she has been able to slow down and figure out a more permanent career path, with the help of their highly customizable MBA program.
From the kitchen to business school
The driving force behind Taylor’s career has been a passion for food, which began at a young age when she would wake up early before school to bake scones for her family.
But since graduating from a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics at Miami University in 2014, food has been the only consistency in Taylor’s life, as she has held eight different jobs.
“The restaurant industry is known for that, if you spend more than six months anywhere people are like ‘oh my god you must really love it,’” she says.
Having experienced a number of different areas within the industry, Taylor was struck by the poor business practices going on everyday, regularly witnessing staff wages and benefits not being paid.
“I thought this isn’t right and there are better ways of doing things,” she says.
She found that better approach to business at Sakara Life, a 100% plant-based meal kit provider that she joined in 2018.
Part of the rapidly growing vegan food industry—39% of Americans say they are adding more vegan meals to their diet—Sakara Life offered more modern practices and gave Taylor a role managing 15 employees.
Having that taste of management drove Taylor to consider applying to business school.
“I wanted to really understand the business side of the industry and I wanted some more formal instruction,” she says.
She settled on IE Business School in Spain, whose highly customizable IMBA program would allow her to tailor a course specifically suited to her.
Shaping a course to fit your interests
Students in the IMBA can customize 50% of their 11-month program. This appealed to Taylor, who wanted flexibility because of her more niche background in nutrition.
“I am not super interested in the finance and numbers side, I am more interested in creativity, HR, marketing, that sort of thing,” she says.
The first half of the program teaches students business fundamentals; with classes covering management, entrepreneurship, and leadership skills. The second half is more flexible.
A five-week lab period allows students to choose from one of four immersive business labs where they delve into sectors like startups, tech, and social impact business ventures. Students also have the alternative option of an internship.
The remaining four months after the lab period gives students the choice of nine electives, covering a wide range of areas from operations to finance.
“I loved how customizable it was,” Taylor says, “that really helped you focus on honing your strengths, IE taught me that your strengths are what will propel you to your next step.”
This approach means Taylor has a better idea of where she wants to take her career as she approaches graduation.
Business in sustainable foods
With just a few months left of the program, Taylor’s final electives are focused on HR and marketing, and she has a much clearer picture of how she can combine these areas with her love of food.
“My passion is plant based, vegan food, and I’d like to find a role with a company that is sustainability focused,” she says.
Protein based meat alternative companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have been growing rapidly in recent years, and a record $3.1 billion was invested in alternative protein food in 2020.
Finding this niche hasn’t been easy, as Taylor has been forced to ride the wave of the coronavirus pandemic during her time in the IMBA. Nonetheless, she feels the school’s pandemic response has made sure it was still a positive experience.
IE has offered hybrid learning with classes, lectures and events taking place both online and in person. Safety measures, like temperature checks and one-way corridor systems have also been in place.
“I feel extremely blessed that we are still able to be in person, and are one of the only schools in Europe giving in person classes,” she says, “they have been so on top of it, with what they call liquid learning, so I feel very lucky.”
“I have loved the program, and I have learned so much; about myself, about business, and about life in general.”
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