Angela is a registered dietitian passionate about sharing the importance of good nutrition with the public. She is National Nutrition Advisor at the Heart Foundation and owner of ABC Nutrition.
What do you do on an average work day?
My ‘average’ day varies considerably from day to day and depending on what is on…and it’s busy! As well as being mum to two young boys, with the eldest just starting school, I also wear a few different work hats.
Mondays and evenings are my designated ABC Nutrition times where I catch up on various business management tasks, overseeing food industry projects and operation of the clinic, updating our website, responding to queries from clients or the media, writing articles, posting on social media and so on.
Tuesdays to Thursdays are my days at the Heart Foundation. These days also vary greatly. A typical day might involve responding to media or consumer queries, developing and reviewing nutrition-related resources, reviewing the latest scientific evidence to ensure our nutrition messaging stays up-to-date, educating staff about nutrition and more.
What did you study at school? And after high school?
At school I studied biology, chemistry, statistics, geography, drama and English. I knew I wanted to study Nutrition at university so I tried to focus my subjects at school around that – but I also loved drama. Perhaps that’s where my love of working in the media stemmed from?
After school I went straight to Otago University to study nutrition, with the aim of becoming a dietitian. In my first year, I took some marketing papers ‘for fun’ and found that I not only enjoyed marketing, but I was doing quite well at it too, so I decided to do double degree in Consumer and Applied Science (Human Nutrition) and Commerce (Marketing Management). It was definitely a juggle undertaking a double degree at university, as my timetables were constantly clashing, but it was worth it.
After completing both degrees, I took a year off before completing my Post Graduate Diploma in Dietetics.
Was your study directly related to what you do now?
Yes! The skills I learned through my Nutrition degree and training in dietetics are put to use every single day – whether it’s in the workplace or at home. I have learnt the importance of critically reviewing the bulk of the evidence, rather than picking up on the results of a single study, to inform my practice.
In having my own business, I am very grateful for the marketing and business skills I learnt as part of my Commerce degree. I’m sure the unique skill set I have, has also benefited my work with and understanding of Food Industry.
What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
It can be a daunting time starting out on your career.
The best advice I can give is to follow your dreams. You’ll be surprised what you can achieve when you put your heart, soul and mind to something.
One of my first jobs as a newly trained dietitian, wasn’t working in a hospital or even as a dietitian, but instead as a Customer Services Officer at Fonterra. I knew I wanted to work in Food Industry and at Fonterra so I set my sights on getting a job with them, even though the role wasn’t at all related to my skill set – it was a foot in the door. About six months later, a job came up within their nutrition team and the rest, as they say, “is history”.
When it came to my media work and starting up my business, I took the same approach. Regardless of my lack of experience, I dove straight in.
You might make a few mistakes along the way but each mistake is a new opportunity to learn and develop yourself. I’m a firm believer that it is more fulfilling to give something a try, than to sit back wondering “what if”.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
I am so grateful for the incredibly diverse career I have and the wonderful experiences I have had along the way. It’s taken me to places I could never have imagined when I started out.
Some of the key highlights include, travelling the globe launching nutrition-focused products in my role with Fonterra, starting up ABC Nutrition, being interviewed by the media (especially Paul Henry), having some of my articles published in magazines such as the Healthy Food Guide, presenting at various conferences and attending the Yakult Study Tour in Japan earlier this year to learn more about gut health and probiotics.
Why do you believe engaging in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is important to New Zealand?
STEM is such an integral part of everyday life, whether we are aware of it or not. The more a person is able to fully understand the ins and outs of a specific issue, the better they are equipped to make an informed decision.
Unfortunately today much of the media, especially in the nutrition space, misses the point by not investigating the wider evidence base on a topic or putting things into context for New Zealanders. This can make it incredibly challenging for the general public to work out which messages they should be listening to. For trusted nutrition advice, I’d recommending turning to the experts (such as Registered Dietitians), rather than the paper, an unqualified blogger or Google.
Why is it important to have more women working in STEM?
Nutrition and Dietetics is probably one of the few professions that is dominated by women – we need more men! All professions should aim to have diversity and equality, whether that be gender, race, beliefs etc. The more diverse the better! We all have unique skill sets which have been developed through our personal experiences and these can be leveraged to better support the work we do in STEM.
Angela Berrill is a NZ Registered dietitian, owner of ABC Nutrition (nutrition consultancy business) and National Nutrition Advisor at the Heart Foundation. Angela is passionate about educating the public about the importance of good nutrition and is regularly called on to share her expertise and opinions by the media. You can follow Angela on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM.
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