I wish I had understood the value of an IFT membership earlier in my career. I joined IFT as a graduate student, and my first experience at the Annual Event included presenting a poster, attending sessions, and participating in networking events. At that time, I was not aware of the many opportunities IFT affords. My involvement in IFT increased when I transitioned to my first full-time job.
General Mills, my employer, has a strong culture of mentorship, and one of my early mentors was serving as the IFT Dairy Foods Division Chair at the time. She encouraged me to join the division as part of my professional development plan, and I’m very glad I did.
The Dairy Foods Division was immediately applicable to my role at General Mills, so it was a logical place to get plugged in. It wasn’t long, though, before I realized that participating in divisions provides a multitude of benefits.
- Networking opportunities. Participating in the divisions is an excellent way to expand one’s network. It didn’t take long before the IFT Annual Event shifted from a place to get to know new people to a place to reconnect with friends and further build my network
- Information sharing. When I have a question or need an outside perspective, there is always someone I can connect with.
- Embracing diversity. IFT has a diverse membership, but we face many common challenges. Being able to come together at the Annual Event and other division activities provides the opportunity to gain new perspectives, insights, and ideas.
- Giving back. I have been fortunate to have many knowledgeable and experienced mentors throughout my career. Participating in IFT’s divisions offers me an opportunity to be that person to young people entering the workforce in food science and technology. I love when I have the opportunity to spend time with students and new professionals, answer their questions and share my experiences.
- Lifelong learning. It’s one thing to read a scientific paper or journal. It’s another to hear a scientist present their research and to have the opportunity to ask questions. IFT and its divisions provide ample opportunities to explore new topics and learn directly from key people in the field.
I appreciate that IFT is a large and diverse organization, but at the same time, it can feel a bit daunting to some. What I often tell people is the divisions serve as neighborhoods in a big city, providing opportunities for community, growth, and contribution. Whether your interests lie in one of the core sciences, applied sciences, or food types, I highly recommend finding the neighborhood that’s right for you.
About Donna Miller, PhD
Donna Miller is the Global Dairy Technical Coordinator at General Mills. Her responsibilities include serving as the R&D lead for Global Milk Management and the North America lead for Cultures. She is also the One Global Dairy Yogurt R&D Intellectual Property Connector for North America. A 14-year member of IFT, Donna recently completed a one-year term as chair of the Dairy Foods Division.