This blog post was updated January 25th, 2021
An alternative career path for Food Safety professionals
If you work in Food Safety, Quality Systems, Quality Assurance or Quality Control at a food or beverage company, you’re certainly familiar with compliance software and regulatory software.
But maybe you’ve never thought about working for a company that sells compliance software or with a SaaS or PaaS company.
Does the New Era of Smarter Food Safety get you excited?
Does the slow speed your company climbs on board the food safety and food traceability train drag your mood back down?
There are other options for microbiology, food science and chemistry graduates – the same holds for Food Safety, Quality and Quality Systems professionals who are working for food and beverage companies.
You just might have overlooked them, or not considered how your skills, passion and experience apply in the tech world.
That’s the purpose of this article – to give you a better understanding of what compliance software companies do, who they hire, the type of people they hire and how your skills as a Food Safety or Quality professional fits into their company.
What is Food Safety Compliance Software?
Food Safety compliance software is a tool that keeps food and beverage companies compliant with regulatory and certification requirements.
|Standards, Certifications & Regulatory Agencies|
In many companies, documenting, storing and retrieving data for regulatory requirements is still paper-based.
Food Safety Compliance software and platforms help companies move away from paper-based systems.
Food Safety software allows a food or beverage company to trace, track and document every aspect of a product’s movement through their system.
Compliance software creates a centralized hub to track, trace, document and access information associated with:
- Product safety
- Product quality
- Regulatory compliance
Once a company implements compliance software, they’re able to realize significant gains and efficiencies across the entire business.
They can respond faster if an audit or foodborne illness is reported.
But you already knew that, and if you’re still reading, this is a topic you’re passionate about and want to be more involved in.
Jobs at tech companies with food safety experience
Let’s say you’re a Food Safety Manager or HACCP Specialist right now, or maybe even a college graduate with a microbiology or Food Science degree considering your options.
In any of these scenarios, you’re NOT going to get a job with a fast-growing tech company that sells food safety software writing code!
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for you at a compliance software company. In fact, there are several types of jobs you can immediately transition into.
For background, a Food Safety compliance software hires employees to design, build, market, sell and service their SaaS or PaaS solutions.
They are no different than other SaaS(Software as a Service) or PaaS(Platform as a Service) companies in this way.
Food Safety compliance software companies also hire subject-matter experts that have work experience, college degrees and real-world experience in Food Safety, Quality, Microbiology, Quality Control, Regulatory Affairs and Compliance.
Below you’ll find jobs that can be found with food safety compliance software companies, plus an explanation of the experience you’ll need to be hired into a compliance software company from a food or beverage company.
Functional Business Analyst
Analysts in the context of software companies are measured against two ends of a continuum.
On one end is a technical analyst, or someone who is more closely aligned with software development, software testing and ideation from a technical standpoint.
On the other end is a functional analyst – this is more likely someone who has experience in the discipline or function where the software solution adds value.
For PLM(product lifecycle management software), this might be a Food Scientist or an Innovation Program Manager or someone in the sourcing function.
For Food Safety, Food Traceability or Compliance software, this will be someone who is steeped in experience in areas such as Quality Systems, Supplier Quality, Food Traceability or Plant Quality Assurance.
If you are technically savvy, a good technical writer and inclined to be very, very process-oriented, then a Functional Analyst in a SaaS or cloud-based software company can be extremely satisfying for you.
Here’s an example of a Functional Analyst in Quality Systems role here – this is an example of a SaaS company who’ll appreciate someone who may be a super-user of Quality and Food Safety systems, or who may have also deployed a cloud-based supplier management solution.
Business Development Manager
A Business Development Manager can go by several names in SaaS(Software as a Service) or PaaS(Platform as a Service) companies.
- Business Development Manager or BDM
- Sales Executive
- Regional Sales Manager or RSM
- Industry Sales Manager
- Business Development Representative or BDR
In these jobs, you are responsible for working with prospects(these companies are NOT currently customers) to help them discover why they should use your company’s compliance software.
This is a sales position to be very clear.
These jobs require excellent selling, closing, qualification and highly developed skills when it comes to influencing people.
It’s not as likely someone would transition directly from a Food Safety Manager or Quality Assurance Manager job at a food or beverage company into a Business Development Rep job at a SaaS company. But don’t stop reading.
These roles require you to find your own prospects, cold calling, lots of cold email outreach and rejection, plus companies have defined sales processes you’ll have to learn. Still, don’t stop reading!
While not impossible(nor desirable to you!), it’s unlikely you’d be hired or considered for a BDM role directly from a Food Safety role in a food or beverage company – a more likely transition would be to a Customer Success Manager or Implementation Specialist.
What is far more likely is a BDM could be a second role you’d be considered for once inside a SaaS company.
Because a SaaS company or compliance software company will appreciate your Food Science, Food Safety, Regulatory Affairs background. They’ll also appreciate your general scientific and preventive mindset.
They appreciate it because it aligns with their products but just as important it aligns with their food and beverage manufacturing customers.
So a Customer Success Manager or Implementation Specialist job at a SaaS company or compliance software company can be a bridge to a more lucrative Business Development job with the same company, if you wanted to go that direction.
You might need some time to learn the product, learn some essential sales skills and become accustomed to the company’s sales and operations cadence.
Then, when a BDM role comes up, you can apply internally, where you’ll be more likely to be considered than if you were still a Food Safety Manager at a food company.
See how that works?
Customer Success Manager
A Customer Success Manager can go by several names in SaaS or PaaS companies.
- Customer Support Manager
- Product Specialist
- Implementation Specialist
- Customer Service Manager(not as likely the same)
Once a compliance software solution is sold to a food or beverage company, the Business Development Manager typically transitions customer contact to a Customer Success Manager.
In fact, that same Customer Success Manager was already introduced to the customer, back when they were still a prospect.
A Customer Success Manager for a SaaS or PaaS company is an extremely valuable and impactful individual. Here’s why, and here’s why your background as a Food Safety professional is often the secret ingredient for your success AND the company’s success.
Most SaaS and PaaS companies use a subscription model to sell their compliance software to food and beverage companies.
In some cases, a SaaS company will discount their software significantly to bring a food or beverage company in as a customer, then bank on the customer renewing for a substantially higher monthly cost.
Once the food or beverage company is a customer, that SaaS company can sell other features or products, all in attempts to a) increase monthly subscription revenue and b) lessen the likelihood of losing the customer to their customer who undercut their price.
That’s where the Customer Success Manager comes into play.
The Customer Success Manager makes sure the compliance software is implemented correctly and the product lives up to its features and benefits.
Even though compliance software is marketed as “automated”, centralized, “audit-ready” and “stress-free”, that doesn’t mean there is no work or adjustment.
It also doesn’t mean the implementation process or the process changes the food or beverage company goes through is smooth – an empathetic, patient and influential Customer Success Manager can make or break a company’s revenue forecast.
A Customer Success Manager with industry(food and beverage) and domain(food safety, quality, regulatory) experience has “professional empathy” for their customer – they understand what it’s like to get audited, so you already have a built-in motivation and rapport with your customer.
WIth that empathy, you’ll also be valued internally. With your industry and domain experience, you’ll be able to express customer concerns to your software engineering team, your UX team(usability design) and your Product Marketing team.
No one likes to be told their product isn’t good or has a bug or missing feature, but it’s much better to hear it from your Customer Success Manager who can point out the flaws BEFORE they reach a customer, or that manager can recognize or call out a feature upgrade that will fend off complaints in the future.
A Customer Success Manager role is an excellent transition from working for a food or beverage company to a compliance software company.
It can be a bridge to a more lucrative sales job with the same company, or it can be its own career path to itself.
Here’s a Customer Success Manager job Gulf Stream Search is recruiting for right now with one of its SaaS clients.
Customer-facing roles like Business Development Managers and Customer Success Managers are not the only jobs a person with a Food Safety background can excel at.
In fact, your food safety background and work experience is perfect for more data-driven jobs in a compliance software of SaaS company.
Since you’ve been exposed to large amounts of documentation and data in your current jobs, you can take on jobs at a SaaS company as a Data Analyst.
A Data Analyst is not a Data Scientist or Data Engineer per se – think of a data analyst as an interpreter of data.
Let’s say a compliance software company has 10 small start-up food brands as customers.
Each company has an executive team and a couple staff members, mostly sales and marketing.
They may partner with a co-manufacturer to make their product.
They may have one PCQI certified employee on staff, but they just got approved for distribution with a major grocery chain and are ramping up production significantly.
That one on-site PCQI employee can’t handle all the work.
They’re literally in reactive mode the entire time.
Even with compliance software in place, someone, anyone, has to monitor the reports, prioritize new regulations and make strategic recommendations to the executive team.
In this example, a Data Analyst at the compliance software company might play a role here – some of this work might fall under a Customer Success Manager, but in some cases a Data Analyst may help customers who are going through big growth spurts like this.
This is an example of where a Data Analyst would play a customer facing function in a compliance software company.
But a Data Analyst can also play an internal facing role – compliance software companies have aspects of their product offering that are hubs that contain aggregated data.
A compliance software company may have thousands of HACCP plans in a repository.
With machine learning, AI and IoT innovations are being used to identify biological, physical, chemical and allergen hazards that haven’t occurred.
Someone at these technology companies has to interpret the data that’s being created, then bridge the data with the right companies and customers.
The Data Analyst might be responsible for working with this data and help customers prioritize when, how and in order they might implement preventive measures at each of their sites or at a supplier site.
In these roles, a compliance software company will appreciate your food safety and quality background.
Their customer base will also appreciate your background – you’ll earn their trust by making recommendations that are based in fact and aggregated data. They’ll be inclined to trust your judgement and thus, your company’s product and service.
Data Analyst roles can be extremely lucrative as well – if you have designs on a Data Scientist or Data Engineer role but haven’t done the course work, a Data Analyst can be a bridge role or its own path in itself.
Most food safety professionals think working for a university, working for a food company or working in a lab are the only options for fulfilling your passion for keeping people safe from foodborne illnesses and food poisoning.
But there are other paths. Working for a compliance software company or SaaS companies are an often overlooked alternative. And they can be as satisfying and fulfilling as any other path for food safety professionals.
If you are still in school studying food science, food safety or microbiology, you should look at SaaS and PaaS companies that sell compliance software and food traceability software.
If you are mid-career and anxious to make a career change, you should open your eyes to compliance software companies.
Please comment below and share this post with others who’ll appreciate it.
Bob Pudlock is the publisher of Food Safety Insider and President of Gulf Stream Search, a search firm that specializes in placing top talent with consumer packaged goods companies and the technology companies(SaaS and PaaS) that support them.
The Food Safety Insider is proud to be considered one of the top food safety blogs by Feedspot.