Antonia Iipinge

Haco AG, Quality Assurance and Development
Bachelor student in Environmental Health Science, Namibia University of Science and Technology
1. August – 31. Oktober 2018

Im Moment nur in Englisch verfügbar.

At work

As part of my studies in Environmental Health I did a three month internship (August-October 2018) at Haco in Switzerland, with the aim of complementing my coursework with practical experience. Having been given an opportunity to work for Haco was a privilege as it is one of the leading food manufacturers in Switzerland with around 450 employees. The company has a few branches in Germany, Thailand, Netherlands and America; however the headquarters are in Gümligen Switzerland where I worked for three months. Haco is known for its unique and innovative food products and also for helping people translate their ideas into products and bringing that particular product to the market, be it coffee, soup, powdered dessert, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Proteins (HVP), powdered breakfast drinks or cereal bars. Haco has been producing a wealth of food for internationally renowned retailors for decades.

The focus of the internship was food safety and quality assurance, dry food products to be specific as Haco only manufactures dry food. Therefore I was assigned under the Quality assurance and development department to work in the microbiology and analytical lab, where I was tasked to carry out certain processes and analysis such as water content analysis, gluten analysis, particle size analysis, caffeine content in coffee, pH analysis etc.  All these processes and analysis in the two labs were done to ensure the optimal safety and quality of the food; this is in terms of hygiene and the control of conditions that might promote microbial growth.

Apart from doing all the required responsibilities, I also managed to complete two projects on my own whereby one project was on testing the efficacy of the soap used in the laboratory as there was no documented information in the protocols as to whether the soap does produce intended results by removing most of the microbes on the surfaces

The second project was to test whether the food being served at the tuck-shop/canteen was fit for human consumption. This was also the first ever test done on the food being served, hence it was a big test as everyone from quality assurance department wanted to know if the quality or the level to which food is bacteria-free has an effect on workers performance.

Therefore I can confidently say I have gained the most valuable thing that no one can take away and that is “Knowledge”, not just any knowledge but high industry knowledge. I also learned:

  • How to work with people from different backgrounds, respecting their opinions, sharing ideas and giving constructive feedback.
  • To be independent- less reliant on people to do things for me.
  • To practice strong work ethics such as punctuality, commitment and honesty.
  • To be self-motivated and confident, showing interest but most importantly taking the initiative to get the work done.
  • To speak a bit of Swiss German.
  • A few techniques of operating new equipment or carrying out new procedures at work.
  • How to plan and organize projects.
  • Skills such as organizing, budgeting, planning, critical thinking, communication, leadership and analyzing.

My Swiss host family

My host mum Patrizia Herzog and her two children were very friendly and I enjoyed staying with them. In spite of Patrizia`s busy schedule she always tried to make time to take me out to see or try something new like ice skating, visiting the zoo, riding scooters from the top of the mountain in Grindelwald and a lot more. During my stay I learned a lot from her but one thing that I value the most is how hard she works. I am so much motivated to work hard and never set limits to what I can dream of. IF I CAN DREAM IT, I CAN ACHIEVE IT.

Highlights and challenges in Switzerland

As a student with little laboratory experience and German knowledge, working in a laboratory environment proved to be a bit of a challenge. The ``culture shock`` of working in an unfamiliar atmosphere combined with the fact that I was largely unknowledgeable in the area of analytical chemistry left me a bit apprehensive about my decision to work in such a place. I am normally used to knowing exactly what to do; needless to say it was extremely difficult and admittedly humbling to be in such a foreign environment.

Another challenge that I experienced was the fact that several of my co-workers  could not speak English and I was expected to work with them, learn from them and carry out the tasks they did, which was extremely difficult as they explained different processes and analysis in German and it was expected of me to follow and understand what they did. However that only taught me how to be flexible and fast at adapting in a work environment, therefore I did research in my own time on all the processes and analysis that needed to be carried out.

Nonetheless, all the above mentioned challenges began to become things that I learned to appreciate. My lack of knowledge in food analytics became an opportunity for me to learn, I would be up all night reading about quality assurance and control in the food industry and now my interest in food industry has been stirred up that I would like to do further studies in food safety and quality assurance. My language skills also improved as I learned a bit of German.

The highlights of my stay would be all the wonderful places I got to see like the Matterhorn in Zermatt, the weekend spent in France where I saw the majestic Eiffel tower and the Mona Lisa painting at the Louvre museum, riding on roller coasters at Europa park in Germany and visiting all the wonderful places in Switzerland like Luzern, Interlaken, Zürich, Biel, Lugano, Grindelwald, Thun and Geneva to mention a few.

My future plans

I plan on completing my Honours degree and pursuing my Masters in Food Safety and Quality Assurance, other than that I put it all in Gods hands (Jeremiah29:11).

Personal message

Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. Thank you B360 for changing the lives of African students, to many it might seem little but to us it means the world.