In this interview, we discuss with Liliane about her role as the Quality Assurance & Quality Control Manager at Rwanda’s leading nutritious foods processor, Africa Improved Foods (AIF) Rwanda Ltd.
Liliane has a Masterís Degree of Engineering in Food Science and Technology from Jiangnan University in China and a BSc. in Food Science and Technology degree from the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in Rwanda.
She was awarded the “Excellent Female Student” at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology and the ìExcellent Performanceî of the year award at AIF in 2017.
She led the QA/QC team to pass the pre-assessment audit for ISO 17025:2005 for the AIF Laboratory accreditation in December 2018 and also led the team towards AIFís FSSC 22000 certification in 2017, among other accolades and research publications in international journals.
Describe your current role, your key responsibilities and the most critical deliverables?
I am currently the Quality Assurance and Quality Control Manager at Africa Improved Foods (AIF). My key responsibility is establishing processes and policies to ensure that the company is producing and selling the highest-quality products possible and am also responsible for implementing these processes throughout the company.
Most critical deliverables include ensuring that the organization’s Quality Management System conforms to customer, internal, FSSC 22000, and regulatory legal requirements.
Am also responsible for ensuring that our laboratory meets and implements the ISO 17025:2005 standard. I also drive QA/QC awareness and passion in the whole of the AIF organization.
Tell us briefly about your company and how it fits with your career goals.
Africa Improved Foods (AIF) came to life as an agreement between DSM as the major shareholder and the Government of Rwanda, CDC (the investment arm of the UK Government’s Department For International Development), the International Finance Corporation and FMO, a Dutch development bank, to create a sustainable solution to scale-up the creation and delivery of nutritious, supplementary food for the first 1,000 days of life.
AIF has the latest European technology in our plant, has acquired FSSC 22000 certification and strictly maintains the highest quality standards demanded by the WHO and WFP in terms of grain quality, aflatoxin, product formulation, nutritional content, hygiene, environmental standards, and health and safety.
With the above, as a Food Science engineer, there is no doubt that AIF was the right place to broaden my career and also use the acquired knowledge.
What are the most important skill sets in achieving success in your role?
The following have been an asset as I strive to achieve my goals: my nutrition, sanitation and quality control knowledge, including microbiology, fortification and mycotoxin control and knowledge about food processing plus my training and experience in food safety and quality assurance systems (FSSC 22000, ISO 22000, ISO 9001, HACCP) have been the building blocks to the success so far in my role.
Further, leadership, cost, team and communication management are some of the soft skills that continue to help me achieve in my role.
What were some of your previous roles? How important were these roles in shaping your current role?
My previous roles include Chief Production Officer at Trust Industries, Food Security & Nutrition Program Officer at Global Communities and Food Safety & Research and Development Manager at SAFOA Services Rwanda. These roles have helped me develop the skills above and acquire the knowledge I use in my current role.
What have been some of the key turning points in your career?
I would say that every new management post I was appointed to was a turning point as I was exposed to new challenges, new learning opportunities and new experiences.
The main one being at Africa Improved Foods where I have been exposed to different cultures (we have 8 nationalities at AIF!), working with people from different countries all over the world and being valued for my knowledge and what I contribute towards achieving the main goal.
Have you ever had a change in career direction? If so, how did you handle the change? What lessons did you derive from this change?
In 2014 I worked for a short period as a research assistant and interpreter in a research conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science.
It was a challenging experience as I had to meet many people of different backgrounds and manage to get the information needed for the research. I was later recommended to offer such services. What I learnt from this experience is that anything you put your heart to do, you can achieve. It is a matter of focus and determination.
What makes your role interesting? What do you enjoy most about your current role?
Knowing that my effort contributes to feeding millions of malnourished children with nutritious and high quality food to help them achieve their full potential and have a bright future is what makes me wake up every morning energized. I enjoy working with all other teams at AIF, as my role requires, and having an impact that will last for generations.
What has been the role of mentors and family in the achievement of your professional goals?
I have been blessed to have good mentors who saw the best in me and helped me to bring it out. My family has been of great support in all areas and I am grateful. They ensured that I got a good education and they continue to build in me values that have made me who I am today.
What challenges do you face in delivering on your current role and how have you overcome them?
The main challenge I face is how to get the whole of my team to understand quality and customer expectations. Through training and communication, everyone has understood the importance of quality from raw materials to finished products and the reason we do what we do.
How can young people who may aspire to a career choice like yours plan their journeys?
Young people especially those who are still in school should focus and be serious about their studies – that is the foundation. I would also advice that that after school, do not despise humble beginnings because life is a journey, you might start small with challenges that will become stepping stones to reach the higher level.
What is the status of the sector in which you operate in the region and Africa and what do you think are the opportunities, challenges and market trends in the sector?
Opportunities are still many in the food industry in the region and in Africa. We have not yet exploited our resources to the full. Many countries grow raw materials which end up being sent to Europe or China for further processing. Those are opportunities to grasp in order to develop our continent.
One outstanding challenge in the region is how to inculcate a quality culture throughout the supply chain, especially at farm level. Africa will need to invest in quality education in order to efficiently use its resources.
How do you wind down after a hard day at work? What are your personal hobbies? How do these hobbies contribute to your personal and professional development?
A time of worship and a prayer are what I look forward to after a hard day at work. In addition, exercise, singing and shopping (like any other lady) are my hobbies. The above activities help me in having a smile on my lips most of the time and make life easier for my workmates as well. I consider myself as a fun to be around person and I make the work environment enjoyable.
What are some of the personal or community activities you engage in to develop yourself or your community?
In Rwanda we have what we call “Umuganda” which is community work done once a month where people from the same neighborhood come together to do different activities like cleaning, helping the needy in rehabilitating their house, and many others. I participate actively in this monthly activity to ensure my community environment is clean and to also help the needy in society.
This story appeared in the January/February 2019 issue of Food Business Africa magazine. You can read the entire magazine HERE