Food science grad's job all over the map
By Becki Francis
"I love traveling and learning about different cultures and places," said Shannon Mason.
Illustration by Becki Francis
Photos provided by Shannon Mason
Shannon Mason earned a bachelor’s degree in food science from Purdue in 1999. Now she travels the world as part of her job at Diageo, a leading beverage manufacturer.
Although her travels were limited when she was a student, the 1999 Purdue food science graduate said traveling makes up a large part of her job at Diageo, one of the world's largest beverage suppliers. Hailing from the small town of Fort Branch, Ind., Mason now spends half her time traveling to stores to market Diageo's products, such as Smirnoff, Crown Royal and Jose Cuervo. On her trips, she gathers information from store owners to help Diageo manage product marketing.
Mason said she loves the variety and opportunities her career offers, but back during her early college experience, she wasn't sure what her future held. "My career goal as an undergraduate consisted of being gainfully employed in the food science industry upon graduation," she said. "It wasn't until I had some work experience under my belt that my career goals began to take shape."
Although she is a proud Purdue alumna, she didn't begin her college career at Purdue. She started at the University of Florida, where she was on a volleyball scholarship. It was at Florida that food science sparked her curiosity because it allowed her to combine her love for science and her interest in food and beverages.
"I love it when you can bring science into everyday life and intrigue your friends and family with fun science facts," said Mason. "Food science was a natural fit for me."
During her freshman year she injured her knee and decided to transfer to a college where she could focus on academics. When she looked into food science programs across the country, she found the best fit was much closer to home. "While some of my credits from Florida transferred, I did have to retake the food science courses," Mason recalled. "At the time I was upset, but once I completed the classes, I realized the food science program at Purdue was at a totally different caliber."
Besides classes, Mason found other opportunities to occupy her time and interests. She got a lot more than an item for her resume by working in the Wine Research Lab. "Getting paid was a bonus," Mason said. "The experience that I got working taught me technical skills needed for working in the wine industry. It also showed me what it's like to have a job." The lab gave Mason, and others, experience in wine research. Working at an annual wine competition also provided good training and an introduction to the wine industry, said Richard Vine, professor emeritus of enology.
"I am sure that Shannon's experience in the wine lab was elemental in her selection of this career pursuit, as it has been and continues to be for a number of other students," Vine said.
As a student, Mason was an intern at Chateau Thomas Winery in Plainfield, Ind., where she learned many aspects of the wine industry, including making direct consumer sales, planning weddings at the winery, advertising and developing products. "The internship showed me that there are a lot of different things I can do besides product development, which is what I was mainly exposed to at the Wine Research Lab," said Mason. "It made me realize that I probably want to be involved in a more versatile job."
Her career at Diageo has exposed her to many aspects of the beverage industry, including supply chain operations, field sales and trade marketing. She's also been exposed to its challenges. She said she overcomes these challenges by working with others on teams, just as she did in her classes at Purdue. "The ability to not only lead a team, but also to be able to function in a supporting role has been vital to my career development," said Mason.