Fernanda Lopes received her PhD in Dairy Science in 2014, studying with Professor David Combs in the Department of Dairy Science. She now works for the South America division of animal feed nutrition company Adisseo SA, where she is responsible for the ruminant business. Lopes is based in Brazil but travels throughout South America as part of her work. The scientific knowledge she gained at UW–Madison has been key in helping her talk to clients about Adisseo’s products.
What is a typical day in the life in your current role?
I work with sales and technical support and am also responsible for helping research development in South America on Adisseo’s products related to ruminants. I travel a lot, visiting clients and prospects around Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, and Colombia. My focus has been on amino acids nutrition for dairy cattle; however, we are exploring new areas such as beef cattle. I have been in this position since 2015 and I love what I do! My team is growing as our business in South America grows; today, I have two people under my responsibility.
I work with dairy nutrition almost every day. It’s not just selling the product; we need to have a good understanding of the cows’ metabolism and explain to the clients how the products work. That involves understanding the ruminant metabolism, nutrition, and health of the cows. When I look at my background at the UW I think the two very strong areas I learned were nutrition and health expertise.
What do you like about this job?
I love to explore new places and meet new people, and be in contact with the agricultural world. However, it is complicated to have a balance of personal and professional life. Simple things such as what time to sleep and wake up, what time to go to the gym, what time to eat…it is complicated to have these simple routines when I’m traveling.
What skills and experiences from graduate school are the most useful to you in this job?
To have the opportunity to study at UW with the best professors in my field of dairy science nutrition had prepared me very well on the technical side, but also challenged me to think outside of the box, and to be critical about what I see, read and hear. I developed my critical sense on science and created my unique personality working on my research and as a person. David Combs was and is my angel in my life, someone who taught me to believe more in myself. I did not believe that I deserved to be at UW and he trusted that I did deserve that. Today when I see how many things I have achieved, I thank Combs every day in my thoughts.
At UW–Madison, you learn from people from around the whole world. You learn to share and live with people who are very different from you and your culture. I think that people who pass through UW in our field, in dairy science, we always have this advancement in our career. For me, it was a big change in my life before and after UW.
What kinds of things did you do as a student that made you competitive as a job candidate?
I would not give up very easily. If I want something, I go for that. When Adisseo hired me, I had the responsibility to open a new business area in South America. It was challenging, and it still is. To begin everything from zero with a new product in the market you need to educate the people around how it works, and it takes time. At the same time, we need to handle the pressure from the company to reach the sales budget. Don’t be afraid of change and challenge. Always give a little bit more than you think you can or you were asked for.
What advice do you have for current graduate students interested in a career in industry?
Take business and marketing classes. When we are in graduate school, we are really focused on the technical side. We want to know more and more about the research and how we can discover new things. We don’t look at the business side, how to [interact] face-to-face with the clients. This is something I’m learning more now, in life.
Also, be part of social programs and develop your personality. Meditation can help to handle the daily pressure. Take advantage of the fact that UW has amazing research in this field. I did not work on these areas, and nowadays I have been dedicating some time to it.