7 Things I Learned While Working at Impossible Foods
Disclaimer: The following post is solely my own individual opinions and does not represent Impossible Foods in any way or form.
Yesterday marked the end of my time at Impossible Foods. During the past 1.5 years, which definitely felt longer, I can confidently say that I have grown both as an individual and as a professional through the experiences I gained while working in this wonderful company. Like many others, I did not anticipate the pandemic that was looming over us when I joined the company back in January 2020, and I fully embraced the typical startup office culture common among companies in the Silicon Valley. However, when March 2020 rolled around and the world was somewhat brought to an abrupt halt, that was when I really witnessed the resilience of Impossible Foods and genuinely defined the start of my time there. In this post, I will share some of the learnings I picked up on during the past 16 months of working for Impossible Foods.
1.) Pivot, pivot, pivot. Always be prepared to be unprepared.
When you work for a startup, chances are things will have a high turnaround rate. And with a high turnaround rate, chances are things will not always go as planned. The most important thing here is that we must always keep up with the pace, and to do that, we must always be prepared to be unprepared.
Working in a food-tech startup that creates perishable food products, you are exposed to a myriad of problems you didn’t think would exist. When such unexpected problems arise, projects would have to be pushed back, deadlines have to change, and many more. Reworking your schedule is one thing, but an important thing here is to always pace yourself, and teamwork has got a lot to do with pacing. This leads me to my next point…
2.) Teamwork makes the dream work. Cliché, but true.
When I first joined Impossible Foods, I had only graduated for a few months from college and I still had the mindset of a college student that focused more on individualism rather than teamwork. With this in mind, I started working on various projects and tasks individually while trying to fit in as much as I can with as few breaks as possible in between. It came to no surprise when I started getting overwhelmed by what I was doing not long after, and I started viewing the projects and tasks I was given as mere objectives rather than an opportunity to learn and grow. I didn’t realize that it was perfectly normal to ask for help.
When I did finally ask for help whenever I know I needed one, I was surprised at how open everyone was to help! Please ask for help when you need one, you do not have to feel that you have to do everything alone. When you are working together with people, not only are you getting things done much faster, but you are also getting the chance to learn how others may be tackling the same task in a different method which may be more efficient than how you’ve been doing things!
3.) Be time-conscious, but not time-constrained. Be flexible.
Growing up, I was always taught to be punctual. I remembered that back when I was still attending primary and secondary schools in Indonesia, students who were late, even if it was only for 5 minutes, would be punished in front of everybody else. As a result, I had a thing to always be punctual, and expected the same for others, especially in professional settings.
However, I quickly picked up as a working professional that working in a collaborative setting means that you have to think from your own perspective and through others’ as well. This is not the same as when you have to only think for yourself in school/university because during that time, what mattered was the grade you received, not others.
As work would have it, life happens. Meetings have occasional spillovers, people forget that they had an upcoming meeting and many more. Initially, I had a hard time understanding, but once I forgot a scheduled meeting myself, it was then I realized how important it is to be flexible. Making a big deal out of small things is not worth it, it is better to put your energy elsewhere.
4.) Your job description does not define your job. Be confident.
Working as a Sensory Technician, I did not expect a great deal when I first joined Impossible Foods. It is, after all, an entry-level position. However, having this mindset is, in hindsight, one of my greatest mistakes I have done so far. Having such a mindset prohibits me from growing beyond my job functions because I had subconsciously put myself inside this box from which I did not dare to venture out.
I am lucky that after a few months of working for a collaborative company like Impossible Foods, I decided that I have to move out of my comfort zone to grow. I met with people from different job functions, different departments, just to understand more of what they are working on. Not only that, but I also decided to take on some projects not initially expected of me as a means to challenge myself to grow. And boy did it pay off! I also realized that being higher on the hierarchy doesn’t mean that you are necessarily more knowledgeable, there may some things you need to learn from people “below” your rank. And vice-versa, being lower in the hierarchy doesn’t mean that you do not know anything and couldn’t contribute to the team. Bottom-line is, be confident.
5.) Work doesn’t have to always be serious. Work hard, play hard.
As a college student, I attended various networking events where I had the opportunity to meet professionals from multiple companies within the food industry. In most, if not all, of those events, I was expected to be professional, and professional means formal to me during that time.
Before joining Impossible Foods, my definition of a job/workplace was a place where everything was serious which also meant that your colleagues can never be your friends. Although I have no complaints regarding my job before Impossible, I overlooked the possibility of work being more than just completing your daily tasks. Hanging out with a colleague outside work never crossed my mind, and even chatting to my colleagues regarding my personal life felt odd.
It was very surprising to me then that everyone seemed very excited to know me as a person, not just another colleague when I joined Impossible. Water cooler chats became normal, and even hanging out with colleagues (or should I say friends?) during the weekends was not rare. I began to realize that having such a culture within a company helps with the general workflow. Because at least to me, when you work with someone you know well, you become much more comfortable voicing your concerns or suggestions where you see fit.
6.) Transparency is 🔑. Because bad days do happen.
The defining moments of a company lie on the bad days, not the good days. Of course, as human beings, we are always inclined to talk about the good things that happen. Yet we shy away from the bad.
During my time at Impossible, I have had both good and bad days at the office. The good days certainly outweigh the bad, but I am always so impressed at how the bad days were handled in the office. I never expected a company to be very transparent regarding things both good or bad, especially as someone who came from Indonesia, where many bad things that happened are swept under the rug with reasons such as “Mind your own business” often heard.
I am glad that during my time at Impossible, I had a wonderful manager with whom I can share my thoughts, both good or bad. It is easy to forget that you’ve got support when you are having a good day, but when the bad days do roll around, that support becomes integral.
7.) Animal agriculture is detrimental. Climate change is real.
I joined Impossible Foods because of its mission — to completely replace animal agriculture by 2035. Although this may seem like an impossible task, we as human beings have to realize that our world will end if nothing changes. I have always been aware of sustainability and the alternative protein industry since those two topics were all the craze among my peers when I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in Food Science at UC Davis. But I never realized how serious the situation is until after I joined Impossible Foods.
I can’t say that I am a vegan now, but I definitely have been watching what I eat more closely, and I believe that what we eat will ultimately determine the outcome of the planet. Not everyone drives a car, but everyone eats. Ultimately, climate change is real, and I believe that eventually, we as human beings have to resort to eating more sustainably — such as reducing (or even stopping entirely) meat consumption, or eating traditionally ‘unconventional’ products such as insects. I love this recently published paper that explains what I am trying to explain here more accurately.
Leaving Impossible Foods is bittersweet and not an easy decision. Yet looking back, I believe that I have made the right choice to join Impossible Foods, one of the world’s most impactful companies early on in my career. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to apply the theoretical food science knowledge I obtained in college in real-life situations, while also picking up some soft skills not taught in school or university. I am very excited and look forward to bring the values and lessons Impossible Foods has equipped me with to my next chapters. Most importantly, I will always be a big supporter of Impossible Foods, its mission, and its products.
Blast Ahead! 🚀 #TeamImpossible