Women in Food Safety (WIFS) features female leaders in food safety to share their inspiring stories. This month, we had the pleasure of speaking with Ingrid Munoz, FSQA Manager at the StarKist Galapesca site. We met Ingrid, who has worked for StarKist for 27 years, at the company’s headquarters in Reston, Virginia, where she is known throughout the company for her confidence, calm and “We got this!” good vibes.
Munoz came to Starkist through a friend’s introduction, first working at the laboratory at the Galapesca site, learning and absorbing everything she could about food safety, quality, processing and sanitation in tuna production. “It was challenging,” she said. “However, it was those responsibilities and challenges that hooked me, and I haven’t let go since then.” After working in the lab, Ingrid moved to fish reception, and then became a key leadership team member as the FSQA team leader at Galapesca site.
Ingrid mentioned one tip for women who are facing major changes, which is not to choose but to follow instinct, and you will shine naturally. “It’s about 60% knowing how to do it, and 40% knowing how to be when facing each choice,” she said.
At the end of the interview, Ingrid shared three principles that guide not only her career but also her life: passion, discipline and always step out the comfort zone! These three principles drive her entire FSQA team at the Galapesca site as well. Ingrid believes women will be more lifted, valued and heard in the future, and will certainly take key positions in the industry.
Ge: What is the main driver that has kept you working on FSQA with StarKist for more than 25 years?
Munoz: It’s perseverance and passion. In my opinion, it’s quite important to like what you are doing. I love what I do. The job is not easy, every day there are different issues. Whenever there are difficulties, these are the three main points I keep in my mind:
- Think like a consumer
- Think like a company owner
- Think like an auditor
Fortunately, my company has given me the flexibility to try different approaches to improve our food safety and quality management system, while keeping these three thoughts in mind.
Ge: Well said Ingrid! Why are you passionate about FSQA?
Munoz: Because I like to take on new challenges and do things differently. I do prefer not to do the same things over and over. As we all know, every day is a different day in FSQA. That’s what originally attracted me to the field, and I feel the same way today.
GE: What have you learned from your female team members?
Munoz: Throughout working and guiding female team members, I have learned that FSQA is a field for women by our very nature. Women have a sixth sense when it comes to evaluating and predicting risks. We are dedicated and insightful. We are disciplined and we follow the rules. Women have unlimited capacities to innovate with creative solutions to continue improving food safety and quality.
Ge: Would you please share with us an unforgettable story that still has an impact on you today?
Munoz: My most unforgettable experience was in 2009. I was asked by our General Manager to lead the Quality Assurance (QA) department for four months while my boss (previous QA Manager) had to travel outside of country to fulfill a special mission. I accepted right away as I thought this would help me strengthen my abilities. Certainly, there were unknowns and challenges, however, I managed through with my big goal in my mind.
When my boss at that time returned, he congratulated me for having represented him better than he expected and, above all, because I led some significant changes that contributed positively to the management of the Safety and Quality System. This period of time was key to recognizing that I could achieve more. Shortly after, I was promoted from supervisor to department head. Not too long later, I was promoted to be the QA manager.
Always say yes to challenges, and you will be surprised how much you can achieve.
Ge: Thank you for sharing that! If you could turn the clock back to 20+ years ago, when you just started in the industry, what would you say to your younger self and would you make any decisions differently?
Munoz: I would say, “Ingrid, come on! Keep doing it, and enjoy more of what you do. Don’t be afraid!” Honestly, I don’t regret any decisions I have made so far. They were all good decisions at the time they were made. Certainly, as the industry grew, I got many other opportunities, however, I am faithful to my team and to Charlie. I appreciate and enjoy the opportunities I’ve had to try different things. My new ideas are always supported. I consider my team as my family, and I enjoy working with them. If I had it to do all over again, I would make the same decision to grow with the company and continue my commitment to support our consumers with safe and quality products.
Ge: What is your “golden nugget” tip for other females working in the industry?
Munoz: Think big! There are no obstacles that will stop us from growing and getting stronger. Do not lay down your own arms, because when we open up our arms and hold on to each other, all together we can do more than we think we can. Keep learning and keep motivating yourself. Follow your passion, exercise discipline and always step out of your comfort zone.