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Image of Debra Holliday


United Kingdom
Going to uni as an older student turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made - I loved my time at NTU and I love the career it has led to.

More about Debra

We have caught up with Debbie, a BSc (Hons) Animal Biology graduate, to find out how her degree enabled her to have a successful career in the animal nutrition industry. We’ve also discovered why she has chosen to stay in Nottinghamshire.

Why did you study Animal Biology BSc (Hons) at NTU?

I have always had a passion for animals. I visited the Brackenhurst campus when I was at primary school and I loved it from that young age.

My path to university wasn’t an obvious one for me, however. On leaving school, I decided I didn’t want to go to uni, I did an accountancy apprenticeship instead. It’s a long story but, two years in, I realised accountancy wasn’t for me. I reconsidered my future and returned to my early passion for animals - I was delighted when I got accepted onto the Animal Biology course as a 21-year-old.

NTU was the perfect location for me. I grew up in Mansfield, north Nottinghamshire, so I could still be close to home but also have my independence and experience life as a uni student.

You still live in the Mansfield area and you volunteer for NTU as an Alumni and Industry Fellow, why is this?

I have strong roots in the area, I used to live in Mansfield town centre and recently moved just down the road to Edwinstowe on the edge of Sherwood Forest, it is a lovely place to live. I also chose to study a few miles from home and, although I graduated ten years ago, I have stayed here - my work and my life more generally keep me close.

NTU has done a lot for me and I am enjoying being part of the NTU community again, giving something back to current students. It’s important to "keep the talent" in the Mansfield and Ashfield area, and it’s great that I can help NTU facilitate this by providing things like employability advice and coaching.

I also enjoy supporting the Animal Biology course. I’ve already had the pleasure of returning to NTU to share my experience of working in the animal nutrition industry and talk about potential career paths for current students. I’m excited to do more of this sort of thing!

What makes you smile when you look back at your time at NTU?

The best part for me was the friends I made. Meeting like-minded people who shared a passion for animals made the experience so memorable - we still meet up and remember all those good times we had at NTU.

I also had fantastic lecturers who took the time to understand me as an individual and learn about my unique interests. Animal Biology can take you in many directions! Initially, I wasn’t at all certain what sort of area I’d go into when I graduated. The nutrition-based modules really interested me and the insight and encouragement I received from my tutors was key in helping me start my career in this field.

What did you do as a student that enhanced your employment prospects?

The Employability team really were a great support to everyone. I had practice interviews, support with building my CV and I got specific tips and hints on preparing for animal nutrition job applications.

I was also fortunate to join a scheme offered through NTU and supported by Santander. It was such a great opportunity. I was funded on an animal nutrition graduate placement for three months and this enabled me to decide whether this sort of work was ultimately what I wanted to do. I loved the dynamic working environment on my placement, it really clicked with me. I was then able to extend the placement role to make it permanent, and I stayed with the company for five years!

Can you chat through your “typical” day at work?

My work is very varied so it’s difficult to say what’s “typical”.

Some of my daily tasks could involve: formulations of poultry diets and recommendations to customers; quarterly quotations for premix (blends of vitamins and minerals); customer meetings and on-farm troubleshooting and making suggestions for improved performance; attending conferences or preparing for internal meetings.

I told you it was varied!

What have been the highlights of your career so far? What are your plans for the future?

The highlights for me have been the people I’ve met and the places I’ve visited.

There are some incredibly knowledgeable people in the animal feed industry and they are really keen for the next generation to learn and take up the reigns. I have also been to conferences in Canada, Denmark, France, Latvia, and many more.

My job has provided me with so many opportunities to learn and grow as an animal nutrition professional, and visit so many different countries that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen.

As to the future, I can genuinely say that I enjoy the challenge of my current role and I am surrounded by a brilliant team at DSM.

Have you had any setbacks in life? It would be great if you could talk about how you’ve overcome these as this will help and inspire others to stay strong and reach their goals.

When I finished my A levels, I was adamant that I did not want to go to uni and I would instead peruse either Art or Maths – very polar choices I know! I found an accountancy apprenticeship which I stuck with for 2 years, but it wasn’t right for me. So I decided to go against my previous decision and go to uni to study Animal Biology at NTU.

It was a concern as I was 21 at this point, older than most students on the course, and I had to get a part-time job as I had a car to pay for and other commitments.

Going to uni as an older student turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made – I loved my time at NTU and I love the career it has led to.

If you had a time machine, what would you go back and tell yourself as an NTU student?

Don’t worry, it will all come together. Work hard, listen to those who want to share their experiences and ask lots of questions!

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418
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