Six years ago, I had the honor of going back to school. Before you start envisioning a Rodney Dangerfield ‘80’s movie, I can assure you that it wasn’t that kind of school. Yes, it took place at the renowned party academic institution of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, but this was cheese school. The Wisconsin Cheese Tech Short Course, to be exact. I had just joined Nelson-Jameson, Inc. after working in the retail and merchandising industry for a decade, and I needed to learn about the core business of my new employer. So, like many of my colleagues before me, I was sent to Madison for a week of immersive classes provided by the UW’s Center for Dairy Research, one of the world’s premier dairy research institutions with which Nelson-Jameson has always held a close relationship.
Taught over the course of a week, the Cheese Tech Short Course covers cheese making production principles and technology and includes an optional cheese making lab that offers hands-on experience in cheese production. When the CDR describes the course as “intensive”, they aren’t kidding. I used every bit of my high school and college knowledge of chemistry, biology and algebra to comprehend the over two dozen lectures that included topics such as “Secondary Microflora”, “Pasteurization” and “Starter Cultures”. Even seemingly easy-sounding subjects (“Shredding and Slicing”, I’m looking at you), proved to be much more complicated than one would think. I took comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only novice in our class whose previous experience with cheese mostly revolved around consumption. My classmates ranged from Marketing Directors for Fortune 500 food companies to novice Cheesemakers to QA Managers at local dairies to R&D Executives from foreign countries. To someone new to the food processing world, the diversity of our group clearly demonstrated the importance of the cheese and dairy category in the global food industry and solidified my choice to join a company that contributed so greatly to what was clearly a dynamic and important part of the food production world.
It was a fascinating week that I’ve never forgotten, and the information that I learned served me well in my early days in sales. Now, as a marketer, it’s provided an intellectual foundation for my creative process in communication and promotions. And, as I grow with Nelson-Jameson, the knowledge taken from the Wisconsin Cheese Tech Short Course will surely supplement any role that I may undertake. Turns out that not only does the cheese stand alone, it also stands out.