The Journey to Becoming
By Alicia K. Stanton
For Brad Taylor, his connection with BYU both during and after his undergraduate education has been key in becoming the successful food scientist and businessman he is today.
When Taylor finished his mission in 1997, he came to BYU looking for hands-on learning opportunities.
“I started to think about how culture and people and history come together in food . . . because I had had a very different exposure as a missionary in Poland to what traditions with food were,” Taylor says. “Within a few weeks after returning from my mission, I changed my major to food science.”
Dairy Judging Team: Brad Taylor is the second from the left
At the time, there were about 17 students in his major, Taylor says, so he knew his professors very well. Taylor thrived in the hands-on learning environment made possible in part by academic scholarships from BYU as well as department scholarships and sponsorships.
While at BYU, Taylor attended food industry meetings, participated in student competitions, toured food factories and processing plants, and worked in the Nutrition and Food Science Sensory Laboratory and Pilot Plant. One highlight of his education was working on a project to create carbonated yogurt that would be appealing to children. General Mills later launched the product, and, even now, Taylor keeps one of the containers on his desk as a reminder of the experience.
“I still use the lessons I learned from working overnight making yogurt at the [BYU] Creamery in how I manage and run product development in the big food industry,” Taylor says. “That, to me, is an example of how BYU’s professors were focused on helping us be successful in the real world.”
Integrating Educational Experiences into Work
During his last semester, Taylor interned at the Nestlé frozen-food plant in Springville, Utah, where he applied the skills he was learning. Immediately after graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1999, he entered a doctoral program at Utah State University. His research there included continued collaboration with food science researchers at BYU.
After earning his Ph.D. in 2004, Taylor moved his family to Washington, DC, where he worked for the Food Product Association Research & Education Foundation. Soon he was organizing food safety trainings in Mexico, Japan, and Ukraine. During that time, he maintained connections with BYU, recruiting two interns from BYU’s food science program to help with the international projects.
Pilot blending operation in Mexico
Taylor’s career moved forward in 2006 when he took a position in Indiana with the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb. He worked in the Mead Johnson Nutritionals division, helping develop products for children with special nutritional needs. Taylor, whose first two children were born prematurely, says that being able to provide families with better options during critical periods of development was a dream come true.
After Mead Johnson became an independent company in 2009, Taylor took an assignment in Mexico City, where he worked on product development for the Latin American region. He comments that BYU prepared him for that experience. “I think an openness and love for culture and people is something you learn and is embedded into the values of a BYU education,” he says.
Using Transferable Skills
When his assignment in Mexico ended in 2013, Taylor and his family returned to the States, where he continued to work for Mead Johnson as the associate director of global product development. However, that position involved a lot of travel. In order to be with his family more often, he joined The WhiteWave Foods Company earlier this year and moved to Colorado.
“The nice thing about what I’m doing now is it’s very tangible, it’s very immediate, and it’s all at the center [where I work],” he says. “It’s a very fast-moving environment that challenges me in a different way, but it still uses the foundation of science that I have been working in for years.”
Building Your Own Future
Taylor offers advice for students who are currently building their own foundation in science, urging them to get involved on campus and with local businesses. “Realize that your professors should be your greatest advocates,” he says. “You should be working to foster relationships with them.”
Taylor also encourages BYU alumni to value their connections with the university. He says that having it known that you are a BYU graduate— someone who has strong faith and is grounded in moral principles—can be a great advantage. “People latch onto that,” he says. “They understand that that credibility is something that prepares you for additional responsibility and leadership. . . . You can build trust.”
Taylor himself hasn’t stopped building on his connections with BYU. He continues to stay in touch with professors and contributes to the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science as a member of an industry advisory council. Even though he is busy continuing his own journey, he takes time to reach back to help students who are just beginning.