Lori Randall’s life goal was to be the world’s best packaging engineer.
But, as is often the case, life had other plans.
After graduating from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in packaging science, she worked for Mars before landing at Abbott, the global health care company, which produces Similac, Pedialyte, Ensure and more.
Now with the company for 28 years, Randall was drawn to Abbott’s commitment to providing consumers with products that can help them lead fuller, healthier lives.
“That really drove me to understand what it means to protect the people who use our products,” she said. “I found a sense of quality stewardship that kept me going even as a packaging engineer. I’m thankful for that experience because it really helped me understand — being outside of quality at the time — that food safety and quality are everyone’s responsibilities.”
We caught up with Randall, who is now divisional vice president of Nutrition Quality Assurance at Abbott, to talk about food safety and quality, leadership and more.
I made the transition into food and food safety through my early experience as a packaging engineer.
The technical aspects of packaging and packaged food protection were what interested me the most. I really dug into that, and I didn’t expect to move into quality and food safety. But my background in the packaging space turned out to be beneficial.
We’re customer centric. It’s about the new mom or the caretaker or someone in the hospital using our products.
We talk a lot about why our work matters and how, at Abbott, we protect our product through the actions and the behaviors. It’s very easy to put the customer first and see that face of the customer when you’re thinking about food safety.
The world has changed over 30 years. We’re obviously much more globally and digitally connected. From a food safety standpoint, the biggest change I have seen is the way we talk about quality. It’s more personal.
Feedback from consumers comes to us in real rapid ways. It brings food safety to the forefront every single minute of every day.
It’s not one size fits all, but replication of best practices that really can and should work on a global scale.
With the right thinking, and if we are intentional about it, we can build food safety thinking into every aspect of our product.
That makes our supply network and operations more resilient and sustainable. It’s something that we are very focused on within the organization — making certain that we’re taking best practices and sharing them across the globe.
The goal is to have everyone be an advocate for food safety, no matter their role. We do that through recognition of every employee who advocates for food safety or makes improvements that then leads to an improvement in food safety.
You don’t have to be the one with the title or, as we say, the one carrying the megaphone. It’s the daily actions and the confidence in knowing that it’s okay to speak up and say something.
That’s been hugely beneficial from a food safety viewpoint.
I’m an introvert and an engineer. But two pieces of advice that shaped me as a leader are to pay attention, because people really want to know they matter as individuals. Second is to know your strengths and make certain you feel comfortable using them in a transparent, authentic and constructive way.
That creates a safe, inclusive environment for individuals to bring their best selves to work every day.
That came to me gradually. I was fortunate enough to be able to build my career over many years. I sort of eased my way into it with good coaching and mentoring. I was able to find a spot that not only felt fulfilling for me but was the best value for the company too.