Ella Zhao

Ella Zhao

Quality Assurance Technologist, GS Hall & Company
Bachelor of Science in Food Science

For Ella Zhao moving to Auckland from China wasn’t just the start of life in a new country; it also led to a brand-new career.

“After I migrated to New Zealand with my family, I had the opportunity to study again at university. I decided to study food science because I’ve been passionate about science since I was in high school. A few of my friends recommended AUT because it focuses on the knowledge and practical skills employers seek, not just on learning the theory.

“When I was at the AUT orientation for new students, I was deeply impressed by the enthusiasm of the staff and student ambassadors who were so vibrant and optimistic. I still remember seeing a statement at orientation that said, ‘At AUT, you won’t feel like you are just a number, you will feel like you belong here’. For me that was definitely true.”

Innovative and supportive
The contemporary learning environment was one of the highlights of Ella’s time at AUT.

“AUT is a modern and innovative university with strong connections with a wide range of industries and organisations. The academic staff always provide creative, interactive and specialised teaching with the latest technology.

“One of the things that stood out for me was that for much of our science classes, we did laboratory experiments in small groups. Everyone had a chance to get hands-on experience in carrying out the experiments and access the latest equipment. The large amount of lab work equipped us with solid practical skills and enabled us to stand out in the highly competitive field.”

Starting a new life in a country with a language and culture very different from her own had its challenges, admits Ella who supported other Chinese science students at AUT through her role as a peer mentor at AUT’s Chinese Centre.

“It was challenging at first, especially as I only had limited time for my study because I was taking care of my young child at the same time. Luckily, AUT has the most approachable lecturers, as well as excellent student support services like the Student Hub, Chinese Centre and the learning support services. They made a huge difference to my university life, especially in the first year. I truly feel that choosing AUT was the best decision I’ve made.”

A rewarding new career
After graduating in 2018, Ella now works as a quality assurance technologist at GS Hall & Company.

“GS Hall & Company supplies flavour-based ingredients to the food manufactures in New Zealand and the Asia/Pacific region. I’m responsible for the product quality, including organising the sensory testing for product samples and releasing the products that meet the specification. My job also involves running internal audits and cleaning checks, along with co-ordinating food safety initiatives on site.

“I enjoy working with such a nice technical team. We work together to provide high-quality products and technical support to our customers every day. I especially like working with different food ingredients and offering new products to our customers.”

She frequently draws on the skills she developed throughout her degree, Ella says.

“I’m aware that all the subjects I studied at AUT were closely related to food safety and food industry operations. Now, I constantly use what I learned throughout my degree to contribute towards providing high-quality products to our customers.”