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Fiona Uyema, Chef
History, Culture & Languages

Fiona Uyema, Chef

Fiona Uyema is a TV cook, author and founder of a Japanese food company. Fiona has spent time living and working in Japan, being able to communciate in Japanese has been hugely significant to her career.

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first question!

What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?

I believe studying languages and traveling provided me with valuable skills and an open mind which I have used in a number of jobs in my career. I've worked in multinational companies with work colleagues from around the world. An understanding of studying a second language and other cultures provides cultural awareness and more understanding with people.

I found my work experience in transition year to be extremely useful also. I thought I wanted to be a Vet, however after a few weeks work experience I realised it may not be the job for me! I also believe having a part time job working as a waitress over the summer helped me to understand the value of money and the importance of education to work in a job better paid with better benefits.

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

My mother and older siblings were all very supportive of education, study and advancing to college. It was really important for me to have my older siblings to talk to when I was filing out my CAO form as it felt like such a big decision and I was so confused! I also heard that an older sibling of a girl in my school year had studied a similar course I wanted to study so I used my initiative and arranged a casual meet up with her.
It was really useful to hear her thoughts and experiences.

When I was in school I knew I wanted to travel and study languages however I wasn't 100% sure what I wanted to work at. I think it's a lot of pressure. Now I tell my kids that it's ok to change career as you will use your learnings from previous jobs. For example, I was an English teacher in Japan for 2 years. I used the public speaking skills I learned in Japan to do corporate presentations in my next job.

How did you go about getting your current job?

I'm currently an entrepreneur. I founded my own company a few years ago. For previous corporate roles I applied online and did several interviews. Then I was contacted by the agency if I was successful. Sometimes they don't contact you if you were unsuccessful!

Describe a typical day?

I aspire to work 5 days a week (8am to 4pm) however since I am an entrepreneur who founded a start-up food company so my working hours can be less or more depending on the week and its demands. I donít have a typical day. The advantages to being my own boss is that I can be flexible with my time to suit my family (I have 2 kids). This is really important for me. In turn, I need to make up for this time another way so I often work after the kids go to bed and sometimes I need to work on the weekends (in this case Iíll try to get another day back to spend time with my family). Balance is really important for me. Running my own company is demanding and challenging however I love what I do so I wouldnít change it for anything!

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

TV cook - give cookery demonstrations on TV (buy and prepare food in advance, clean up etc).

Cookbook Author and food writer - spend time at my laptop writing recipes or articles for my cookbook or main print media or online platforms.

Keynote speaker - prepare my presentations on powerpoint and prepare key points for every slide to prompt me while I'm presenting. 

My range of retail food products: Design new products working with my design agency, regular calls with my large customers (supermarkets), regular calls with my sales and distribution partner.

Marketing - online strategy, social media etc.

What are the main challenges?

Marketing - keeping up to date on trends and interesting content.
Sales - meeting sales targets and working with key customers to communicate USPs.
Business Development - sales leads.

What's cool?

I love the fact that every day is different. Some days I spend all day in the office to catch up on admin. Other days I work offsite at events or festivals. I get bored easily so I like the diversity.

What's not so cool?

The clean up after my events (TV cooking slots, cookery demonstrations etc). Yes I do a lot of the cleaning, packing up and carrying luggage.

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

Personal skills - I meet a lot of people in my role so I need to be able to communicate well with people and understand different personalities

Cultural awareness - be aware of cultural difference and languages. I meet people from all over the World so it's good to have an understanding of different cultures and be respectful.

It's also good to have an understanding of some languages even to break the ice. Open to challenges and resilient - today's work environment is demanding so you need to embrace challenges (positive attitude) and try not to take things personally (be resilient).

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

Studying French was useful for me to study Japanese in college. However I didn't like French in school as I don't believe it is taught in a fun way for students. It's mostly based around learning things off with no enjoyment around the language itself or the culture.

What is your education to date?

Leaving Cert Degree International Marketing and Japanese Irish Tax Exams (Qualified Irish Tax Consultant).

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

Home Economics (gave me basic cooking skills when I left home). French (a foundation for studying another language). Biology.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

Writing my own cookbook.

Winning "Easyfood Home-cook Hero of the Year" in the baking category.

Creating and designing my own range of food products which were awarded Best Sauce in Ireland at the "Irish Quality Food Awards".

Inspiring people to follow their passion.

Becoming an entrepreneur and founding my own company to turn my passion into a career.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

Positive thinking, hard worker, embrace challenges, face my fears (e.g. I was terrified of public speaking in secondary school, now I give keynote speeches!), thick skin, resilience.

What is your dream job?

I'm lucky to say I love my job and I'm working in my dream job. I'm my own boss and have founded my own food company.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

When I was younger, one of the most important factors for me was to earn a really good salary as I wanted to be comfortable (my parents struggled financially so I didn't want to have the same struggles). However, I realised in my late twenties that although I wanted a good salary to be financially comfortable it was equally important for me to be as happy in my professional life as I was in my personal life.

I was working as a tax consultant and my job was well paid with great benefits. I was getting bored and frustrated with the lack of excitement. Overtime, I transitioned to work for myself in the food industry using all the knowledge and key skills I gained in all my previous jobs e.g. I've financial and tax awareness from my previous job.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Need to love what you do when you run your own company. It is hard work so you need to be committed. You also need to have a positive attitude and be able to embrace challenges.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

Hard worker, adaptable, good communicator.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Working in all different types of roles and positions is beneficial if one day you'd like to run your own company.

What is your current job title?

CEO & Founder of Fused, TV cook, cookbook author and keynote speaker.

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