Darren Telepanich describes himself as a regular person, yet his humility does not do his professional achievements justice. Before beginning his path in research and development (R&D), he studied Chemical Engineering Technology at Mohawk College and did his cooperative placement as a Product Developer at Maple Leaf Foods Inc. Telepanich quickly transitioned into a full-time position and strived to learn everything about R&D. Over the years, he held various managerial roles, where he gained the innovation and business savvy needed to succeed in the R&D side of the food industry. Today, Telepanich is the R&D Director at Sofina Foods Inc.
When Telepanich began his career in food R&D, he initially felt out of place as many other people came from different backgrounds. There were chefs that understood flavor while he and other scientists understood science, in particular he had knowledge of manufacturing and process. Everyone’s skills are brought together to create a mindset and understanding of a project.
As an R&D Director, Telepanich has no typical day as his responsibilities often vary widely. He works on different projects that all follow a life cycle, in which the initial step is to determine the goals and constraints of any project through research. The next step is planning out the details of the project to ensure the execution of the project progresses smoothly. Then, the results of the execution are taken into consideration for identifying the project’s direction to determine the next steps or any adjustments necessary for the success of the project.
It is all about trying to solve and balance for what the consumer wants and needs. People often want conflicting ideals in their food, such as a product being tasty but healthy or unique but cheap. The goal of R&D is to find solutions for this problem by designing and implementing new innovations using new research and technologies.
For this reason, Telepanich is truly passionate about R&D because of the impact on consumers. He is proud to have contributed to projects that ultimately end up in Canadian grocery stores. He makes products for all Canadians while also helping others grow in his team, promoting change in his organization, and being involved with many different people from a variety of backgrounds.
Telepanich shares that regardless of where one starts in the industry, they can decide where they end up. To start, he recommends picking a good company with a supportive environment that will invest in your growth. But he also recommends becoming someone who actively grows by seeking out new responsibilities and challenges. So, while skills and knowledge obtained through education may reflect one’s ability to fulfill specific job requirements, attitude is just as important because it affects an individual’s will. Even if someone lacks the capability today, the right attitude can help them work towards gaining new skills tomorrow.