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“Everything Ties Together”: Alum Caitlin Rivord’s Post-PDPS Journey

Caitlin Rivord portrait

NC State alumna Caitlin Rivord (Poultry Science ’14) was recently spotted at Turkey Industry Days in Wilmington, N.C. That’s no surprise, since she works for Aviagen North America, a leading supplier of breeding poultry stock.

Caitlin didn’t start out at Aviagen right after graduating, though. After working with pigs, immunotoxicology research and pharmaceuticals, she landed a dream job – and has a lot of experience and some great wisdom to share. Read about what’s she done, how it all fits together, and what she recommends for future alums.

What did you do after graduating?

I worked for nine months as a Sow Farm Management Trainee with Murphy Family Ventures, on a contract farm for Smithfield. I primarily worked on the farrowing side of the farm learning how to manage day-one pig care. When I moved back to Raleigh to be closer to my fiancé, I started work at a small contract research organization (CRO) doing GLP immunotoxicology research, mostly in vivo. I worked there for 2 years as a Research Associate and Archivist leading developmental studies until my [now] husband and I moved to Huntsville, Alabama.

I started working at the Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology with an associate company who was developing oncology pharmaceuticals and currently has two products in clinical trials. I performed R&D [research and development] and GMP experiments both in vivo and in vitro, and also became heavily involved with writing and implementing new methods and procedures. This combination of experiences, in addition to my Poultry Science degree, helped me to land my current position at Aviagen.

What do you do now?

I am now the QA Data Manager with Aviagen North America. My role is to manage and maintain all data collected by our grandparent stock egg depots and parent stock hatcheries. I monitor trends and use data to support solutions to problems to better our broiler breeder production.

A few examples of data that I manage include hatch of fertile, hatch projections, fertility of flocks/strains, and customer mortality, among others. I also interact with customers and farm/hatchery management to handle complaints of high mortality and perform investigations to find the root cause of the problem to present to the sales team.

I spend a lot of time at a desk working in Excel, but I also get to visit many different hatcheries and farms all over the country to maintain face-to-face relationships.

What was the most useful thing you learned at PDPS/CALS/State?

The most useful thing I learned is how important, innovative and in-depth the animal agriculture business is. And that you never know what information might end up being useful.

When I was in school, I focused heavily on the science part of things, which definitely helped me towards the beginning of my career.

Everything ties together…you never know where you might be…five years from now.

But now I am finding myself using a lot of information that I learned in my classes that focused more on management, particularly from Incubation and Breeding.

Everything ties together, and you never know where you might be working five years from now.

Did your degree from PDPS prepare you for what you’re doing now?

Definitely!  I don’t think I would even remotely be where I am now without it. Working for the global leader of broiler breeder stock doesn’t come easy, and my Poultry Science degree definitely played a factor in me standing out from the crowd when there was a large pool of other applicants.

My current role allows me to use what I learned on both the science side and the management side.

What advice would you give current or prospective PDPS students?

Get to know people: your advisors, and visitors, your managers, etc., and use your network!

Maintain professionalism (no matter how hard it gets sometimes!) and get good experience, even if it doesn’t directly relate to where you ultimately want to do. All skills can be transferable, and you never know how much your mindset might change as you start getting more real-world experience.

I never would have imagined having my career now, or taking the path that I did to get here, if you had asked me five years ago when I graduated. But I absolutely love everything about my job and the amazing company I work for!