Registered Dietitian Spotlight: Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE
By SARAH KOSZYK, MA RDN on JUNE 13, 2013
Katie Ferraro puts on her A-game and consults all over the west coast. By staying organized and fast-acting, she gets the job done and excels in the dietetic industry as a role model, educator, and entrepreneur. – Sarah
What attracted you to the field of nutrition and dietetics?
My mom is a consultant dietitian and so growing up I was fortunate to have been exposed to the profession from an early age. I saw the flexibility she had in her schedule and the great opportunities in owning her own business and it seemed like a natural fit for me too!
Your Job Title?
Company you are with now?
Self-employed – my consulting company is called Ingrain Health and tagline is “Where Nutrition is Second Nature”
A typical (or not so typical) day-in-the-work-life for you?
As a consultant, I work primarily in the education and business communication sectors. I have always enjoyed teaching, but also appreciate the opportunities that business communication consulting provides. I specialize in online nutrition education curriculum development and I help colleges and universities develop dedicated nutrition courses for their healthcare professional tracks. The majority of my work is web-based, so I split my time between San Diego and San Francisco and fortunately get to travel frequently (both for work and fun). I teach nutrition in the Schools of Nursing at UCSF, the University of San Diego and in dietetics at San Diego State University. I work with textbook companies to develop interactive online material that accompanies their nutrition products, and I recently published my first book “Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing” (McGraw Hill, 2013). In addition I am the Consultant Dietitian for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, San Diego Meals-on-Wheels and a number of healthcare facilities. I have recently started doing more spokesperson work for food companies and commodity boards, which I really enjoy. If it involves teaching or communicating a nutrition message, I am interested!
How did you get your current job in dietetics?
I believe that networking is the key activity to forging your way in nutrition, or any profession. I have always been involved in my local dietetic association, having been President of the California Dietetic Association: Bay Area District, and currently am President of San Diego District and am a past Executive Board member of the Nutrition Entrepreneurs DPG. I see great value in being active in our profession from the very beginning of your career and I have always volunteered with the thought in mind, “If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”. If you don’t like something about the profession, you have the skills – and the obligation – to change it. Many of my earliest consulting jobs came through my associations with local dietetics associations. My career has flourished through word of mouth referrals and more recently, social media marketing. For most of my clients, I am the only dietitian they know and work with, and I strive to continue to maintain those relationships, so they keep coming back for more work!
What skills were you born with and what skills have you learned along the way?
Organization is key. At any given time I have 15-20 clients I am actively working with or for. I’ve learned over the years that I might not be smarter or more talented than my competition, but I am usually more organized. Being an anal Type A dietitian has really helped me in that regard. I learned quickly that the Early Bird Catches the Worm. Writing back and responding immediately to reporters, job inquiries, consulting contracts often results in you getting the job over someone else. As my career has progress I have really learned to value relationships. People move, change careers and projects, but if they remember me as a consultant dietitian they had a good experience with, we will likely work together in the future – or at least I hope we will!
What advice do you have for others wanting to be just as successful and fulfilled as you?
Fake it ’til you make it. If you even THINK you can do the job, say Yes. I see so many young dietitians dithering about, “Well, I want full time benefits”, or “I don’t know if I’m qualified for the job”. Just say yes, and figure it out later. With your Registered Dietitian credential YOU are the expert in nutrition – act like it!
If you could be paid for your job with something other than a paycheck, what would it be?
Red wine. Or tortilla chips. Actually though, as corny as it sounds – positive feedback from former students about their decision to pursue dietetics or nutrition as a result of what I taught them is invaluable. I absolutely love teaching, but I lament the fact that our educators are paid so poorly. Being forced to supplement my teaching gigs with consulting work though has probably made me a better educator in the long run. I never wanted to become that instructor who just taught and didn’t work. I think my real life working experiences help elucidate certain nutrition concepts to students. And I love when they keep in touch and keep me posted on their progress and careers.