Please tell us about yourself

When Bhavya Mandanna, a Master Brewer with drinks giant Carlsberg, first arrived in Scotland from India, to study Brewing & Distilling at Heriot-Watt, she had barely even tasted beer – apart, that is, for a sip from her father’s glass as a child, which she hadn’t much enjoyed. So how did she come to study and excel in the art of brewing?

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How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career? 

“I was studying Industrial Biotechnology and Biochemistry in India when my cousin, Lokesh asked me if I’d considered brewing as a career,” she explains. “I hadn’t even had a proper beer back then, but the geek in me found the science really intriguing. I don’t think people realise quite how much science goes into the art of brewing beer. Once I moved to the UK, I just fell in love with it!”

Tell us about your career path

Graduating with an MSc in 2010, Bhavya (28) began her career with a student placement at Molson Coors Brewing Company UK, where she worked for four years rising to the position of Technical Brewer, before joining Carlsberg as an Operations Manager. She is currently a Regional Brewing and Processing Team Lead for Western Europe, with one of Britain’s biggest brewers: “I’m responsible for the delivery of beer production targets for countries within my remit, and for leading and developing my technical teams in each of those countries.”

“It’s a great job,” says Bhavya, “where I get to travel to other countries and understand their cultures and practices. I get a piece of the daily brewing action, work on improvement initiatives, and execution of innovations on a great range of products and processes, with a fantastic team!”

“A big aspect of my work that I truly enjoy – and have duly come to respect and take great pride in – is developing my team to reach their full potential. Unquestionably I enjoy the opportunity to work with a very passionate and engaged team, to creatively use our collective knowledge of the art and science of brewing, to push technological boundaries and deliver a fantastic range of beers! Probably the best…” she says, referencing Carlsberg’s most famous advertising slogan.

How was the move to Scotland?

Success hasn’t been easy, however, and Bhavya (28) showed a lot of bottle in her early days, as she explains: “I come from the city of Bangalore. My home-town is a place called Kodagu which is, coincidentally, called the ‘Scotland of India’. I lived there in a joint family, with my parents, an older brother and my aunts. We always had at least 3 dogs, a few cats, some fish and on occasion, a couple of birds – so it was quite the zoo! I was 20 when I first moved to Scotland. It was my first time living away from home and what struck me was the astounding silence and lack of being fussed over! I particularly enjoyed learning how to turn on a heater, after I almost froze on my first night in Edinburgh! It certainly made me appreciate the simple things in life.”

With a can-do attitude, Bhavya soon adapted to the new culture: “Studying was a whole new ball game in comparison to India. However, Edinburgh is a wonderful city to live in, reflecting a culmination of ancient and modern architecture and lifestyles. The city is always alight with a plethora of culturally diverse events, a host of social pubs, bars and restaurants, and people who are absolutely lovely and always ready to help! This made my move a lot easier, in spite of missing my family, friends, pets and all the amazing, home-made food I’d left behind!”

Heriot-Watt turned Bhavya to drink in the best possible way. The MSc in Brewing and Distilling prepares students for work in the Malting, Brewing and Distilling industries, covering a broad range of subjects, from Brewing Science and Chemical Engineering, to Business Studies and Production Management.

“I came to the university full of inspiration, and a lot more courage, with just a touch of scientific knowledge, and a little guidance from my newfound mentor,” says Bhavya. “I barely had any knowledge of the drinks industry. So I can safely say that everything that prepared me for my first job and lay the foundation of my professional life as a Brewer, I got from Heriot-Watt. From the education, the prizes and scholarships, the events, and connections, to the great support I received to work towards realising my full potential, Heriot-Watt made me feel like the Brewing and Distilling world was my oyster, and for that I’m very thankful.”

The UK is now Bhavya’s home away from home and she retains fond memories of university: “Heriot-Watt was definitely one of the best years of my life! Through my classes, and the various social and cultural clubs, I met some incredible people and made friends for life. The encouragement and support I received from the faculty and peers, in all spheres from academic to social, drove me to strive for excellence. The university campus is beautiful and I enjoyed taking long walks to relax and unwind. All in all, I left with experiences and memories that I will always treasure.”

Your advice to students?

Bhavya has probably the best advice for students: “First and foremost, have fun! Enjoy those days as much as you can, as they will be gone too soon! Heriot-Watt offers some excellent opportunities; make the most of what you get there. Don’t just have your noses buried in books, go out and immerse yourself in social and cultural events. Broaden your horizons. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or cannot do; your life is what you make of it. Keep an open mind as every experience teaches you something valuable.”

Winner of the James S Hough Award for global excellence in the Master Brewer qualification from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, Bhavya Mandanna remains modest about her sparkling career so far: “When you enter the big, bad world, remember that while humility, hard work and perseverance will lead to success; the biggest factor should be your personal happiness in what you do!  And most importantly, don’t forget to treat people the way you’d like to be treated, as soon enough, you’ll learn why.”