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When Eleni Ntokou was promoted to a management role at sustainable protein producer Unibio, she was eager to develop her leadership skills.

EIT Food’s WE Lead Food  and NPD Skills programmes offered her just that – and more.

Eleni transitioned from an Academic background to a Leadership Management Role. 

Combining her job with the care for a small baby AND investing in her Personal Development and Career growth.

19 Jun 2024

Eleni, can you tell us about your background?


Eleni Ntokou: ‘I’m originally from Greece, where I obtained a Master’s in molecular biology and molecular genetics, and a PhD in microbiology

After that, in 2013, I moved to Denmark, where I worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Southern Denmark. I have been living in Denmark since then.’


Why did you join the EIT Food programmes for professionals? 


‘I’m working at Unibio, a company that started as a protein producer for animal feed and pet food. They are now expanding their focus towards fermentation-based ingredients for human food

After several years as project manager of protein applications at Unibio, I was appointed as product development and sustainability manager in 2021, and since May 2023 I am leading a cross-functional team of 15 people in New Product Development

That’s when I started looking for courses where I could develop my leadership skills and learn how to motivate a team

I participated in two EIT Food programmes: WE Lead Food and the New Product Development Training ‘NPD Skills’.’ 

Did the WE Lead Food Programme meet your expectations?

‘WE Lead Food 'gave me the chance to enhance my communications skills and my ability to motivate people without pressuring them

The course was truly transformative

A great experience that I highly recommend to every woman working in the food space, whether they want to be an entrepreneur or lead and communicate better with their team. 

The course gave me the chance to meet, network and get challenged by some brilliant women in the world of food systems.’


Do you consider the women-only approach as an asset of the WE Lead Food Programme?

‘Yes, I think it is very helpful to have women-only groups for educational programmes – although different perspectives are also important. 

One of the topics was ‘active listening’, something I was not very good at. 

The reason is that I often felt like I was not really heard during meetings in this male-dominated industry. It made me over-assertive and always trying to state my opinion without engaging in real conversation. 

Active listening, a technique I learned during the WE Lead Food course, allowed me to fully engage as a listener first and not be scattered in my thoughts or other tasks during a meeting or a conversation with a colleague. 

By learning together with other women you can exchange experiences and discuss the challenges we all encounter.

Like combining academic courses with a job and the care for young children, for example. That’s what I did, and although it was not always easy, it was perfectly doable, also because the meetings were online.’  

5 Reasons your Organisation should sponsor your WE Lead Food participation

Editor's Note :

Talking points to convince your manager

  1. Ecosystem Building: Not only is the programme was led by the University of Cambridge, your people will be connecting and influencing across the food system, beyond specific sector/niche allowing for innovation and importing good practices from other places in the food system.
  2. Connecting across the world: As part of WE Lead Food and its alumni, your staff will be broadening their Leadership Network to cover the entire world, which provides increased access to information, markets, resources, and partners, globally
  3. Collective Leadership: the programme provides a toolkit for innovation and leading change within the organisation and sector, offering opportunities for thought and organisational leadership among peer organisations – making your organisation stand out!
  4. Making the world a better place: at the core of the programme is the network, knowledge and tools to envision and implement sustainability practices for food system transformation.
  5. Can’t wait to start! We guarantee you that we will return to you re-energised, motivated and modern leaders. It’s up to you to give them the space to live up to their potential!
“I was not really heard during meetings in this male-dominated industry. It made me over-assertive and always trying to state my opinion without engaging in real conversation. Active listening, a technique I learned during the WE Lead Food course, allowed me to fully engage as a listener first”
Eleni Ntokou, Product Development and Sustainability Manager Unibio Denmark, Alumna WE Lead Food

After WE Lead Food you also participated in NPD Skills. Did you enjoy that programme too?



‘Definitely, it was even the first one on my radar. 

NPD Skills covered various courses, some online and some physical in Warsaw

I liked the group exercises, especially the ones in real-life, when we could do things with our own hands like testing samples

The module about consumer centric approach was also very interesting. It was all very hands-on and at the same time very compact, not taking up much of my time. 

I discovered several concepts, tools and methodologies that I can still use in my current job.’

What was the impact of the courses and of the EIT Food network on your career?

‘The courses have equipped me with tools that enhance my daily collaboration with my team and the broader organisation

These tools have not only improved our teamwork and communication but also empowered me to approach difficult discussions with greater confidence

I now feel more organised and self-assured when facing challenging meetings

Both courses also offered me the opportunity to connect with a diverse group of inspiring professionals in the food systems field, both men and women. Through these connections, I have significantly expanded my professional network. Thanks to thought-provoking discussions with the experts, I gained a deeper understanding of the common obstacles and opportunities within food systems.

This enriched perspective shaped the way I address these challenges and my approach to achieving positive change.


Editor's Note : 

Entrepreneurship, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Leadership and Communication ...are at the core of the content of any of the EIT Food Education Programmes.


Eleni's story - Impact on Society

People How is Eleni's story impacting our society ?

Challenging the masculine leadership model in the Food Industry

Showcasing that Personal development and advancing your career is possible for young mothers, combining her job with caring for a small baby and investing in her career growth.