How did you get started in your role?
I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 20 years. During that time, I have worked in roles within QA, QAV, CSV, CQV, engineering, technical services and project management.
I live in Louth and when I heard that WuXi Vaccines were coming to the north-east, I was really excited about the career opportunities that they had to offer. I heard about their plans to have both drug substance and drug product manufacturing within the same facility and felt it was a great opportunity to further my career development.
When I started in WuXi Vaccines in September 2020, I was one of the first employees. My first role was automated visual inspection lead, and I was later promoted to associate director of operations in May 2022. There are great career progression opportunities within a start-up business like WuXi Vaccines.
Why did you choose to work for WuXi Vaccines? In what way have your expectations been met?
In a previous role, I worked in a company that manufactured pneumococcal vaccines. This increased my awareness of the importance of vaccine products for global health. Their role was emphasised even more during the Covid pandemic.
The start-up nature of the WuXi Vaccines project appealed to me. Start-up environments are dynamic and lead to a lot of developmental opportunities.
When I started to learn more of the company’s ambitious plans to expand in Europe and elsewhere, I felt that it was the right fit for me. The company headcount in 2012 was 70 employees and has already risen to over 10,000 employees worldwide in 2023.
The company has exceeded my expectations as I feel that the development opportunities which they have given me have accelerated my personal development and career.
What are you working on at present?
At the minute, I am working on a wide variety of tasks such as building the manufacturing organisation with the support of the HR and TA teams, leading the capping and AVI team within drug product manufacturing and supporting the CQV Project through establishment of a tiered process.
What is the best part of your job?
When I joined in late 2020, the facility was a partially complete steel frame. We are already in the commissioning and qualification phase. The pace of progress is phenomenal! There is a culture in the company called WuXi speed which the chief executive often refers to – he uses this term to remind us that we must push ourselves and each other to tackle tough tasks while maintaining quality standards and delivering for our clients.
I think the best part of my job is that I am challenged on a regular basis. I have developed so many new skills as a result. For example, working with the manufacturing leadership team to design the drug product organisational structure, developing our own recruitment process in collaboration with our great HR team, developing team members who have less experience in the industry and working on new state-of-the-art technology within the facility.
What is a defining career moment or high point for you?
In 2021, I was privileged to be asked to support our WuXi Biologics site in Leverkusen, Germany for four months. The site was in start-up and needed WuXi Biologics network support to manufacture a global vaccine for a key client. Due to the urgent need for the product, it was both a challenging and rewarding period.
Where do you see WuXi Vaccines five years from now?
I think the company will continue to grow at a rapid rate. There is an increasing global demand for vaccines as a result of the global pandemic and WuXi Vaccines has both the network and expertise to deliver vaccine products for its global clients. The advances in mRNA technology mean that it is an exciting time to be working in this field.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve received at WuXi Vaccines?
During my time in WuXi Vaccines, I have been lucky enough to have a mentor from the site leadership team. During those conversations, I think it became apparent to me that you must be self-aware of your behaviours and have the ability to truthfully self-reflect to grow your career to its full potential.
If you could go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice at the start of your career, what would that be?
Ensure sure that you are constantly challenging yourself to maintain a high level of interest in your work. Put yourself forward for tough, uncomfortable tasks. This will ultimately lead to a more complete career development.
Also, when you start your career, I think that it is important to work across different functional roles and work out what interests you for your long term career plans.
Finally, the more experienced members of the organisation are a great source of wisdom and guidance for young professionals.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about interviewing at WuXi Vaccines?
Go for it! It is a great time to get into the company. Those who join in this phase of start-up will benefit from accelerated skills development with great opportunities for career progression. There is a diverse range of tasks that employees can gain experience in during this phase of the project which are not necessarily possible during commercial manufacturing.
On top of this, the company is growing at a fast rate, and this means there is the opportunity to grow with the company too.
What would you say are the key skills and capabilities necessary to be good at what you do?
Given the start-up nature of the business, I think that you need to be flexible, open to change and able to change priorities at the last minute.
When I am leading problem-solving projects such as DMAIC or A3 investigations, I try to lead the team in a logical and structured manner to ensure that we get to the root cause of the issue. This requires strong facilitation skills to ensure that all team members are engaged and contribute to the solutions.
When working on people management issues, you need to ensure that you fully consider the colleague’s perspective for each situation to deliver the best outcome for both the individual and the company.
What is the best career lesson you have learned so far?
Over the years, I have realised the importance of inclusive and collaborative team environment. An inclusive team will deliver better results when all team members have a sense of ownership.
If you were applying for role today at WuXi Vaccines, how would you prepare?
I would research the company on the web and use my network connections on LinkedIn to learn more about WuXi Vaccines. This indicates a level of preparation and interest in the company. I would also review the job specification in detail and identify how your experience matches up and where it does not. Finally, I would consider what information you need to decide if the company is a good fit for you.
Which industry professionals would you recommend people to follow on Twitter/LinkedIn?
I don’t have any specific individuals to follow but for those interested in further developing their skills in drug product manufacturing, I would recommend following the National Institute of Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT) on various social media channels. They are based in UCD and provide excellent training courses for those looking to get into the industry or for existing employees to upskill.
WuXi Biologics also posts videos each Tuesday called Two Minute Tuesdays. The videos explain how some of the technology and processes employed in the WuXi Biologics network operate.
Is there a particular book or resource you’d recommend to someone early in their career?
For those interested in drug product manufacturing, I would recommend following or joining the Parenteral Drug Association (PDA). It is a group of pharmaceutical manufacturers who recognised the need for an organisation to disseminate technical information within the industry. They have lots of great resources such as technical reports, journals, letters and so on. They also organise regular industry conferences to discuss key subjects such as Annex 1 and many others.