Aoife Lyons, BMS
Aoife Lyons, maintenance technician, Bristol-Myers Squibb. Image: BMS

How can we get more women into STEM? Expose students to it

8 Mar 2017

Engineering roles are typically filled by men. Aoife Lyons, an engineer at Bristol-Myers Squibb, says that needs to change.

This year, International Women’s Day and Engineers Week collide. In celebration, we’re looking at some of the female engineers making waves in tech and science.

Here, Aoife Lyons, a maintenance technician at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), Cruiserath Biologics, tells us about how her life and career intersect, and why she thinks the STEM sector needs to change.

What drew you to this career area?

I was always interested in learning how things worked and how they were made. I felt that going to work in this area would allow me to learn more, but also enable me to put my knowledge into practice.

What’s the best thing about working in biopharma?

The atmosphere. Everyone is always interested in learning new, better ways of doing things and it motivates you to do the same. It’s one of those areas where everyone is willing to help each other to develop their knowledge and skills.

What’s the most exciting development you’ve witnessed in your sector since you started working in it?

The most exciting development I’ve witnessed would have to be the expansion of biopharma industries starting up in Ireland. This opens up so many new job opportunities for people in Ireland and it is a great new experience to get interested in.

What aspect of your job did you struggle to get to grips with?

When I first starting working in the biopharma industry, I struggled to get my head around all the different systems that were involved in the production and to understand all the lingo that was getting thrown around.

As BMS have a strategic partnership with the National Institute of Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT), I was lucky enough to get to take part in training with the maintenance team at the NIBRT facility. It was a great chance to get a better understanding of how the process works as a whole.

What’s been the hardest thing you’ve had to face in your career?

I’ve been lucky in that I haven’t faced any major challenges in my career to date.

If you had the power to change anything within the STEM sector, what would that be?

The amount of female presence. There are not enough women out there. When I finished college, I won the Women in Technology Award, which is a good example of a way to encourage women to be involved in the STEM sector.

Recently, I represented BMS on the Biopharma Zone stall at the I Wish fair in Dublin. It was disappointing to see how little most of the secondary school girls knew about engineering. I feel that girls at that age should be getting more exposure to the STEM sector to encourage them to join in.

Which of your personality traits makes you best suited to your job and this sector?

I feel that my ability to adjust to change and learn new things quickly has suited the jobs that I have had in this sector. I started off in a small company and now I am in a large company with a completely new way of approaching work. In my current job, I’m constantly getting involved in tasks that are new to me, which encourages me to expand my knowledge.

Is there something in your personal life that helps you in your job?

My family and my partner have been very helpful and encouraging every step of the way, from when I was trying to get the job to making sure that I was settled in. The location meant that I had to move, and they were all there to help me with that.

How do you make connections with others in the STEM community?

LinkedIn is a great way to connect with people in the STEM community. It helps to connect with a wide variety of people in a relaxed but professional manner.

I also recently represented BMS at the GradIreland STEM fair, which presented an excellent opportunity to engage with students studying STEM and share my experience.

Has mentorship or coaching been important in your career?

Yes, it has been. When I first started working, I was straight out of college and completely new to working in a big company. When I first started in BMS, I was assigned a mentor. Since then, I have learned a lot, not only relating to my job but to my overall career.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in your area?

Research it and talk to different people who are already working in that area. There is so much information out there to be explored, and people are willing to help and discuss their experiences.

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