Cheryl Hyland, BMS
Cheryl Hyland, bioprocess associate, Bristol-Myers Squibb. Image: BMS

The best thing about working in biopharma? The passion is infectious

26 May 2017

Are you interested in a career with a pharma giant like BMS? Do you know what that career would look like?

Cheryl Hyland, a bioprocess associate at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), gives us an insider look at her role and her daily work with the pharma company.

What is your role within this company?

Future Human

I’m a bioprocess associate.

If there is such a thing, can you describe a typical day in the job?

As we are in start-up mode while building our new biologics manufacturing facility, no two days are exactly the same. However, a typical day could begin with a team huddle meeting, where queries or concerns about projects are raised. Everyone is given the opportunity to contribute to solving the problem, and follow-up actions are subdivided among the team. An action may involve independent research or working with cross-functional groups to attain the necessary information required to reach an informed resolution. The day may end with writing or reviewing documentation, or even partaking in a process-mapping exercise. The possibilities are endless.

What types of project do you work on?

I have had the privilege of being involved in multiple projects since I began working with BMS.

I was involved in compiling the bill of materials for our immuno-oncology medicine, which will be manufactured on-site.

I have written and reviewed standard operating procedures and other documentation, which has opened my eyes to the quality standards relevant to the industry. In addition, the research required for this task ensured that I developed an in-depth knowledge of processes and the inner workings of machinery that I will soon operate.

I have acted as a support to the consumables project by assessing the suitability of single-use technologies for our process. Along the way, I have learned about novel technologies and the importance of chemical compatibility, engineering controls, and leachables and extractables. I have conversed with vendors about their products and even created user requirement specifications, which has definitely improved my research and negotiating skills. I was even a member of a team that travelled to Texas in December of last year to carry out factory acceptance testing on equipment for operations. It was a fantastic experience to examine and test new equipment, and it was a real test of my attention to detail.

I have represented BMS at career events, where I have been able to converse with prospective job applicants about my responsibilities, job benefits and what it is really like to work for the company. This was so enjoyable, because I was able to help like-minded people get an insight into my role and provide advice to enthusiastic graduates about the relevance of their skill set. I also attended a STEM event with BMS, which aimed to inspire and encourage young women to follow a career in science, technology, engineering and math. I was enthused that BMS was involved in this event and was truly delighted to take part.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

I use research and analytical skills to collect and critically evaluate information for projects and to pre-empt potential complications. I make use of listening and communication skills, which ultimately aid with team work and meeting deadlines. I utilise computing skills every day. Exploiting programmes such as Microsoft Excel, Word and Outlook effectively can contribute to efficient time management and project management.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

There is a real buzz on site, with multiple projects running simultaneously. When you witness the passion and excitement of fellow colleagues about projects they’re involved in, you want to be involved in all of them. One of the hardest parts of the working day is realising that I can’t be.

Do you have any productivity tips that help you through the working day?

My number-one tip is to always focus on the end goal, providing a quality and efficacious product for the patient. This is the best motivation for productivity.

However, a practical tip is to write tasks or objectives on post-its and stick them somewhere on, or at, your desk. It is a visual reminder of what needs to be done. I feel a real sense of achievement when I get to remove them from my desk. It helps me to keep on top of my work and to stay motivated.

When you first started this job, what were you most surprised to learn was important in the role?

As I was a relatively recent graduate before commencing work at BMS, I was a little nervous that my lack of experience would hinder my effectiveness as a member of the team. However, I was surprised and pleased to discover that my soft skills would play such a significant role in work. Skills that I had developed from previous employment have been a major benefit to me. For example, communication and organisation skills are vital to getting work done.

How has this role changed as this sector has grown and evolved?

As this is my first job in the sector, I am probably not in the best position to offer an opinion on how the role has changed. However, my experienced peers do share their experiences of working in similar roles for other companies. There is a general consensus that BMS management maintains better communication with team members than can be experienced in other companies. Everyone’s input is really encouraged and appreciated by management, which I find refreshing. There is an open office set-up which I feel creates an open and productive environment.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The culture at BMS would have to be what I enjoy the most about my job. I enjoy the collaborative atmosphere and sense of innovation I get to experience every day at work. The people are passionate and motivated, which is infectious. The welcoming and inclusive nature of the team makes every task easier to tackle.

For a different perspective on working as a bioprocess associate at BMS, hear from Joseph Taylor.

Bristol-Myers Squibb is currently hiring bioprocess associates for its facility in Cruiserath, Dublin 15.

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