Catherine Moran, a senior cleaning validation engineer at BMS, discusses her career path in pharmaceuticals to date.
Catherine Moran is a senior cleaning validation engineer at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) in Cruiserath. She told us about her career journey so far, from choosing to study and work in STEM, to what she has learned during her time in pharmaceuticals so far.
‘Our focus is that we’re transforming patients’ lives through science – that’s not a statement everyone can say about their job’
– CATHERINE MORAN
What drew you to this career area?
A career in science and engineering was probably a predisposition for me, as my mother is a maths teacher and my father is an engineer.
From a young age I was always curious in knowing ‘why’. I ended up choosing biology, chemistry and physics for my Leaving Certificate – the only girl in my school to take on all three science disciplines.
What’s the best thing about working in pharmaceuticals?
The best thing about working in this industry is the variety of career options it offers. There are numerous different job opportunities within STEM. It can involve roles within manufacturing, analytics, engineering, supply chain and lecturing.
Once in the industry, movement across the different functions is possible, leading to versatility and growth in your career path.
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 in my sector is Ireland becoming a go-to country for STEM companies, particularly biopharmaceuticals. It goes without saying that the main benefit is direct employment by these companies, but it also trickles down to the colleges and research. More and more STEM-based courses are available now at third level.
The popularity in STEM courses is growing, as evident in the increasing Leaving Cert results required for entry into these courses. In fact, 24pc of Ireland’s most recent graduates are in the areas of natural sciences, mathematics, ICT and engineering.
It really is an exciting time to be studying and working in STEM in Ireland today. The opportunities are endless and all within reach.
What aspect of your job have you struggled to get to grips with?
The aspect of my job I struggled with initially was not always having the answer at hand to every issue. Getting comfortable with initial uncertainty was something I struggled with.
In hindsight, I feel like not knowing everything upfront is a positive aspect in your job. This initial uncertainty allows for growth and learning within each role and it keeps you interested in taking on new challenges.
What has been the hardest thing you’ve had to face in your career, and how did you overcome it?
The hardest thing I’ve had to face in my career is learning to balance multiple different workflows and how best to apply myself to each so that work doesn’t slip. This is something I have to relook at on a routine basis.
It can be hard to estimate how long something will take to do and even with the best will in the world, something can happen which completely throws a curve ball, presenting unforeseen delays. As a result, I find I have to reshuffle the priority list on a daily basis.
If you had the power to change anything within the STEM sector, what would that be?
If I could change something in the STEM sector, it would be the overall approach as an industry to our carbon footprint. We often find ourselves defaulting to the most conservative measures or the road that has been most travelled.
This is the nature of the sector, due to strict regulations and guidelines. It can often be slow to move compared to more innovative sectors where more risks can be taken.
It would be great to see more development in the reduction of the high-energy needs of these systems without affecting the system performance. We do a lot of work on this in Cruiserath Biologics and we committed to this as part of our green roadmap.
Which of your personality traits makes you best suited to your job and this sector?
I reckon the personality trait that has served me best in my career so far is my confidence. I’ve never been shy and I enjoy getting to know new people. I like to get to know the person behind the title and, as a result, I have a friendly relationship with my colleagues, making for an amicable work environment.
In addition to being a chatterbox, I also have some traits that enable me to be highly organised. Being organised is a key trait in time management to maximise output.
Is there something in your personal life that helps you in your job?
This industry can suck you in and pulling away from the laptop can be hard at times. I find my family are a great distraction from the stress that can come with work. Children are demanding and require you to switch off completely whilst in their company.
I also find running very therapeutic. Running is my happy place and it gives me time to reflect on any issues that are bothering me. If I am stressed about something in work, I will go on a run that evening and I find I am much better prepared to take on the challenge the next day.
How do you make connections with others in the STEM community?
I’ve been quite good at maintaining friendships with people I’ve worked with throughout my career, even after moving company. Some of these connections have even developed into long-lasting friendships.
Networking with industry peers in general is a huge advantage in any career. Other means of connecting with industry peers are networking groups such as BioPhorum, Engineers Ireland and ISPE, which provide forums for the exchange of ideas and are a great platform to encourage favourable relations among members and related professions.
Has mentorship or coaching been important in your career?
I have not been part of any official mentorship or coaching programme in my career, however, I have been lucky enough to come across people in my career that have inspired me. Whether they knew it or not, these people probably became my unofficial mentors that I would have looked to for guidance when I needed it.
Mentoring programmes are really beneficial career tools. There is a mentoring programme with BMS Ireland’s B-NOW (Network of Women) and the HBA network on site have just recently launched a shadowing programme.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in your area?
The advice I would give someone thinking about a career in STEM – or pharmaceuticals, in my case – is that the work can be hard, but the hard work is worth it. The beauty of working in the pharmaceutical industry is knowing the job you do every day makes a difference to the quality of someone’s life or outcome.
There is a patient at the end of the supply chain and at BMS our focus is that we’re transforming patients’ lives through science. That’s not a statement everyone can say about their job.