Colm McElroy, technical specialist at MSD Brinny. Image: MSD
Colm McElroy, technical specialist at MSD Brinny. Image: MSD

What new technologies are they implementing at MSD?

29 May 2018

Pharma has never been a more competitive space to be operating in, and the only way to remain on top is to be adventurous. We spoke to Colm McElroy, a technical specialist at MSD in Cork, about what his work with the company entails.

Ireland has a deeply competitive and thriving pharmaceutical industry. All of the top 10 multinationals in the world operating in that sphere have a hub in Ireland and many of the world’s bestselling drugs are manufactured here.

Future Human

So, with that in mind, how can any company expect to stand out from the crowd or be heard amid the noise? Ensure you are using the most cutting-edge technologies, obviously.

We chatted with Colm McElroy, a technical specialist at MSD’s Cork premises in Brinny, about how his work helps to keep MSD on top.

What is your role within MSD?

I am a technical specialist working as part of the process and analytical development team at MSD Brinny (Cork). The group is involved in the implementation and support of analytical techniques for quality control laboratories, along with a host of other technical activities and challenges encountered on site.

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

Since we’re implementing new technologies and techniques or troubleshooting, daily challenges vary and often require input from a variety of disciplines across site.

As a result, the role is heavily project-based, and each of these requires a custom-tailored routine to be successful.

So, barring a morning touchpoint with the wider team at MSD Ireland, the routine changes daily and flexibility is important.

Typical daily tasks tend to include: technical writing, stakeholder management, examination of data for trends and working with multifunctional teams to arrive at decisions or solve problems.

What types of project do you work on?

In recent times, the majority of my role has involved the validation and development of production methods that go on one of MSD’s upcoming products.

My role has also expanded to include the redevelopment of production techniques associated with some of our older products.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

The nature of the role lends to being a part of a multifunctional team – therefore, communication and collaboration are paramount.

When working within this framework, it’s essential that the relevant people are not only involved but are also up to date with the most significant and targeted information to avoid confusion and to ensure that everyone is working towards a common goal.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

A big plus for working in the technical operations area is the variety of diverse experience you get. Sometimes, this can lead to delays and roadblocks during the initial stages as we look to scope out the project, ask the right questions and build out the plan.

We have a great team of really talented people here in MSD Ireland and a diverse pool of skills to tap into, so there’s always someone to give a helping hand or a fresh perspective.

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

It’s crucial to understand what success looks like from the end-user point of view.

It is essential to not lose sight of this, weighing decisions and repeatedly linking with your customer to ensure that you are focusing on the important areas.

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

Courage was something that was surprisingly important to the role. As I mentioned, the hurdles you face may be different or previously hadn’t been encountered.

This means that backing yourself and having the courage to progress a project with your own approach is often essential. You may have support and stakeholders to guide you but the ownership is yours and takes shape by your hand.

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

Historically, companies in this sector tended to rely on older, well-established techniques. However, as the area is becoming ever more competitive, an advantage is seen for companies who are quickest to adopt and utilise these emerging technologies. Ultimately, this is driving new challenges that were not as prevalent, such as data integrity.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

It’s great working as part of the multifunctional teams, collaborating with different people and personalities to a common goal. There is a great sense of camaraderie and achievement when a group has overcome all the obstacles to successfully complete a project.

Also, you will be surprised what you can achieve in a team effort that is greater than the sum of your parts. I feel I’m always learning from others, no matter what project I am working on.

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