Young blonde woman with brown shirt wearing turquoise lanyard standing in front of MSD banner.
Gill Haverty. Image: Connor McKenna/

From chocolate factory to pharmaceuticals: The life of an upstream engineer

11 Jul 2019

We headed down to MSD Biotech to speak to Gill Haverty and hear more about what her role as an upstream engineer entails.

Gill Haverty, an upstream equipment engineer at MSD Biotech in Dublin, began her career in a role that’s more ‘Willy Wonka’ than World Health Organization – she worked at a chocolate factory.

It was great, she’s quick to add, but her master’s was in biopharmaceutical engineering, and this was the industry she was ultimately the most attracted to. So, after joining a graduate programme, she moved into her current field.

“I’m responsible for maintaining the equipment at the upstream stage of the process. I’m also involved from the start, so commissioning and qualification of the equipment right through to manufacturing.

“At the moment, the focus is primarily on FATs – factory acceptance testing. This is where we visit the vendor’s premises and we execute a variety of tests on the equipment to ensure that they’re fit for purpose before they’re shipped to MSD.”

MSD is a name that will likely ring familiar in most ears. It’s one of the world’s most prominent pharmaceutical companies with a history that stretches back into the 19th century. Yet though it may seem counterintuitive, one of Haverty’s favourite elements of her work in MSD Biotech is the fact that it is at its start-up phase.

“Even physically, the building looks different each week.”

Having an impact

Speaking of her early days at MSD, Haverty said: “During our induction week, we got to look at a lot of patient videos and hear their stories and how our drug has impacted their lives.”

That is another draw to this work. It’s one thing to abstractly grasp the role of life sciences in the large, vast ecosystem of human health, the cycle of life and death, but seeing lit-up faces on screen and tales of improved quality of life adds an additional layer of enrichment to the role and contextualises the day-to-day in a way that feels meaningful.

To hear more from Haverty about her work as an upstream engineer at MSD Biotech, check out the video interview in full above.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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