Young woman in camel coat and pink scarf standing in hallway for MSD.
Aimee Gunning. Image: MSD

What is it like working in product stream for a life sciences company?

1 May 2019

There are so many moving parts involved in the production of life-saving pharmaceuticals. We caught up with MSD’s Aimee Gunning to find out more about what her role entails.

There is a multistep, complex process involved in the creation of pharmaceuticals, as one may expect. That’s why people like Aimee Gunning, a micro lead technician at MSD, are so important.

Gunning oversees the product stream with the microbiology lab at MSD Carlow. Here, she discusses the complex demands of her role and how she stays productive.

What is your role within MSD?

I am a team lead  for the ‘product stream’ within the microbiology laboratory at MSD Carlow. I have been with the company for over five years, having joined as an intern and have since worked my way up through the ranks.

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

I start work at 8.30am and hold a morning meeting within the micro lab. This includes attendance from team members on both the day and morning micro team shift to ensure all analysts know what tasks they are to work on for the day ahead.

I’ll always take a 15-minute break in the morning too and catch up with my teammates before diving into my to-do list. Throughout the first half of the day, I’ll update product schedules and trackers, and perform test paperwork reviews.

Each afternoon, I hold a tier meeting with the micro team from both the daytime and evening shifts. These daily check-ins help to ensure all analysts know what tasks they are scheduled for; they can identify any issues and provide an opportunity for the quality and safety team to discuss them, as well as to go over the sample delivery plan for the lab.

My day tends to also comprise troubleshooting various issues that might arise and supporting analysts to handle these issues. I’ll also attend a number of meetings across the site throughout the day, which gives me a great opportunity to interact with colleagues outside of the micro lab.

What types of project do you work on?

MSD Carlow is a truly exciting place to work at the minute as we start the construction of our second manufacturing facility, which will focus on the production of vaccines and biologics. This means we’ll be expanding our warehouse and laboratory services at the site.

This news has provided me with the opportunity to support in the design of the new quality lab and ensure it is finished to an excellent standard, continuing to allow MSD Carlow to retain its strong reputation for carrying out high-quality microbiological testing.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

I have the opportunity to flex a wide range of skills in my role but perhaps my most-used skills would include leadership, technical, troubleshooting, organisational and communication skills.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

There is not one particular part of my day that is difficult; every day varies with different situations to face, but having a great team around me makes any challenges that we do encounter a lot easier to manage.

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

Yes, being organised is the most important tip that helps me through my day and often helps me curtail any potential problems that might arise. By adhering to my regular check-ins with the team, I’m able to set deadlines; this provides a great sense of focus for myself and hopefully my colleagues, too.

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

Despite having worked in the sector for a few years, when I took on the role of team lead I was surprised at how much can change on a day-to-day basis, as well as how busy and quick the day goes. The fast pace has been a great learning curve and has encouraged me to foster greater agility in how I approach projects.

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

I started at MSD nearly six years ago on an internship and I progressed to a permanent role with the company. From there, I was promoted to a lead technician and promoted again to a team lead. As my role changed over the years, so too has the company. MSD is continuously growing, learning, inventing and thriving. Indeed, our highly skilled team at MSD continues to lead scientific breakthroughs in the treatment of some of the world’s most harmful diseases.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

My favourite part of my job is working as part of a team and dealing with people on a daily basis. I believe it’s important to enjoy the company of your colleagues as it can make your work much more enjoyable and rewarding. Most importantly, however, what I love about my job is that I am helping to make a difference to patients’ lives.

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