A photo of a young, dark haired and hirsute man leaning against a balcony railing looking into the camera.
James Davis, CSA lead at Shire. Image: Shire

Why it’s important to get away from your desk during the working day

27 Sep 2018

For James Davis, the fact that he frequently gets away from his desk and into the field makes a huge difference to his employee experience at Shire.

Having varied work is incredibly important. If your job is primarily characterised by repetitive work, even if it’s challenging, you may experience a diminishing return on your motivation.

Yet in even the most dynamic of roles, often office jobs consist of sitting in front of a computer all day. This lack of variety can impact your ability to motivate yourself.

For James Davis, the fact that his work at Shire involves getting away from his desk and roaming around on site is really important. It breaks up his day and makes everything feel more hands-on. We spoke to Davis about what his working day at Shire is like.

What is your role within Shire?

I am responsible for the civil, structural and architectural design and construction for Shire’s new single-use technology facility in Dunboyne, Co Meath. I review and manage the construction of the building to ensure that the facility is a safe place to work and meets the highest quality standards.

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

Every day is very different. I tend to have a lot of meetings to review any challenges that have come up and we look at solutions as a team. We regularly review the schedule, review any construction concerns and generally plan ahead.

I also manage to get away from my desk quite a lot and out into the field to walk through the site systems. I review quality, keep an eye on safety, monitor progress and problem-solve as the project develops.

The varied aspect of each day and being able to physically get out and touch, poke and prod really breaks up each day, and feeds into the collaborative and hands-on approach that people here at Shire strive to achieve.

What types of project do you work on?

I have worked on capital projects anywhere from $100,000 all the way up to $1bn projects. Previously, I’ve worked on projects all over the world in the oil and gas industry before I moved into the rapidly growing biotech industry.

Of all my previous project experience, this is by far the most engaging project team I have been a part of. The way the operations team work together and support each other in achieving common goals is extremely dynamic.

What skills do you use on a daily basis?

Working in such a dynamic environment requires you to utilise and develop a wide variety of skills from day to day. I would say that good communication is above all the most important skill, followed closely by good time management and teamwork. If you can’t communicate your ideas, decisions and thoughts clearly, your effectiveness will be greatly reduced. There are always great communication ideas all around you; sometimes, you just need to try a few different ideas before you land on the medium that suits you and your message.

Teamwork is a skill that I have found extremely important here at Shire. It’s important to be able to work together and share the responsibility with a group towards a solution and a positive outcome for the business.

What is the hardest part of your working day?

Implementing my smart work plan from first thing in the morning. It sets me up for the day and makes everything glide along much easier. It helps me feel like I’m in control, as opposed to always trying to catch up and chasing my tail.

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

Preparation is so important! Simple things like leaving one meeting 10 minutes early so that you can squeeze in five to 10 minutes of prep and reorganisation before the next one may make the next meeting more productive, which earns you more time. Shire has a great team-focused approach to everything, which means plenty of workgroups and meetings.

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

I think the thing that most surprised me was how quickly I settled in. Right from the start, I was given a really comprehensive site induction, which covered everything from day-to-day safety to Shire’s global network. Everyone was really welcoming and helpful in getting me started.

The collaborative approach to everything meant there were plenty of whiteboard meetings and workgroups to get involved with. These really helped me get to know everyone and gave me a great understanding of the team’s short- and long-term goals so I could meaningfully contribute to them.

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

As the sector has evolved, we are seeing a much greater demand for flexibility in the facilities that we are designing and building. Where previously we would have built standalone projects with a very defined function or for a dedicated product, we are now seeing over the last few years that this is changing.

This new Shire facility in Dunboyne is the epitome of this new evolution in biotechnology manufacturing. It’s a multi-product, single-use facility with expansion opportunities built into the design from day one. It will allow for quick changeovers between products in the manufacturing suites on an almost weekly basis. Most importantly, this will allow for new products to be introduced in the future very easily and allows for capacity to be expanded with minimal interruption to current operations.

All this leads to a very flexible and future-proof facility that can react to patients’ needs. This change has meant that my role has evolved significantly and now requires me to have an in-depth understanding of the biotech manufacturing process and the products to allow me to effectively manage the design of the facility.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

I love the opportunity to learn and Shire allows me to work in a multidisciplinary team of people across engineering design, construction management, quality, process manufacturing and technical services, to name a few. Being able to work within a team like this and the collaborative approach makes the work very enjoyable and offers great opportunities for learning and personal development.

The level of interaction and collaboration that I have with other disciplines has even given me the motivation to upskill and study for a qualification in biotechnology from the National Institute of Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT). Shire firmly supports the upskilling of its team members and very quickly established a link with NIBRT to support this.

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