A young professional woman in casual clothing is standing outside the Takeda Dunboyne building, and wearing a red Takeda-branded jacket.
Ailish Gillespie, manufacturing biotech associate at Takeda Dunboyne. Image: Takeda

‘The transition from academia to industry can be quite a daunting thought’

14 Jan 2020

Manufacturing biotech associate at Takeda, Ailish Gillespie, discusses her move from education into a graduate role, and what she has learned so far.

Recent graduate Ailish Gillespie is now working as a manufacturing biotech associate at Takeda Dunboyne. Before joining the company she studied biotechnology at NUI Galway, undertook a research Erasmus in Spain and completed a master’s in biopharmaceutical engineering at UCD – during which she was awarded a scholarship with Takeda to work on a bioprocess design project.

We caught up with her to find out more about how she’s getting on at the company and what she has learned so far.

‘A willingness to learn new things and try new approaches were key in the transition from college to my current role’

Having joined Takeda, are you now working in your desired industry?

Yes. Throughout my studies in college, my career interests mainly focused on biologics and manufacturing. I have always had a keen interest in how biological systems can be leveraged to target and inhibit the mechanism of many diseases through bioprocess design.

I have found that my role in Takeda has allowed me to further pursue these interests. It is great to see and work with processes I have previously studied, to target rare diseases using biological products.

What drew you to Takeda when you were seeking work as a graduate?

There were many things that drew me to Takeda. The chance to experience a new single-use, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility was a great incentive for me, as there are many advantages to using single-use technology in manufacturing biologics. The paperless vision on site was also of great interest to me.

Furthermore, the culture at Takeda is great. It is an extremely open and team-orientated working environment, where feedback is encouraged. The everyday focus on patients was also something that drew me to the company. Knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of our patients gives a greater purpose to our day-to-day role.

What expectations did you have before you began at Takeda?

All of my expectations were met very quickly when I started! I was slightly nervous about meeting so many new people prior to starting my role, but the atmosphere and culture on site really helped me to relax and transition into the new environment. Everyone is very friendly and approachable, which was a huge benefit for me in the first few weeks.

In addition, I have found that the constant learning, on-the-job training and manufacturing trials have allowed me to gain more than I expected in the short time frame. A willingness to learn new things and try new approaches were key in the transition from college to my current role.

What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?

My initial few weeks focused on new employee orientation and a number of different training sessions. It was great to get stuck in straight away, as this allowed me to immerse myself in the culture on site and meet people from different hubs.

I attended a two-week bioprocessing course at NIBRT within my first month, where we were given a practical overview of the key aspects of bioprocessing. After that, I got involved in various projects on site. My duties and responsibilities can vary greatly on a day-to-day basis, which is something I really enjoy.

Has the scope of your work changed as you have progressed?

Yes, I have moved from more of a learning and training-orientated role in my first few weeks to getting more involved in manufacturing activities. I am thoroughly enjoying being involved in many different projects, while also regularly attending learning sessions. This allows me to develop my technical, organisational and time management skills, while also gaining hands-on experience in bioprocessing.

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

Each day varies greatly, which is something I really enjoy. To start the day, I attend tier meetings with the self-directed work team (SDWT). I am currently involved in manufacturing trials on site. On the job training sessions are dispersed throughout the working week to create an efficient balance between project work and training.

I am a member of the manufacturing 5S team. 5S is an organisational method which stands for sort, set in order, shine, standardise and sustain. To implement it in the workplace, we are in the process of organising the manufacturing space to improve overall efficiency and safety in the manufacturing area.

I am also involved in various projects with different SDWTs. This has greatly improved my collaboration, problem-solving and interpersonal skills in the short time I have been with the company.

How do your responsibilities compare to those of more experienced employees?

My current responsibilities focus on gaining experience in the manufacturing area and working on projects related to the manufacturing process and 5S. These responsibilities can vary with each individual and their experience. Although, while everyone’s background and day-to-day responsibilities may vary, there is a lot of support to ensure everyone is comfortable with the projects and activities they carry out.

The open, friendly atmosphere in the company is great for this. We have a hotdesk policy, where we move to where we are needed each day. This allows us to sit with different people and get to know each other, no matter what role we play in the company. Overall, I have found that while each individual’s role and responsibilities vary greatly within the teams, we are all working together for the common goal.

Do you feel more prepared for working life now?

I found starting at Takeda was a great transition from academia to industry. The feedback culture has also been very beneficial in preparing me for working life. This allows each person to reach their full potential by taking on feedback and also giving corrective and positive feedback.

It promotes teamwork and improves morale across the SDWTs where everyone is recognised for the hard work they do. It also improves safety and quality in the workplace. In addition, everyone takes ownership of their own learning, which greatly improves productivity between individuals.

Overall, being part of a start-up facility has allowed me to improve not only my technical skills, but also my time management, problem-solving and teamwork skills. I believe this will stand to me greatly in the future.

Why should someone apply to the graduate programme at Takeda?

I would highly recommend Takeda Dunboyne for graduates who are looking to expand their skillset and gain hands-on experience in a state-of-the-art, start-up facility. The transition from academia to industry can be quite a daunting thought, but the culture on site ensures this transition is as smooth as possible. I found everyone to be extremely helpful and friendly. This was vital for me in my first few weeks at the company.

While learning and problem-solving are key aspects of our day-to-day roles, there are also many opportunities available to try new things and get involved in projects with others from different roles and backgrounds.

Most importantly, with the patient at the forefront of everything we do, a willingness to try new approaches, ask questions and commit to our everyday roles is key at Takeda Dunboyne.

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