By the end of June 2017, I received the results of my final exam period at the university of Ghent. Slowly reality sunk in: I obtained a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences, more specifically in drug development. At that point, I felt I was done with theoretical courses and I was very eager to learn more about the practical side of the different topics I had just learned about throughout the years. There was no question about it, I was ready to enter the ‘life of a working man’.
During my quest for a job, the world of consultancy opened up to me and pi appeared on the radar. During the initial interviews with pi colleagues, as part of my application, conversations felt very familiar. The philosophy of the company matched closely with my personal values, which was an important factor to me. I believe that a company and their employees should be on the same page in order to be successful. One of the things I appreciate the most is the fact that pi as a company is willing to invest in their consultants, both professionally and personally. Despite a thorough screening procedure of the applicants, pi is not anxious to partner with junior profiles. This reminds me of a quote from motivational speaker Simon Sinek: “You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”
My first project - Calibration Method Assessment
My first project I participated in had the purpose of assessing the calibration approach of a wide variety of GMP laboratory equipment as a function of their intended use. The large amount of different types of equipment that had to be assessed seemed very challenging to me, although, I initially still had no clue what was really expected of me. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to be part of a small team of 4 people that would join me in this venture. One colleague of the team already had some work experience and had rather a coordinating role. This was exactly the support that two freshly graduated starters needed. Due to a great introduction of the project by our business manager, the scope and objectives of the project were elucidated and we were ready to take off.
During the project I was able to gather my first experience in a pharmaceutical GMP environment. In addition, theoretical knowledge of different analytical techniques was further improved by discussing and evaluating the criticality of different calibration parameters. Once the critical calibration parameters were identified, all analytical laboratory methods that were used in the labs could be assessed. Following this assessment, gaps were found and prioritised. The most complex instruments where subjected to an FMEA analysis. This was my first introduction to establishing a remediation plan using a risk based approach. As part of the remediation plan, SOP’s were updated, additional reference standards were identified, new equipment was purchased and qualified and calibration ranges were extended in order to cover the entire range of intended use. Finally, the end users had to be trained in the changes we made.
When I studied, I was never very enthusiastic to be in front of an audience, but these trainings really helped me to gain some more confidence and feel more comfortable. This later turned out to be a useful skill in my next project challenge.
Due to my equipment related experience I built during the first project, I was approached by the gLIMS project team. They were looking for someone who could assist in implementing the instrument management module of a global LIMS application into the analytical labs. When I found out what they did, I was eager to join their team as it seemed a great challenge to me. I was very thankful to be given the opportunity to be part of an enthusiastic team composed of very experienced people, each a specialist in their area.
As I started, my knowledge of the company’s business processes was limited to “laboratory equipment qualification”. However, as the project proceeded, I gained insight into the general laboratory processes, next to the rather limited scope of equipment qualification. I was able to create more of a “helicopter view” of the different business processes that are taking place within a company. Furthermore, by attending a business process modelling course, I was provided with tools to visualise the business “as is” and “to be” situation. Business process analysis was an entirely unknown field of expertise to me which was elucidated by being part of the gLIMS project team. I consider this gathered knowledge as valuable given the fact that these principles are applicable on a wide variety of organisations, not only on the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to this, being part of a global team is not only enriching on a professional level, but also on a personal level. International communications and discussions across different sites add a supplementary fascinating touch to the project as a whole.
Next to the things you learn along the way, pi invests in supporting you to develop technical and personal skills by means of their “personal development plan”. In cooperation with the consultant, they try to find training courses tailored to their needs, which suits my personal interpretation of Benjamin Franklin’s words – “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”.
When you would ask me to summarise my first work experience and define the role pi played in these past two years, I would conclude as follows: Despite I had no work experience at the beginning, pi provided me the opportunity to be part of projects that have a significant impact on business at the client’s site. In that way I was able to learn a lot from experts in the field but also from associated trainings. pi really supports me in my personal career growth and helps me to clarify my vision.
As you can read in this article, being part of pi helped me to achieve quite some personal and professional milestones during the first years of my career.
Jonas De Roo
Junior associate @ pi