|Nicola McManus talks to Smart Futures about her career as a Senior Director of Quality Control.
What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?
I am responsible for the Chemistry, Biochemistry, Microbiology and Incoming Materials and Packaging Laboratories in a bio pharmaceuticals company in Dublin. I am responsible for the Quality Control of the incoming materials, packaging, finished product testing and stability testing. I’m also currently setting up new laboratories for design and new instrumentation.
Describe a typical day?
A typical day for me would include writing, reviewing and approval of documents, team meetings, meeting with vendors, audit preparation, review and response to e-mails related to Quality Control and recruiting new members of staff.
What are the things you like best about the job?
The technology and constant change in job. Working with people and sharing experiences and knowledge. Visiting other companies to share ideas and innovations.
What are the main challenges?
Keeping to a set budget.
Who or what has most influenced your career direction?
I studied Analytical Science based on my career guidance counsellor’s recommendation and also my brother’s recommendation who was also studying Science at the time. As Ireland has a strong pharmaceutical industry presence I knew there would be a variety of jobs in this sector once I graduated.
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
Yes, my job allows me to have the lifestyle I am happy with. I am secure in my current role and my skills are interchangeable to many other companies and roles. I have progressed from analyst to group leader, to supervisor, manager, associate director and now Senior Director in my career of 23 years . I have had many roles and exposure to all areas of quality in seven different companies.
What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?
I studied Biology, Chemistry, Economics and French at leaving certificate level and yes these subjects did influence my decision to go on to study chemistry in university.
What is your education to date?
I attended secondary school in Skerries County Dublin, the now Community College. I then studied for a BSc in Analytical Chemistry in DCU.
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
The analytical and practice (labs) side of my degree was the most relevant to my career. In addition, a good knowledge of statistics and the theory of chemistry are also very relevant. In my third year of college I did a work placement for 6 months in a chemistry laboratory, this gave me valuable experience that enabled me to secure a permanent role in industry once I graduated.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
A good theoretical background in chemistry, microbiology or biochemistry is essential in the Pharmaceutical industry. Laboratory skills and good report writing are desirable. Choose a degree that offers good practical skills and also work placement. On a personal level, good communication skills, flexibility and a positive can do attitude is also required in a busy laboratory.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
Laboratory work in a quality control laboratory either in incoming goods inspection, micro analysis or instrumentation would be good experience for my position.