The opportunity to see how a big pharmaceutical organisation operates and knowing that the drugs he makes will benefit patients and their families, keeps Mr Jimmy Tan Qi Wen motivated in his job in the biomedical sciences field.

Mr Tan, 30, joined Roche Singapore (Technical Operation) in 2010 and works in a team in a plant that manufactures mammalian-derived products such as cancer treatment drugs.

Founded in 1896 and headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is a leader in research-focused health care focusing in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics.

Its Singapore operations started since 1973 to meet the needs of patients, health-care professionals and researchers, in three broad areas of operations: pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and manufacturing.

As a biotechnologist, Mr Tan spends most of his time in the downstream section of the manufacturing process, specifically the purification process — this is before the products get filled into vials and are packed into transportation vessels in preparation for shipment to plant sites overseas.

“Biotechnologists are more involved in the manufacturing process. At my company, we are very supportive towards continuous improvement to improve the efficiency of workflow on the floor,” says Mr Tan.

“Even as a manufacturing operator, you get to be involved in engineering of the floor operation, integrating system, looking at work flow pattern to facilitate in process improvement,” he highlights.

A chemical engineering graduate from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, Mr Tan joined Roche Singapore through an EDB-administered programme in 2010.

Safety is key

Since then, Mr Tan has had two promotions. Also a trainer for part of the operation, Mr Tan gets paired with new colleagues to get them up to speed.

He describes his job as a dynamic one — staff is expected to work with different equipment and biotechnologists on a rotational basis.

Says Mr Tan: “I will always elaborate to my trainee that safety and quality are my main core focus when performing process operations.

“Attention to details and verification with my process operation and documentation is critical. This is very important as the drug substances we manufacture are drugs for patients.”

Getting to learn on the job and the ability to impart knowledge to new hires is one aspect he loves about his job. This gives him the double opportunity to work independently as well as in teams whose members share a strong bond with one another.

“It’s great to work with people who care about the company and are doing a good job,” he says.

Passion for the job

The plant production is operational around the clock, and work is done in shifts, with the outgoing day shift handing over duties to the incoming night shift. Mr Tan and his team work on 12-hour shifts from 7.30am to 8pm.

Initially, his family was concerned about the long shift hours and whether his quality of life will be affected. Their worries soon dissipated when they saw his passion for the job.

Says Mr Tan: “They see that I am always learning new things on the job and despite the long hours, I am still excited to go to work.

“My friends who worked office hours also have to put in long hours and at times even worked from home over weekends. 

“My work strengthens my belief that I am contributing towards solving the world’s health problems and for the better of the world, knowing the drugs that I make will benefit patient and their families,” says Mr Tan.

Supportive culture

Although work on the manufacturing floor can be stressful given the tight schedules for processing, fellow colleagues readily lend a helping hand.

There is a strong teamwork culture with colleagues and the supervisors chipping in to help, whenever the going gets tough.

Employees also receive recognition when nominations are open for “Tech of the year”.

For staff bonding and to promote work life balance, staff participates in inter-department team building sessions and recharge by joining activities such as yoga, rollerblading and running organised by its own recreation committee.

Staff members’ families are also invited to open house sessions to tour the plant and office premises.