If you thought a job in biomedical sciences was desk-bound and limited to solving complex technical issues, nothing can be further from the truth.
Says Ms Eni Yang (right), 29, a process engineer with Pfizer Asia Pacific: “If you think that engineers are a bunch of people who sit in front of the desktop staring into figures and performing complex calculation all the time, you are wrong.”
This is her first job, and she found her role as an engineer in a pharmaceutical company to be multi-faceted — she not only needs technical skills, she also needs to possess soft skills.
“Being an engineer allows you to interact with people from different disciplines and it is just so dynamic that there will be something new for you to learn from others,” says Ms Yang, who graduated from Nanyang Technological University with a chemical and biomolecular engineering degree in 2008.
“It is part of the company culture to nurture our soft skills such as effective communication, teamwork, problem solving, decision making, leadership,” she says.
The company also promotes inter-departmental interaction to enhance team spirit and increase work efficiency.
“It is not surprising that we know each other’s family members too as the company organises frequent get-togethers such as movie nights, fishing days and picnic trips where we get to interact with one another informally,” she says.
Ms Yang’s main responsibility is toensure the smooth operation of the process or system in a safe and economical way. Her day typically starts with the routine monitoring of process trends, troubleshooting of equipment or process interruption and implementing improvement initiatives for better process performance.
“We can be monitoring process trends in the control room or interacting with the floor operators. We can also be running around the plant troubleshooting on the equipment with engineering colleagues. The next moment we may be in a cross-disciplinary meeting which may involve high level management to look for solutions to improve the workflow or we may be in talks with the equipment vendor in search of better process performance,” she explains.
The excitement of learning on a day-to-day basis aside, she also faces the constant challenge for system improvement. What keeps her going is the sense of fulfilment she gets upon resolving the issues and achieving targets.
With a staff strength of about 250, Pfizer Asia Pacific is Pfizer’s first large-scale active pharmaceutical ingredients facility in Asia located at the Tuas South Biomedical Park.
Equipped with state-of-the-art automation and utilising global technological and operational best practices, it produces Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, more commonly known as APIs or drug substances to supply to the global markets.
As a process engineer, she works regular office hours and may render additional support on an ad hoc basis “but that is not frequent”. The company also offers flexible working hours arrangement for certain jobs.
Ms Yang is also driven by the fact that her company promotes engagement, innovation and open discussion.
She says: “Employees are encouraged to think out of the box and contribute ideas related to their work in an engaged manner. This shows employee’s suggestions are valued and rewarded, at the same time providing us an edge to stay ahead of our competitors by coming up with solutions for better quality and cost-efficiency.”
Technical training takes place in the form of coach mentoring and on-the-job training. “Whenever we face any issues, there will always be Pfizer Global Network, managers, seniors or fellow engineers who will be there to provide help and support needed,” she says.
She has regular one-to-one feedback sessions with her manager to discuss her interests and career development. Her supervisor will provide the necessary guidance and support as well as learning and development to help her upgrade herself.
To excel in her area of work, Ms Yang cites “passion for learning” and “commitment to performance and quality” as important factors.
For those who are keen to follow in her footsteps, she says: “Don’t be afraid to take the first step as there will be a lot more surprises waiting for you ahead. Everyone has to start somewhere. As long as you are willing to learn, there will be opportunities.”