Claire, Manufacturing operations and quality (vaccines), Belgium
After a few years of working in aerospace research and development (R&D), I just felt like something was missing.
The work was interesting, career prospects were great, but what I really wanted was a more meaningful impact on society. I knew about GSK’s Future Leaders Programme (FLP), so I applied – and my wish came true!
On my very first rotation I joined a team responsible for producing a polio vaccine. Polio is an extremely contagious virus that can result in long-term paralysis and can even in 5-10% of cases, lead to death. It is thanks to vaccines like this as well as organisations like UNICEF and WHO, that polio is almost globally eradicated. We know that someday soon, we’ll no longer need to produce this vaccine – and we can’t wait for this day to arrive.
One of the biggest lessons my FLP experience has taught me is to stay humble. There are brilliant people all around you. Listen to them and respecting what they say is the smartest thing to do.
Another reason I chose the FLP was the opportunity to learn a lot in a short space of time. Well, as a production supervisor, I was put straight into the middle of the action at GSK. The experience has taught me the true meaning of urgency, responsibility and people management. It’s also taught me that I still have a lot to learn!
We’re responsible for all the equipment, facilities and processes involved in making our vaccines. From quality, health and safety standards to production schedules, there’s a lot to think about but it’s a role where we can have a real impact.
I’ve been in the role for around one year, first as a supervisor for a small team, then later taking on an additional, larger team. It was a challenge to stretch from one team to two, and I had to adapt my own style to their unique differences. The first required me to be much more hands-on, while the second looked to me more just for guidance on important decisions. It’s really interesting to see how these groups evolve differently.
It felt a bit strange at first, managing a team of people who all have more experience than I do! But you learn that it’s OK to be yourself, play to your strengths and help others play to theirs, and eventually you’ll get things done.
One of the biggest lessons my FLP experience has taught me is to stay humble. There are brilliant people all around you. Listening to them and respecting what they have to say is the smartest thing to do.
I’ve also learned the FLP is a phenomenal toolbox, but you need to be proactive if you want to make the most of it. We’re encouraged to be curious about what others are doing, get out and meet them, and build our network. We can develop a vision of the career we want – but only we can go and get it!
There are brilliant people all around you. Listening to what they have to say is the smartest thing to do.