Stephen Jacob- BSc in BioPharmaceutical Science (Online)

Name: Stephen Jacob.

Job title: Senior BioProcess Technician 3 in Pfizer Grange Castle.

Course Studied: Level 7 Biopharmaceutical Science and Engineering.

Can you share your career path to date?

I started by doing an apprenticeship in automated mechanics and maintenance fitting and worked for Lufthansa Tecnik Airmotive Ireland servicing turbofan jet engines for 7 years in all. When the factory shut, I changed my career and went into the telecommunications sector, working for KN networks for 4 years. Working on the copper telephone and broadband network and fibre broadband network. Installing phone lines and broadband service to homes and businesses in the Leinster area. After 4 years of working with KN, I wanted a change so applied to Pfizer Grange Castle for a process technician role. I am in Pfizer Grange Castle for 4 years and I am a senior tech 3 the past 2 years.

What does your current role involve?

I work 4 cycle shifts in the bioprocessing department producing a vaccine. I work in a grade C environment with a shift of 11 technicians. Some of the processes we use are UFDF, Chromatography/Purification, Conjugation, Filtration, and Final Fill. I work with Tech services and Tech Ops troubleshooting issues in the process that arise and work with QA to clear up any issues with the documentation.

What motivated you to start studying?

My reason to start studying was that I wanted to understand the science behind the job I was doing. I was quite comfortable with performing the process as a technician but in some of the processes, I didn’t understand why we were doing a certain step. This was the main driving force behind my decision to start studying

Why did you choose this course from ATU?

I chose this course as the course material was directly in line with my job at the time. A colleague from a different shift had just completed the course and highly recommended it as it gave him extensive knowledge of the job we were doing and opened up numerous opportunities in the company for him.

How did you find the process of studying online? What elements did you find helpful? Were there elements you found challenging?

I found studying online very workable and flexible. The main element I found helpful was that the lectures were all recorded so I could watch them when it suited me. This was extremely helpful when working shifts and having 2 kids. Another helpful element was the semesters were completely planned out week by week, so you knew when an assignment was due and when all the assessments were on. The only challenging element I found was the amount of reading material, which is added to the course, it is all extremely helpful but there is a lot of it.

 How did you balance work and study?

With the shift work, I had to plan my week for study as I found out early that studying/lecture after a night shift didn’t work for me. I watched all my lectures and did all my assessments in the evening after work or when my 2 kids were in bed, and this worked perfectly for me for the 2 years of the course.

In terms of your employer, were they supportive of your decision to study? Were there elements of the course that were particularly relevant to your current employer?

Pfizer were extremely supportive of my decision to study, and I’d like to thank them for their support during the 2 years of my studies. Every subject during the 2 years had relevance to my current employer from Quality systems to Lean/6 Sigma.

What advice would you have for anyone considering studying online?

I would highly recommend studying online for anyone who is thinking of studying for the first time or going back to study. I managed it while working shifts and with 2 young kids. It is very flexible, and you can work it around your life.

In what way has studying online with ATU benefitted your career?

It has given me the knowledge I was missing in my current role, and it has opened up numerous opportunities for me to pursue in the company from QA to tech ops and tech services roles.

Did this course provide any unexpected benefits to your career?

An unexpected benefit this course has given me is that it has made me better at training new technicians starting in the company as I understand the science more and I can explain the processes in a more complete way

Did you find that the elements you were studying had practical relevance in your day-to-day role?

Yes, especially in year one as all the subjects were processes, I performed every week in my job

What were the key skills you took away from your time studying at ATU?

Time management, Report writing, working as a team remotely, task prioritisation,

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