Hi Orla, can you give us a brief introduction to yourself?
My name is Orla and I am from Blarney in Cork. I am currently living in Cologne, Germany and I am working on a project in Leverkusen under the KPC International Graduate Program.
Can you tell us a bit about your academic background and why you chose that route?
I studied for a BSc Hons in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at Cork Institute of Technology. I chose to study this course because I loved science in school, I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in science. As Cork seems to be at the epicenter of Pharma and Biopharma in Ireland, studying Pharma Biotech seemed like the perfect course for me. When I looked at the different modules throughout the degree, they were all things that interested me, even if I hadn’t heard of some of them before!
The layout of the course gave me a good hands-on knowledge of every level of drug development. From upstream and downstream bioprocessing to QA, QC, and validation studies. Although it was a challenging degree, I really enjoyed my time doing it and I couldn’t imagine having studied something else.
What made you want to apply for the Graduate role at KPC?
When I read about KPC and the work that they carry out, it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to work in an area that interests me, while also gathering inside knowledge on how the different pharmaceutical companies commission, qualify and validate various systems.
Being able to work and live abroad is definitely another reason I applied for the job!
How have you found relocating to a new country?
I had 4 days to pack up my belongings and move to Germany which was a bit of a whirlwind but it was also very exciting. I had some initial concerns naturally enough; I don’t speak German and I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to navigate public transport, shopping, and restaurants without the language. Another reason was that I’d never been to Germany so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I needn’t have worried on either score. After my first full day here, I knew it was the right decision for me. Lots of people here speak English and I downloaded an app that can translate anything I want to say into German so it’s easy to get around and find what I need here.
I’m living in Cologne which is a short train journey from where I work. Cologne is a beautiful city with loads to see and do. I love experiencing other cultures and countries and now I have the opportunity to travel with my job. I don’t think there are very many jobs that offer that and I feel really lucky that I get to do it with KPC.
Can you tell us a bit more about your role with KPC International?
I am employed as a Sampling Engineer. Originally this meant that I would sample Purified Water (PW), Water For Injection (WFI), and Clean Steam as part of the Performance Qualification (PQ). Recently I have been getting involved in temperature mapping Installation and Operation Qualifications (IOQ), as well as the IOQ of small equipment such as conductivity meters.
Can you walk us through a typical day in your role?
In the mornings I carry out sampling for PW, WFI, and CS as these need to be sampled in a specific time frame. After that, I take care of some documentation and communications with outside vendors. Once that is done I work on the IOQ/PQ of some small equipment. I am also responsible for keeping a tracker for samples, and forecasting what samples need to be taken and communicating that information with outside vendors.
What has been the biggest learning experience or the most challenging aspect of your new role so far?
On a personal note, I’ve been away from home before and spent a few months in the USA over summer breaks in college but having my own apartment and properly living away from home has definitely been a learning experience. It was a bit daunting at first but I’m loving it and am enjoying making the space my own.
Work-wise, I wouldn’t have had that much experience with the IOQ of small equipment and I found that challenging at first. However, it was a great learning experience and now I have gained a skill that can be used on the many other contracting jobs that KPC has in store for me!
What has been the most rewarding part of your role so far?
I’ve made some new friends and am really enjoying the work so far. I’m also loving getting to know Cologne and I plan to make the most of my time here and see some other parts of Germany and neighboring countries while I’m stationed here.
What advice would you give to graduates thinking of applying for a similar role?
Do it! It will be the best decision you ever make. As a graduate, I think that there are very few employment opportunities where you get exposure to a wide range of multi-national and global companies and get insight into how they operate.
Being part of a consulting organisation as a graduate gives you that visibility and allows you to develop a wider skill set than you might otherwise get if you were to join one of the multinationals. Not to mention the fact that you get the opportunity to travel and work abroad, which I think is something everyone should do!
Outside of your working day, how do you spend your time?
There is so much to do in Germany, from visiting surrounding cities and villages to relaxing by their man-made beaches and lakes. Cities here are really well connected by trains, trams and buses so the only restriction on what you can do with your time off is the fact that there are only 24 hours in the day!
If you are a graduate or experienced professional in the Life Sciences industry and are interested in joining the KPC International team, you can find our latest opportunities on our careers portal, here