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Four women from the biopharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb discuss their experiences in the STEM industry and provide advice on how to start a career in the sector.


Q: What are some of the key skills or personality traits that are important for your role?

Siún: I would say that project management skills are essential. My role is underpinned by my ability to manage an investigation effectively. It is important that I can coordinate myself along with all stakeholders to ensure that not only the investigation identifies the correct root causes and solutions, but also ensure the investigation meets its deadline.

Aoife: As an engineer, critical thinking and practical problem solving skills are vital. Problem solving skills can be developed and improved through practice, but certainly most of my day-to-day job relies on me being able to review problems and try to find effective, sometimes innovative, solutions.

Communication may not spring to mind straight away when you think of engineering, but it is crucial that I am able to converse with other teams and communicate my plans and projects effectively.

Eleanor: If you asked me back in college, I would never have said that I was good at delivering presentations or voicing my opinions in front of a group, but I have developed newfound confidence since joining BMS. This is a testament to the team and managers and their encouragement.

Emma: I am conscientious, organised and have a strong sense of duty. Conscientious people are planners and we are organised. A lot of what we do in the STEM sector is planned years in advance. We follow a defined set of rules but also think outside the box when required.

Try to get a rounded experience in many departments within your company before you finally settle.

Q: What opportunities for progression are there for women in STEM? What more could be done to promote the profession to women?

Eleanor: In general, I would say that yes, there are certainly plenty of opportunities for women in STEM. I think my experience on the BMS graduate programme really showcases the possibilities open to women in STEM. It provided a certain level of visibility on site and a great networking opportunity, along with career coaching with members of the site leadership team and getting exposure to lots of multifunctional teams and areas.

Aoife: Encouraging involvement from a young age is crucial. There are engineering scholarships aimed at women available to college students which are a fantastic support. But I believe focussing on primary school students and emphasising from a young age that it is a role just as suited to women as it is to men is needed.

Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about a career in STEM?

Siún: I would say that there is always more than one avenue to get into a STEM career. My story is a great example of that. I didn’t set out with a specific idea or plan in my head that I wanted to work in the biopharmaceutical industry, but by following my interest I pursued the SkillNet course. This acted as a launchpad and gave me a foot in the door to the fantastic company that is BMS.

I would also say not to be disheartened if you do not find opportunities straight away. It can be challenging, but keep an eye out, do your research and stay connected and up to date on sites like LinkedIn.

Emma: Go for it – you will not regret it! Try to get a rounded experience in many departments within your company before you finally settle. Do not be afraid to apply for jobs you perceive are stereotypical male or female jobs – you may be pleasantly surprised; I know I was.

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