Why Giving Growth Opportunities in Manufacturing is Important…

To be successful in manufacturing requires the ability to integrate across multiple disciplines of science and engineering with a capability to science and engineering. Successful manufacturing is rooted in execution excellence and the ability to rapidly deploy manufacturing technologies while leveraging them to drive operational efficiencies and ensure reliable supply. This fast-paced and dynamic work can provide a range of opportunities for growth, from leading teams on the front lines and key management roles for both plant and overall site management, to technical leadership roles across multiple disciplines. Manufacturing’s integrative operations around manufacturing science and innovation can provide individuals with the fundamentals to be successful in multiple disciplines, which can lead to a variety of career paths.

In my first job out of college, I worked as a manufacturing operator during a period I refer to as the “teenage years of biotechnology.” This role helped me understand what biologics manufacturing was about, and it was a great role for understanding what it takes to get products to patients. From there, I took on roles focused on developing, scaling-up, and transferring processes.

One of the best opportunities I had earlier in my career was to create and lead a global process engineering organization. On my team we had process engineers working alongside development scientists to scale up and transfer processes. We created unit operation platforms to improve processes and manufacturing operations. We established a new materials sciences organization and formed a digital development group focused on real time data analytics and modeling.

I’ve come to consider myself as a biochemist by education but a process engineer by practice. I have focused on developing, deploying, and optimizing processes to transform starting materials into end-products. The experience I had in manufacturing helped me to develop processes that were more manufacturable.

One of the most rewarding experiences I had was taking an assignment to lead a new manufacturing site in another country. This experience taught me so much about how to lead in a different culture while remaining my authentic self. It expanded my horizons and views about diversity, inclusion, and belonging and made me a better leader. I leveraged my technical and manufacturing experience to teach the new staff and make the best decisions for the organization. I wasn’t sure I would thrive in the role, and as I reflect on the experience, I think these were some of the greatest  lessons in my career.

I have worked at multiple companies, in different countries, and performed multiple roles. It has been my privilege to be part of commercializing over a dozen products, and I have worked on almost all the top biologics drugs in the U.S. I’ve always challenged myself to think about how I could add to my skillset and what skills were transferable.

When considering your career roadmap, it’s important to talk to others about your career and how you can leverage the opportunities provided to you. Make the most of the role that you’re in and become a continual learner. I’ve had great mentors and sponsors during my career, and I’ve been fortunate to have sponsors who were guiding me into different experiences. One key takeaway in my journey was, being open to the possibilities and the ability to say yes. Saying yes can challenge you, but from my experience it also comes with significant rewards in the way of new opportunities. I’ve never felt there was any role or task that was beneath me, everything was an opportunity to continue to learn.

In my role, it’s important to understand the strengths, the development areas, and the career interests of my team. I can use this information to find opportunities to challenge the team and broader organization. I like to tell my direct reports – “I want you to be uncomfortable.”  It means that you’re doing something that either you’re not used to or maybe you’re not confident in. I want to give individuals those challenging opportunities, so they can gain confidence and grow. Earlier in my career I used to tell people, “I’m going to stretch you to your capacity and then a little bit more because the little bit more is where growth happens.”

The easy decision is to continue providing opportunities to staff in areas where they excel, but the better decision would be to give the opportunity to the individual that needs the development. For the broader organization, you need to understand who your talent is and what you think they need to develop and then match them to those opportunities. It’s important for leaders to have meaningful career conversations with their staff to drive real growth in their careers. 

A leader cannot be successful if they cannot develop the people around them. One of the conversations I have often with my new leaders is the concept of the “differentiating factor.”   What do you think it means to be a leader? What are you going to do to distinguish and differentiate yourself from the rest of the organization? If you think it’s by delivering results, think again; that’s the ticket to the game.

How you differentiate yourself is by translating strategy into meaningful action and developing the talent around you. I hold my leaders responsible for developing their talent. I want to know that we are moving talent forward to create the next leaders and ensure we’re having real discussions about the development of our future leaders and talent.

The difference between a good organization and a great one is an environment where people feel there is transparency, that they’re valued, and there is a focus on talent development. Your talent discussions should be about development areas and should allow for courageous conversations to help staff achieve success. It’s disappointing when leaders don’t help staff understand what skills and experiences are needed to advance. I think people want to contribute and be successful, and leaders can and should develop their teams. Leaders have a responsibility to develop talent and invest in their careers.  

Career development conversations are great opportunities to foster purposeful engagement, and we should not view these conversations as box-checking exercises. It’s important that staff feel comfortable sharing areas where they believe they need to improve. I believe finding a good mentor outside of your internal network or direct line management is always a great idea. They can provide you with coaching and guidance on your day-to-day challenges or development in a safe space.

On the other side of the coin, it’s important that leaders and managers have the right training to be good leaders and managers. Ensuring they have the right tools for success is key to a thriving and effective organization where everyone benefits. I’ve been fortunate to work in manufacturing, which is the gateway to providing lifesaving medicines for patients. Every day, there are new challenges and opportunities within manufacturing to expand your experience, network, and skillset.

About the author

Arleen Paulino

Arleen Paulino

Amgen, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing

Arleen Paulino, Senior Vice President, Manufacturing, leads Amgen’s commercial manufacturing organization. Prior to this role, Paulino served as vice president, Site Operations at Amgen Singapore Manufacturing from 2016 to 2018, where she led the team to the successful licensure of Amgen’s first Next-Generation Biomanufacturing plant.

Paulino joined Amgen in 2002 and over the years has held various positions with increasing responsibility in Process Engineering and Process Development. She was also the head of Clinical Operations and Development Supply Chain, where she was responsible for the end-to-end supply chain for the manufacture and delivery of clinical product to support Amgen’s global clinical trials.

She began her career in Operations at Genentech and later joined Immunex, where she held a variety of roles overseeing development and scale-up operations, contract manufacturing, technology transfer, and plant management.

In her career Paulino has developed extensive experience in operations and end to end value chain management. She has focused heavily on applied process engineering and technology advancement and has advanced CMC commercialization of numerous biologics and complex small molecules. She has a proven ability to develop and sustain organizations that deliver results.

Paulino holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Marquette University.

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