“Most of my friends have no concept of what I do”
Meet Amy Hassett, who works in the engineering department at Teva’s plant in Runcorn, UK. It’s her job to make sure that medicines come off the packaging line as quickly and smoothly as possible. To oversee a system as complicated as this, she believes that you need to be a born problem-solver.
I’m always looking for things to improve. I work within the engineering department on our site, bringing in new packaging equipment, testing it, and making sure it’s all fit for purpose. The main project I’m working on now is the installation of a centralized conveyor system. A medicine gets sent off at the end of the packaging line and is automatically sorted and then put onto pallets.
I try to make people’s lives easier. That’s ultimately what my job comes down to when you strip everything else back. It’s my role to implement systems to aid operators on site to more efficiently manufacture medicines for our patients.
Medicine is constantly changing so we need to keep innovating. We want to get to a point at this site where we don’t physically handle the product until it gets onto the pallet. In theory you could start your batch and, assuming that everything goes smoothly, it is only handled at the point of sale or distribution. As an engineer, it’s really exciting to help bring this life.
I can’t draw. I’m not creative like that, but I am technically minded and disciplined. I’ve always been good at mathematics and interested in science, so I have quite a logical way of thinking and like to understand the root cause of whatever issue I’m trying to solve. If I see a problem, I usually think, “It might be manifesting itself here, but let’s go all the way back and understand why it happened.”
Most of my friends have no concept of what I do. My boyfriend still thinks I’m doing the same job I had when I finished university. It’s a running joke between us and I sometimes quiz him about what he thinks my job is. I find it funny, though – I’m quite good at separating my work and personal life, so I’m not surprised really.
I’ve been working at Runcorn for seven years, and there’s still so much to learn. There are so many different projects going on and always lots of things to get involved with. There’s a number of departments that specialize in different areas, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with many of them during my time here.
A large part of my work involves software design. This is something I’ve always been interested in - my first role out of university was programming control systems for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, so it’s interesting to have experience of being both the consultant and the client. Software controls all modern systems and I work closely with the vendors to ensure sure it does what we need it to do.
I studied Physics at university, where the ratio of women to men on the course was far from even. I initially began studying Physics with Astrophysics, but converted to pure Physics after my first year. Some of my favourite modules were particle physics, nuclear physics and quantum theory – we were even taught by Professor Brian Cox for one of our lectures!
I’ve always been in the minority. This is something that has continued up to my current role, as I’m still one of the few women working in the engineering department. This hasn’t deterred me or made me think I should do something else. I read recently that only 13% of people in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related careers in the UK are women 01. My advice to any woman thinking about getting involved in these careers is to have the self-confidence and the belief that you can be successful, and that you can make yourself heard.
It’s refreshing to see more debate around why some industries are dominated by men. There is definitely greater acknowledgement now, but more needs to actually be done to encourage women from an early age to get involved in the sciences, engineering and so on.
It’s great to see the impact of the work we do here. I saw a friend at the weekend who uses an auto-injector for the medication she takes. It really made me think. It’s easy to get lost in the detail of day-to-day work, however when you take a step back, it’s rewarding to know that you can come to work and help create something that is not only helping patients, but is also potentially impacting somebody who’s close to you.