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Tools For Success: Leverage Volunteer Experience to Achieve Career Success

by Rebecca Stauffer, PDA | Apr 29, 2014
Many of us face a common conundrum when changing careers or seeking a new internal role at the same company: how to demonstrate years of experience in, say, Development, when you’ve spent the last ten in Manufacturing Operations?

Many of us face a common conundrum when changing careers or seeking a new internal role at the same company: how to demonstrate years of experience in, say, Development, when you’ve spent the last ten in Manufacturing Operations?

For PDA board member Ursula Busse, moving into a new role within Novartis involved leveraging her broad volunteer history with PDA.

“What led to my promotion is not an extensive experience in quality assurance,” she explained. “I was promoted to my current role because I kept myself informed about the changes in regulations and the global regulatory trends through my activities at PDA.”

In October 2013, Busse became Head of GxP Regulations Coordination, following five years in technical operations as Head of the Project Office for Novartis’ biopharmaceutical operations. In her new role, she is responsible for monitoring changes in global regulations and their impact on the company’s quality system. She also handles external relations for the quality group by getting her company involved in outside activities that affect the quality/technical space.

Not surprisingly, this new role required her to be familiar with hot regulatory topics.

“I stayed informed on current topics—on trends, on updates, on discussions—through my participation in PDA task forces, planning committees, attending PDA meetings, and so on,” Busse said.

Her volunteer work at PDA includes serving as a member of several conference planning committees, task force involvement and, of course, her election to the board.

So, how can a PDA volunteer move up the ranks?

“An important aspect is to get known or to have some visibility, because leaders are assigned by other people recognizing them for their leadership capacities,” Busse emphasized. “If you’re a good leader but you stay invisible, you will not move up to leadership roles. So, I would encourage new members or volunteers who would like to move into leadership roles to get involved in activities where they can show that they have the ability to lead.”

Her recommendations include starting as a member of a planning committee for a conference, joining an interest group, and serving on a task force. Pick up small tasks and work up from there. But, most importantly, engage in roles that one enjoys.

“If you’re good, then people will ask you to do more,” she said.

But don’t forget to be visible within your own companies, Busse added.

“It’s always good to build networks,” she said, “to get connected to people whether it’s within companies or outside, via PDA, for example. PDA is a wonderful opportunity to get connected with people in other companies, connected to regulators, whether it’s in formal exchanges and meetings or informal discussions in the networking events.”

In addition, she recommended participating in company-wide initiatives even if they appear to have little benefit to you personally because it’s a great way to make connections within your company.

Another key factor is to always keep learning.

“In today’s world, science is advancing at a fast pace, and new concepts such as QbD and risk management approaches and knowledge management are becoming part of our daily operations—these ask for people who have cross-functional experience, so I would encourage people to gain work experience in several different areas. For example, someone who started out in Technical might gain experience in Development and then Manufacturing, then move over to quality—maybe work some time in Regulatory, I think that’s needed today to move on to leadership roles,” Busse concluded.

Varied experiences and an extensive network enabled her to achieve career success. Membership in associations like PDA can allow you to gain the knowledge and ability to build a network. Although you might be happy in your current role, it wouldn’t hurt to consider your next role and the steps you need to take to get there. 

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