Rising stars: Jean Lynham, QA Engineer, Abbott Ireland
I had a keen interest in the biomedical industry having completed my final year project at college in the vascular field. Upon graduating, I felt that to progress further I needed to gain as much hands-on experience as possible.
I secured a position on Abbott's Professional Development Programme for graduates: an opportunity to gain practical experience in different areas and divisions throughout Abbott Ireland over a two year period. I had four six-month assignments in different business units (quality, production, engineering and a commercial operation). Having completed two years of general engineering before specialising, my degree gave me the knowledge and flexibility to adapt to the different divisions and contribute to all the departments where I worked.
A turning point
Abbott's graduate programme pushed me over a short period in new roles and business functions. During this time I experienced many situations that have made me more adaptable to unforeseen circumstances. I will always remember the day as a field service engineer when I took the wrong turn down the hospital corridor and ended up in the mortuary! In all seriousness, many stories like this have stayed with me, and as a result I am able to deal with issues that arise in an ever-changing manufacturing environment.
To be recognised as one of the top graduates among my industry peers, managers and other professional bodies, has been my biggest professional achievement to date.
I possess a strong ability to communicate with and relate to people, enabling me to quickly become an effective team player. It's a distinct advantage when starting a new role, joining a new team, or implementing a project across different groups.
This skill developed over time: I interacted with a network of different people, and looked for regular feedback in order to improve my way of working. You really need to understand the group or individual you are working with to achieve your goals.
I became a supervisor when I still had relatively little experience and was considerably younger than the group members I was to manage. One of the operators even pointed out to me that they had worked at the plant longer than I had been alive!
Another challenge was working under pressure as a field service engineer when repairing diagnostic equipment: we were told that soldiers were ready to be deployed and were waiting for test results, but the equipment was not working. It showed me the importance of completing work correctly and that what we were doing impacted others.
Advice for graduates
I firmly believe that each graduate creates their own career path. If you would like to work in a certain area, express your interest. As a graduate I enquired about the possibility of working in the commercial sector; if I hadn't spoken up I would never have had that opportunity. If you're keen on a certain project, ask to get involved – even if it's just to attend a meeting. By sitting in you will learn more and work will come your way.
Skills for future graduates
One of the benefits of the PDP programme was that every graduate was assigned a mentor who was part of the senior management team. Being able to learn through experience and from others is vital. As a graduate you need to recognise the knowledge and experience of your senior peers and take on board everything they can teach you.
How to survive an economic downturn
Embrace any opportunity that you are given. If you can show you have the skills and knowledge to perform a task, more doors will surely open for you.
Jean Lynham was interviewed for Ireland's 100 leading graduate employers 2011/12.