Meet Lena – our Graduate Technical Operations

In autumn 2017, Vifor Pharma launched its first Graduate Program. With this program we aim to make Vifor Pharma an employer of preference for high potentials on graduate level. By continuously developing the graduates, we want to create a pool for future leader positions. The program consists of rotating assignments in different departments and will last two years. Technical Operations acts as the sponsoring department for our first Graduate Program. Meet Lena, our Tech Ops Graduate, and learn more about her experience during the program!

Sarah: Tell us about yourself and how you joined Vifor Pharma?

Lena: Hi, my name is Lena Birkhäuer and I finished my Master degree in Bioengineering at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany last year. During my studies I had the opportunity to do several internships in different countries like Chile, Northern Ireland or Switzerland, where I worked on a range of topics. I really like to get to know different cultures, mindsets and projects. That’s why I was so excited when I saw the advertisement for the Graduate Program at Vifor Pharma. It offered rotating projects in four different departments and seemed to be a very varied program, which I personally like a lot. I always had wide interests and wanted to dive into different projects in order to find out what I can do best and also to connect the dots. So I applied for the Graduate Program and got chosen!

Sarah: In which projects will you be working during the Graduate Program?

Lena: I will be rotating in four different departments: Supply Chain, Manufacturing, Quality Assurance and Technical Project Management. I will be based at the Vifor Pharma site in St. Gallen but also have the opportunity to do one project at our OM Pharma site in Lisbon, Portugal. The assignments are already defined, but the exact tasks in each department will be specified at a later stage. My first assignment started in the Supply Chain Management department where I’m currently working on a project dealing with introduction of new products. This means I’m creating a theoretical process to facilitate the transition between the project phase in Supply Chain and the actual operational environment. So the idea is to establish a guideline to ensure the right people are on board at the right time. It’s very interesting. I’m in contact with many different people to understand how those processes have been handled so far and I’m also reading a lot.

Sarah: You joined Vifor Pharma five months ago, how was your experience and how did the onboarding go?

Lena: It was very good and also intense. I got to know a lot of people from different departments and was involved in many topics. Due to the medium company size, I think the communication within Vifor Pharma is closer than in other companies. I really like the close contact and the openness of the employees here. You get the chance to learn a lot and meet many colleagues. The employees are really open-minded, also when you talk to the heads of other departments. Everyone is welcoming you and really helping and giving good feedback. I like that.

My onboarding itself went well, but I consider myself as a person that dives in by herself as I like to read and ask people questions. I also had a “buddy” in my department that supported me with daily questions or organisational things. I appreciated that. But also all other colleagues are always there to help. It’s also cool to feel part of the organisation and to see that people start to remember me. Some colleagues already mentioned that due to my rotating program, they think I might become a connecting point between different departments and help to improve the communication between them.

Sarah: What are the next steps in your Graduate Program and what are your expectations?

Lena: As part of this program I have the possibility to go to some trainings that Vifor Pharma is offering to the employees. End of March I will participate in a Lean Management training where I will be introduced into techniques of continuous improvement and process facilitation. I’m really excited because I think Lean Management is key. In April, I will take off for my assignment on our manufacturing site in Portugal where I will stay for 6 months. After working on a rather theoretical concept for the last months, I’m really looking forward to this and hope to be involved in more operational things, also being closer to the manufacturing of products.