Meet Kristen Eads
Kristen Eads graduated from one of NC State's Professional Science Master's (PSM) programs. PSMs are interdisciplinary graduate degree programs that tailor education to meet employers' and society's need for an improved and employment-ready workforce. Here is Kristen's story in her own words:
I first came to NC State University in the Fall of 2000, initially intent on pursuing a bachelor's degree in Engineering. I matriculated into the Chemical Engineering program in 2001, and while I enjoyed the curriculum, I struggled in trying to understand how I would apply this degree in the real world, and whether I would enjoy an eventual career in engineering.
In my senior year, I decided that traditional chemical engineering wasn't what I wanted to do long term, so I started investigating graduate programs that would allow me the time and flexibility I needed to develop myself personally, as well as a career path. I had been most interested in Biochemistry and Microbiology, classes I took to fulfill my Biotechnology minor, and so I started investigating NC State's PSM program in Microbial Biotechnology.
In retrospect, the program could not have been a better fit for me. I learned pretty quickly that I needed to learn more interpersonal skills and that I needed to understand how to contribute to a project as part of a team in order to be successful. There was a great deal of focus placed on learning to work cohesively with other people, and "soft skill" development was particularly stressed in the case studies portion of the curriculum.
I feel that the team-oriented approach to the case studies is the primary reason why I have a job I love and am successful in today. I learned how to work integrally in a team to meet a common goal, to provide customer service to someone with an issue I could resolve, to present ideas and information at the right level of detail for my audience, and to accept feedback and criticism to make myself into a better employee. All of these abilities contributed to me earning a position with GlaxoSmithKline at the pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Zebulon, NC.
I have been employed since my graduation in 2006, and my job requires me to have day-to-day interaction with a wide variety of employees, with an equally wide variety of remits and concerns. I am able to work with these different groups to provide the level of customer service they need to perform their jobs safely, every day, so that we can provide life-saving drugs to the U.S. market.
Today, I am an Environment, Healthy, and Safety (EHS) engineer at the manufacturing plant. I have been promoted twice since I began working at the Zebulon plant. Each promotion was a direct result of my ability to apply the skills that I learned in graduate school in meaningful ways to achieve the site's overall goals. I am now considered a subject matter expert in several EHS areas, and my experience ensures that I am called upon routinely to assist with many projects around the facility.
One of my primary responsibilities is as a site Behavioral Safety Champion. I am responsible for interacting with a variety of production, laboratory, and support groups to perform behavioral safety Gap Analyses. I work with these groups to determine what new actions or programs they would like to see that will ultimately encourage safer working behaviors from managers, supervisors, and everyone at the site. The interpersonal skills I developed as a student in the MMB program have significantly aided me in communicating across the different groups of employees. I have been able to build high levels of trust across all the groups at my site, which enables me to obtain accurate comments and feedback about traditional and novel ways of working.
A second area of responsibility is in environmental assessment. My site has been proactively engaged in understanding how our processes impact the local wastewater streams. I established our site program for assessing new and existing products for their potential impact, and I devised our strategy for preventing any compounds of potential impact from being released into the environment. My on-going work ensures that GSK Zebulon operates in an environmentally safe and responsible manner every day.
I am currently building on my engineering experience by learning about process safety and applying those concepts to the workplace to proactively minimize any risk of dust explosions. This new responsibility has led me to work toward my Professional Engineering certification, which is being fully supported by my site. This certification will make me a more versatile employee, able to assist with an even greater variety of projects. I'm looking forward to this exciting new phase in my career, and I sincerely feel that my success is due in great part to the quality and type of education I received in the Microbial Biotechnology program.
Kristen J. Eads
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