“Mentoring has been an essential aspect of my career”

MSD’s Matt Kessler discusses his career in the pharmaceutical industry and why mentorship has been so important throughout his journey.

A career in the life sciences industry can be incredibly rewarding for a number of reasons. For Matt Kessler, he’s always been curious about immunology, having grown up with severe allergies.

This curiosity turned into a lifelong interest in how things worked and led him to his college degree in chemical engineering.

Today, Kessler is passionate about the role chemical engineering plays in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields and works as the Senior Director of Enabling Technology and Engineering at the pharmaceutical company MSD.

What’s the best thing about working in the pharmaceutical industry?

My favorite thing about working in our field is how we harness innovation, collaboration and creative thinking every day to advance pioneering treatments for patients around the world. It’s extremely rewarding when you think about the impact our work can have, and that feeling is what drives you to go above and beyond at work every day.

I first joined MSD 20 years ago, and the sense of commitment and fascination I had that first day has stuck with me from the start. Innovating with purpose is part of our culture at MSD, and it can be seen at all levels of our business.

One of the things I enjoy most about my years at MSD is the emphasis on lifelong learning. I have never felt the need to leave for further career development as I can move so easily to different positions with different skills within the organization. This agility and this attitude of “always learning” are part of our culture.

What is the most exciting development that you have witnessed in your industry since working there?

The growth of technology and its role in what we can achieve. When I first started working, most of the activities were done manually and on paper, and data analysis took a long time. We are now moving towards fully automated processes, with artificial intelligence and machine learning to boost productivity and better understand interdependencies.

In my role as Senior Director, Enabling Technology and Engineering, I currently lead a diverse set of teams across Ireland and Europe to build the next big biologics innovation and acceleration: MSD Dunboyne’s BioNX facility in County Meath.

Unique within our global network, this state-of-the-art facility will leverage the most advanced technologies and processes to support an innovative new approach to the development and launch of future biologics from MSD.

MSD Dunboyne’s BioNX facility will play a major role in this evolution, helping to meet the needs of patients around the world, from MSD Ireland to the world.

What aspect of your job did you find it difficult to master?

One thing I have had to learn throughout my career is that the perfect is the enemy of the good. There is no one right answer in this area, just different approaches.

Understanding when something is good enough, and its relative impact, has been one of the hardest lessons to learn and one that I see proven time and time again through new experiences and challenges as I continue to move forward in my career.

What has been the most difficult thing you have had to face in your career?

One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career is also one of the things I love the most about it, and it is the constant evolution of chemistry and biotechnology to respond. global demands for health care.

Our work grows and changes with the world of patient care, and while it is incredibly rewarding to know that by inventing for life at MSD we are having a direct impact on lives around the world, so too is it. a responsibility of great importance. It’s a job that requires your ways of working, your outlook and your ingenuity to remain agile and agile.

If you had the power to change anything in the STEM industry, what would it be?

As a sector, I think we need to move away from certain ways of working that we may have moved beyond. For example, at MSD we try to move more and more towards a horizontal way of working, where we care and cherish the unique set of skills and knowledge that each person brings to the table. We are open-minded, transparent and try to create a comfortable environment where everyone can express themselves to the best of their ability on a daily basis.

I believe that the more we bring these principles to the fore as an industry, the more we can continue to nurture and support efforts around diversity and inclusion, ensuring that all voices are represented in a meaningful way. equal, regardless of their origin, sex, age or anything else. .

Working in close collaboration with the MSD Dunboyne team, I can attest that these principles hold true across the site, notably thanks to their innovative “flow to the work” structure and their agile working model. From the Dunboyne location, the new BioNX facility will also leverage this innovative approach to help create a truly scalable workplace in every way, both for staff and for the people who rely on our products.

Which of your personality traits makes you best suited to your job and to this industry?

If I had to think about my own personality, I would say motivation, curiosity and interest in shaping my own future. I think the most important thing for me has been to have the interest to learn, the curiosity and the knowledge to do something about it.

Is there something in your personal life that helps you in your job?

I love to travel, especially off the beaten track and it has given me very enriching experiences, both positive and negative. While traveling in Central Africa, I had dislocated my shoulder while white-water rafting, and less than two days later, almost all of my possessions (including my passport) had been stolen.

Challenges like this have helped me solve problems better and instilled in me the importance of approaching problems calmly. I also believe that traveling and seeing different parts of the world helps keep things in perspective, better understand global healthcare challenges and underscore why our mission at MSD is so important.

How do you connect with other members of the STEM community?

I love Reddit or the community forums. It’s a fantastic way to stay in touch and keep up to date with what’s going on in our industry among people with similar interests. I often kept in touch with my peers and friends via email, which is especially handy when, like me, your career has taken you to several different countries around the world.

Lectures are also often a great way to meet like-minded people and if you are a speaker I would always recommend making your contact details available afterwards so people can reach out to you with comments or questions. I made some great connections that way.

I know networking and bonding has become much more difficult with Covid-19, but we are fortunate to have so many tools and platforms to be able to build bridges with our peers and colleagues and keep up with the aware of what’s going on elsewhere in the industry – which is always so important.

Has mentoring or coaching played an important role in your career?

Mentoring has been a critical part of my career. Too often we all talk about the same things but with a different meaning. There have been several mentors throughout my career who have supported me at different stages, helping me better understand some of the unspoken expectations and helped me get through difficult situations.

As I progress in my career, I hope that as a team leader I will also be able to offer mentorship to others and help share some of the learnings and experiences. knowledge that I have acquired over the past 20 years.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career in the pharmaceutical industry?

I guess my main advice would be to always keep an eye on the horizon and pursue the opportunities that you find most exciting in terms of both your career path and the impact your work can have on others. .

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