#MogulMoves: Here Is How I Became a QCScientist/Microbiologist

We love featuring Mogul Millennials that are doing exceptional work in their career of choice.

This week, we’re featuring Awa Lamine Coulibaly and she is sharing her experience on becoming a QC Scientist/Microbiologist.

How did you become a QC Scientist and QC Microbiologist?

3 months post obtaining my Master’s Degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a concentration in Pharmacology from Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, I interviewed with NESCO a contracting company.

NESCO was looking for Quality Control Operators for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc at the Rensselaer site in NY. I was scheduled for two interviews; the QC Microbiology department interviewed me first, and while driving back home to prep for the second interview with QC Chemistry, the NESCO representative called me with an offer from QC Microbiology.

I worked as a contractor for 9 months before becoming a permanent employee. I worked as a QC Microbiologist at Regeneron for four years before joining Celgene back in October of 2017. I wanted something new in my field within the industry and Celgene was the perfect place as it focuses on cell therapy for cancer treatment. Celgene hired me as a QC Scientist in Microbiology Department.

What does your day look like?

I am currently the Lead QC Scientist for release testing in QC Microbiology at Celgene. This role requires me to be mostly outside of the labs, where I must assist meetings, work with different departments, edit and create new standard operating procedures, protocols, investigate deviations, scheduling, assisting and making sure my team has everything required to perform testing accurately and in a timely fashion.

Other days I can be in the labs all day training employees, performing assays, and doing assay validation.

Assay: is a testing, analysis, or experiment we perform using the standard operating procedure (SOP) to determine the quality of samples.

How did you prepare for this career?

I started pretty early on working in different labs as an undergrad to see what fits me best. I volunteered as Research Lab Technician in a chemistry laboratory summer of my freshman year when I attended the State University at Albany. I did an internship the following summer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMASS) where I worked on Polymer SiRNA drug delivery with a postdoctoral candidate.

How did you know this was the right career path for you?

I have always loved science (I know this is a very common response) but loving science and having a career in science are two very different things.

I learned this early on from my experiences stated above.

I enjoy my job and I am good at it, I love and appreciate the diversity the biotechnology industry consists of.  Most importantly I love that my work has a positive impact on someone’s health. I also love anything that has to do with designing, fashion, customer service.

To be quite honest this is the right career path for me NOW, 10 years from now I might be doing something completely different, but I will have the confidence and work ethic I gained from working in the biotechnology industry.

What other career opportunities are available in the biotechnology industry?

The biotechnology industry has endless opportunities, and science plays a small portion in it believe it or not. In the QC department alone, I work with Software Engineers, Equipment Engineers, Quality Assurance Personnel, Regulatory Affair Personnel, Supply Chain and Facility Services just to list a few.

This doesn’t include the business, management and financial sides of the industry.

What have you found challenging working in the Biotechnology industry?

The Biotechnology industry is constantly changing, which can be challenging when you’re new in the industry. I consider this a good challenge because it helps individuals build a stronger and flexible character where one is easily adaptable to change.

What advice do you have for people wanting to break into the biotechnology industry?

Start the process early to see if this is the right path for you, most companies have summer paid internships for enrolled students. Don’t be afraid to move within the industry, try different departments, job functions. Apply through a contracting company, sometimes it’s the fastest way to get your feet in the industry.

  • Be positive
  • Be transparent
  • Be flexible, the industry is constantly changing.
  • Communication is key

Fun Facts about Awa

  • Awa Lamine Coulibaly, Awa means “Eve” in English.
  • She was born in Kharkove Ukraine, but she’s lived in Mali
  • Awa is fluent in French, Bambara (Mandigo) and understands two other west African dialogues.
  • She has her Bachelor’s in Chemistry, and a Master’s Degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences with a focus on Pharmacology.

Written by Mish Saka

Mish Saka is a creative Human Resources leader in New York City. She loves creating employee programs and internal HR systems using an entrepreneurial approach. Her side hustle is working entertainment events with exclusive companies like the Vanity Group, Gate Pass Entertainment and the WIE Network. During her time-off from work she loves to travel and learn about different cultures. She has traveled to Nigeria, Jamaica, Bahamas, Bermuda, and Thailand. 

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