Updated: Jan 14
In today’s professional world, being versed in one discipline is not always enough. Interdisciplinary knowledge and knowing how to collaborate and adapt in cross-functional environments are valuable not only for career advancement, but also for innovation.
Kayla Mitchell – a Manufacturing Planning Specialist at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals – is no stranger to this complexity in her workplace in Troy, NY. She works on producing commercialized drugs on a large scale, assisting with the planning and logistics in both the short- and long-term.
However, her vision for her career trajectory did not determine what Kayla intended to study or engage in while pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Kayla graduated from NJIT in 2021 with a Biomedical Engineering degree within the Biomaterials concentration, but her extracurricular activities went beyond the ones traditionally associated with careers in STEM. When the Lyra team sat down with Kayla, she reminisced on how she enjoyed being an avid member of the Nucleus Yearbook Club, NJIT Alumni Association, and Alpha Kappa Psi (a professional business fraternity).
When asked about what is needed to be successful in her role at Regeneron, Kayla pointed out that an incredibly important aspect of her job is a balance of precision and adaptability. The entire process not only needs to be streamlined with respect to time and resources, but also incredibly precise under varying circumstances. There is no room for error when dealing with bulk pharmaceutical manufacturing drugs, but when problems with the process do arise, a team needs to quickly be assembled to reassess the situation and keep the business operational.
Kayla’s role requires her to be versatile and cross-functional to apply knowledge from different teams from staff on the floor to those handling the supply chain, and she attributes her success to being involved in so many extracurriculars during her undergraduate studies. Kayla’s background is a perfect example of the educational and professional value which lies outside of a core STEM engineering education. She is grateful for a diverse curriculum that allowed her to take project management, mathematics, and chemistry classes to help her build a foundation and to develop the skills needed for her current job. With the skills she gained from a variety of detail-oriented extracurriculars, she was able to directly synthesize these attributes with her engineering courses in order to pursue employment and ultimately work at Regeneron. These crucial skills include working with different types of teams, adaptability to various job responsibilities, and the development of “soft skills” (i.e. communication, professionalism, and time management).
While Kayla found her past experiences to be tremendously valuable in helping her achieve her current success, she wishes she was able to cast an even wider net to gain additional skills earlier in her educational career. Courses in computer science, data analytics, and business would have put her in an even more advantageous position, with a stronger background in areas like supply chain and management in particular providing a valuable addition to her current skillset. Along these lines, the Lyra team also recommends that the reader consider additional certifications or degrees – such as an MBA (especially those with a STEM focus, if you are interested) – or other programs outside of the scope of your undergraduate studies.
For the next generation of STEM graduates, Kayla emphasizes the importance of being involved in as many things as possible when you are in school: “Once you graduate and get a job in the real world, rarely will your job perfectly align with your major.” Academic coursework is incredibly important, but to maximize the opportunities and connections available to students at their institutions, students should pursue opportunities that interest them outside the classroom. These opportunities may not necessarily relate directly to coursework or career opportunities, but in Kayla’s experience, these were where most of her skills really developed. All the supplemental work she did as an administrator and leader in student organizations was definitely an advantage in the job application process. In Kayla’s opinion, “future students should definitely consider their dream role and try to acquire as many of those skills [as possible] throughout extracurricular opportunities.”
This is our first Lyra guest spotlight interview, and we would like to thank Kayla Mitchell for giving us the privilege of interviewing her on her experience in the STEM+ field, along with Neelaza Dahal for designing the social media graphics. Make sure to tune in every month for a guest spotlight interview post!
Want to see someone you know who is involved in a STEM+ field as part of our guest spotlight series? Contact us using the form below or email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “STEM+ Guest Spotlight”!
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