Katy Corfield

Quality Manager, GSK

How I came to STEM

I have always been analytically minded and growing up, I was always questioning the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ to understand things in greater detail. Going through my education it became apparent that Biology/Chemistry/Physics seemed to nurture that natural curiosity. I was fortunate enough to have a very inspiring teacher through the earlier years of my STEM education. My secondary school biology teacher was a rugby-playing, ballet dancer and she really broke down a lot of the perceptions into what a woman in STEM could or ‘should’ look like.

What I enjoy the most about STEM are all the applications of theory to real life situations. Something simple such as filling up the car and understanding the chemistry behind fuel and how it had to be cracked to the right octane rating to make the car run to the shop smoothly!

My enjoyment of problem solving paired very well with Chemistry, in particular Analytical Chemistry, which is something I pursued through my degree in Chemistry. The fundamentals of Chemistry provided with me a platform to explore a variety of careers within STEM, as I was unsure which field within Chemistry I wanted to pursue. Through my time at University I was fortunate enough to complete a placement year at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) which opened my eyes up to the healthcare industry and what could be achieved through a STEM career in pharmaceuticals. It was exciting to see the direct impact I could have on the patient through a role in STEM, working in a challenging and complex environment. This affirmed that working in industry was the path for me, as opposed to working in the research sector. I then progressed onto the Future Leaders Programme (FLP) after graduating, which has allowed me to experience a variety of roles within industry and expand my passion for problem solving into analytical and manufacturing issues.

Why I love what I do

I’m currently on the Quality Science FLP at GSK. Through the rotational nature of my graduate programme I have been exposed to many areas within industry that a STEM career can take you.

For my first rotation I worked within a projects team, as an Analytical Lead supporting the introduction of a new product to site. I was responsible for the transfer of a variety of analytical methods and led the introduction of a new technique to site, which was really exciting to work with something novel and go through iterative troubleshooting stages to reach the final working method.  

I am about to finish my second rotation on the scheme where I have been working as a Quality Manager. This role has been incredibly diverse, fast paced and energising. As a Quality Manager, I am involved in complex investigations for the site. This involves collaborating cross functionally to solve problems and implement innovative solutions to mitigate risk to the product and processes. This role has been incredibly rewarding as each investigation ensures the Quality of the product before it goes to market, so having that sense of direct impact to the patient is really motivating.

I love what I do as I am able to influence positive change on site and I am surrounded by a lot of inspiring and motivating people who stretch me every day to develop and gain new skills that I never thought I would have.

Across my rotations I have had opportunities to be part of STEM initiatives, working at The Big Bang event and also leading A-Level virtual work experience days within the Analytical Labs during the pandemic.  I really enjoy being a STEM ambassador on behalf of GSK and demonstrating what a STEM career in industry could look like to the younger generation, to inspire them in the next steps of their education.

What I’m proud of and what I’m hoping to achieve through the WYPB

Particularly within the last few years, there is a bigger magnifying glass on some of the challenging and increasingly complex problems the world is facing. It is becoming even more obvious that in order to try and tackle these complex problems there is no room for exclusivity, we need a diverse mindset to be able to work across boundaries and continue to provide innovative solutions to these challenges.

Encouraging more women to pursue a career in STEM to further diversify the next generation who will be tackling some of these issues is what I am incredibly passionate about and would like to support through my time with WISE.

With diversity in mind, I believe working with WISE it is a great opportunity to collaborate with other industries and gain key learnings I could introduce within my organisation to continue enhancing our approach to diversity and inclusion.

I am proud of the positive impact in culture that I have brought to my team within my current role which is something I hope to champion through the WYPB. I believe that everyone should feel supported, included and allowed to be their authentic selves in the workplace. I believe this is crucial to ensure people reach their maximum potential. I hope to break down the stereotypes of what a STEM environment or career can look like and target the “confidence gap” younger women experience in their education which has been shown to prevent them from pursuing STEM.

As a young woman in STEM I hope to leverage my experience so far to support the development and empowerment of other young women to explore STEM opportunities. Great strides are being made to address gender parity issues in STEM and I am very fervent about contributing to this.  

WISE is a testament to these ambitions and I am proud to have joined an initiative that looks to bring about positive change in a field I am passionate about.

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