Kathryn Malcolm

Graduate Engineer, AstraZeneca

How I came to STEM

I was 16 years old in my 5th year of high school when I completed two work experience placements with BP. This experience is what ignited my drive and passion for chemical engineering and a career in STEM. Throughout those placements I was exposed to operations, design but most importantly problem-solving real-life issues with passionate likeminded people.

At school my interests were in chemistry and physics due to their practical nature. I was always curious and questioning in the class to understand fully how things worked. This interest led to my work experience, which helped me realise that chemical engineering was the career path I wanted to follow.

The path to my current career was not a straight one. I completed a Batchelors Honours degree which focused on chemistry however I realised that my bias was more for engineering. This drove my determination to achieve the grades needed to complete a Masters in Advanced Chemical & Process Engineering. Dyslexia was a challenge I had to overcome throughout education however I didn’t let this hold me back. I was fortunate to attend a school and university who were supportive during my journey.

At the end of my 4th year of university I secured an internship with GSK through the Saltire Foundation. I found the challenges of working in a manufacturing environment in such an important industry as pharmaceuticals extremely rewarding and exciting. This ultimately led to my current role in engineer at AstraZeneca.

Why I love what I do

I am a process and chemical engineer in my second year of AstraZeneca’s Graduate Engineering Programme, which consists of three placements in different roles, departments and locations. For my first year on the programme, I was a part of the Engineering & Facilities teams at Speke, Liverpool where we produced the children’s flu vaccine. This was an extremely fascinating and exciting area to work in with particular relevance due to the current climate. Part of my role included leading COVID assessments available for employees and their families. I also managed pilot programmes for new methods of testing which contributed to the scientific development of future COVID assessments. Another area I was involved in was continuous improvement project, removing waste from processes in order to provide products to patients more efficiently, reducing environmental impact.

Currently I am based at the Macclesfield manufacturing site working as part of the Global Engineering & Real Estate team delivering capital projects on AstraZeneca sites across the world. In this position I have varying roles across multiple capital projects, some of which include managing and delivering equipment work packages against a defined budget, schedule and scope, leading the HAZOPs, LOPAS and SHE studies for a project to ensure inherent safe design and operability, and the role of a design manager and documentation controller between AZ, external design companies and contractors. Outside of my role I am involve in multiple Inclusion & Diversity councils, part of the strategic planning for GERE 2025 goals and lead the AZinspire North West committee providing cross functional learning, skill development and networking opportunities to all those early in their career at AZ. 

I love working as a graduate engineer as my role includes a range of different engineering projects and activities, every day presents a new challenge or opportunity. As well as this I get to work with a wide range of people globally across different functions to share ideas and best practices in order to achieve common goals. I love being able to learn and develop new skills in areas I have not been exposed to before and enjoy the responsibility and accountability of delivering projects that make a difference.

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

My passion for gender equality in STEM derives from people’s misperception of the value and opportunities a STEM career can provide. From personal experience I have seen first-hand the lack of female representation in STEM careers across different companies and industries. I believe women should be given the knowledge to enable them to access the great job opportunities STEM offers.

Being a member of the WYPB will allow me to use my voice and passion to be a part of the generation that stands up and makes a change. I believe that it is important to encourage gender equality in STEM from a young age. I am looking forward to getting involved with outreach initiatives to promote the value of STEM in our schools and society as a future career for young women. I want to be able to influence and provide creative ways of educating children, parents and teachers to remove the misperceptions and stereotypes related to STEM.

Ultimately, through my career and place on the WYPB I would like to be a role model for young women and inspire the next generation of STEM professionals.

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