Editor’s note: Last year, Army veteran Diane Zambrano shared how the pandemic changed the course of her post-military career. While researching new job opportunities and growing industries, she discovered the BioWork certificate program at Johnston Community College. When we last spoke with Zambrano, she was a government contracting specialist at global healthcare company Grifols in Research Triangle Park. She got the job after receiving her BioWork certificate and landing a contract position at Novo Nordisk.
Today, Zambrano is in a new position at Durham’s PharmEng Technology, a consulting firm that specializes in commissioning and qualification, validation, quality systems, regulatory affairs, engineering and training for the pharma, biotech, medical device and natural health industries. She says it would not have been possible without her BioWork certificate. (Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.)
When we last spoke, you were working at Grifols as a government contracting specialist. Tell us about your current position and your career path to PharmEng Technology.
During my time at Grifols I worked for an amazing team, and we had a lot of respect for each other. I wanted to do a great job in my role but secretly I think my husband could see my heart wasn’t in it. He had already started at PharmEng Technology, and his interviewer mentioned needing “a great marketing person.”
Working in marketing has always been my passion. So, when the opportunity came up, my husband knew that as long as I had an “in” I could do the rest.
From there, I got the interview and the job but not just any job. My dream job. I work for a company that is rapidly growing and full of opportunities. That’s what I love about this new position. I’m building this department from the ground up, and I get to work with some amazingly strong women. I work remotely and travel to amazing places. I was recently promoted to marketing services manager, and there is still so much more growing to do for me and the company. When you love what you do, you put in the hours, and you feel accomplished. That’s what this company, this position and my teammates do for me. They fulfill me.
How did your position at Novo Nordisk pave the way to your current role?
Novo sparked my love and knowledge of pharma. The pharmaceutical industry is amazing. There is so much to learn. New innovations are being made to reach people around the world, and there are endless possibilities for students, adults and others of every level to build a career.
Your position is not one traditionally connected with the BioWork certificate. What role did the certification play in your career path to PharmEng?
Travel is part of the job now.
The BioWork certificate has played a major role in my career path to PharmEng. Without that certificate, I wouldn’t have landed the internship with Novo. That position allowed me to network, learn new roles and leverage what I’d learned in BioWork to put my best foot forward. Marketing for a pharmaceutical consulting firm really requires you to have an understanding of the industry, the major players and the specific challenges they are facing. We have consultants with specialties in engineering, quality control, regulatory affairs and really every aspect of the industry. BioWork has allowed me to understand how to market their skills and knowledge to our clients. Every opportunity in your life can be a milestone or a stepping stone. It really all depends on you.
What do you enjoy most about working in biopharma?
What I enjoy the most about biopharma is the diversity. You can start off in North Carolina as a fill tech, and five years later work in Europe, South America, or Asia doing something completely different. The pay is competitive, the benefits are great and you meet all kinds of amazing people.
What is the most important thing you have learned since you began your new career as a student in the BioWork program?
Never turn down an opportunity. Pharma is global but everybody knows everybody. Being professional and working well with others is a lifelong skill. From student to professional, you’re never too important to be respectful to others.
Would you be in the position you have today without the BioWork certificate?
No. I had great teachers in BioWork who saw a lot of potential in me and challenged me every day. They shared personal and professional life stories that helped me envision the kind of life and career I would love for years to come. After all, the BioWork certificate was my chance to start over. A big part of me needed to know that was possible and not just through the material but also through my experience in the pharma community. BioWork gave me that sense of community,
To learn more about a career in the biopharmaceutical industry and the BioWork certificate, visit the BioJobs Hub.
(C) N.C. Biotech Center