This story is brought to you by Bayer Berkeley.
When people think of the biotech industry it conjures up visions of scientists in white coats working in laboratories.
The reality is that there are many professions, including but certainly not limited to scientists, that play important roles in developing and manufacturing new biotech medicines. Bayer has demonstrated this diversity of opportunity at its West Berkeley campus for nearly 30 years and has plans afoot to transform its operations and provide more career opportunities over the coming three decades.
“We have skilled people with high school educations, to those with Ph.D.s,” said Drew Johnston, vice president of site engineering. “There’s opportunity for anyone and there’s also room to grow.”
The City of Berkeley is conducting a public review of Bayer’s proposed development plan to transform its Berkeley biotech site, adding nearly 1 million square feet of new biopharmaceutical facilities and another 1,000 jobs over the next 30 years.
In the past 30 years, the Berkeley site has been dedicated largely to the development and manufacture of medicines for people with hemophilia. New plans for the site will accommodate these operations in a smaller footprint and evolve to meet the needs of specialty medicines. Bayer plans to leverage breaking scientific advances in the fields of cell and gene therapy and highly flexible facilities to accelerate next-generation medicines for cancer, cardiovascular and other patients.
In the new jobs being created, Bayer estimates 35% of the growing workforce will be in production roles, 15% in maintenance, 38% in process development laboratories and 12% in administration. An analysis completed by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute (BACEI) shows that Bayer’s transformation of its Berkeley site will not only grow jobs on campus, but that every job at the Bayer Berkeley site creates another job in the community.
“This is an employer with a strong workforce diversity profile — the majority of its employees are from under-represented populations and then they have a strong multiplier effect generating jobs in other sectors — their expansion is something that should be encouraged,” said Jeff Bellisario, executive director of BACEI.
Hiring scientific problem solvers
Leaders on the Bayer Berkeley campus are focusing on finding people with the right set of core capabilities and training them to work across multiple aspects of the business. For example, John Kenneally, senior director of the Cell Culture Technology Center, said members of his team may work on manufacturing therapeutic proteins and then shift over to producing treatments for diseases like Parkinson’s or cancer in the Cell Therapy Launch Facility now under construction.
“We’re looking for people who are comfortable with ambiguity and flexibility to do something different each day,” Kenneally said. “They are a little bit of an adventurer because they want to work in some of the latest therapeutic modalities. And, in these roles they are strong scientific problem-solvers because they will be helping create the processes to produce novel types of medicines.”
The new facilities Bayer plans to construct will require individuals with skills ranging from equipment operators to process engineers to calibration and maintenance technicians to process scientists, notes Johnston. And there are plenty of other support roles too — from warehouse to administrative.
Recruiting in underrepresented communities
Owen “Will” Williams serves as the inclusion and diversity liaison for Bayer’s Berkeley campus, a new role to ensure the company continues not only to attract diverse candidates for its positions, but also to help these employees thrive. While he works with hiring managers to craft job descriptions and recruiting plans designed to reach underrepresented communities, employee development and growth are also a key focus. Williams joined Bayer following his military service and began his 25-year biotech career as an operator in central utilities, working his way up to senior manager.
“We have great talent inside Bayer,” he said. “I work on both sides of the manager-employee relationship. I’m pushing to retain our underrepresented employees by encouraging our senior managers and directors to coach and mentor the next generation of leaders on the Bayer Berkeley site. Some employees are a bit scared to jump to that next level, but once they get a little encouragement, guidance and project opportunities where they can shine, they develop confidence to apply for higher positions.”
Amanda Glover, like many Bayer employees, joined the company straight out of high school. After starting as a sampling coordinator 20 years ago, today she develops and delivers training programs on Bayer’s manufacturing practices. According to Glover, the opportunities for growth are always present for those who are interested, and the company encourages employees to take an active role in regular development dialogues.
“My supervisors are always asking, ‘what do you want to do next?’” said Glover, a senior training manager. “We have a culture that encourages you to explore the possibilities and learn — both technically and the soft skills. Bayer has supported my professional growth beyond on-the-job training through conferences, seminars and tuition reimbursement for college education. I just finished my bachelor’s degree last year and I think the sky’s the limit for what I can do next.”
This story was paid for by Bayer Berkeley. Bayer is a life science company with a more than 150-year history and core competencies in the areas of healthcare and nutrition. With its innovative products, it is contributing to finding solutions to some of the major challenges of a growing and aging global population.