Healthcare has always been considered a noble profession. They are in the business of saving lives. This realization has recently gained traction amongst the masses given the pandemic. Major components of the healthcare sector are vaccines and biologicals responsible for improving the quality of life and fighting diseases such as these. But a department mostly dominated by men.
In our next edition of “Women mean Business”, we talked to Dr Seema Sharma, Senior General Manager, CPL Biologicals, to understand her journey in the manufacturing division of biologics and how she managed to make a mark in the field.
Q1. Can you please tell us in brief about your role and responsibilities?
CPL Biologicals is the Biotechnology division of Cadila Pharmaceuticals Ltd having two different arms of Manufacturing and Research & Development where my primary responsibility is Bio-manufacturing. It is a type of manufacturing that utilizes biological systems to produce commercially important biomolecules for their use in medicines. The living organisms particularly microorganisms and cell cultures are used to produce these biological molecules and materials on a commercial scale. I also play a key role in the technology transfers from R&D for scaling-up and commercialization of biological products.
Q2. What attracted you to manufacturing of biologics?
I started my career in the industry with manufacturing of biologics even though I had a research qualification. I found manufacturing to be quite challenging as biologics are extremely sensitive molecules and due to complexity of the manufacturing process, even a small error can affect their immunogenicity, adverse events and efficacy. The manufacturing process has to be carefully designed and closely monitored at every step in order to ensure correct product identity which requires efforts and determination. These kind of challenges was a motivating factor for me to join manufacturing.
Q3. Being a woman leader, what has been the most significant barrier in your career?
Manufacturing is traditionally a male dominated area in the industry. Female representation in the manufacturing function stands at only 12 per cent which is much lesser than R&D and corporate functions. For me, one of the biggest challenges was getting accepted in the manufacturing industry, in the early stages of my career. Gender bias was a barrier for me to prove my capabilities as the colleagues around me didn’t see me fit for the role.
Q4. How has Cadila helped you break the glass ceiling?
Cadila has always supported me in all my goals and put all its faith and trust in me which enabled me to launch various biologics like the Biosimilars and Vaccines. The management in the organization has always helped me grow and flourish in my roles and encouraged ownership of projects. When I took a maternity break of 2 years, I was welcomed back instantly and was immediately given complex responsibilities purely based on my merit. The culture of recognizing women leaders in workplace has helped me break the almost non-existent glass ceiling in Cadila.
Q5. Which women leader inspires you and why?
In such a global world, a lot of women leaders have inspired me all my life. However, one women leader, closer home, has motivated me to give my 100% to my projects and keep striving for excellence. My PhD guide Dr Kitan Kalia, presently the director of NIPER Ahmedabad, has been a constant source of inspiration. I have always admired her courage and her determination.
Q6. What would someone find you doing on a Sunday morning?
Juggling work and family responsibilities everyday can take a toll on anyone’s mental well-being. So on Sundays and my day off, I completely unplug from my work responsibilities and spend quality time with my family and my kids. It is a stress buster for me.
Q7. Any message to the next generation of women leaders?
One of a major barrier for any women stepping into the workforce is their low confidence. It is the responsibility of all the women leaders to motivate and nurture them to help them become efficient leaders in their professions. Learning opportunities for the women need to be created for their growth. Regular feedback should be taken from women professionals so that they can contribute to their growth journey and the organization can learn how they can contribute to their professions more efficiently. A collaborative journey will take us a long way.