Alumni profile - Elena Baldwin
There's a patient at the end of my supply chain and it’s about them and the people that I work with to make it happen which makes my job so worthwhile. Knowing that I have made and can make a difference to someone else’s life is a great achievement.
What did you study at Queen Mary and what are you doing now? I studied BSc Economics, Finance and Management and I am currently working as an Asset Planner for AstraZeneca. I’m responsible for asset capability planning from volume, capacity, value and change management related to my assets and brands. I also have a MSc in Supply Chain Management and Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) under APICs.
What motivated you to study Economics, Finance and Management? When I was doing my A-levels I really enjoyed my Business Studies and Economics class. I knew I’d be working in some sort of business environment when I grew up and I thought these subjects would be a good start to launching my career.
Why did you choose to study at Queen Mary and what advice would you have for 2019/20 graduates? I chose Queen Mary as I liked the idea of a campus-based university. I specifically liked the Mile End library and the different lecture theatres. Queen Mary also kick started my love for languages after I joined the free French courses the University offered!
My advice for 2019/20 graduates is to buckle up as the career roller coaster is about to start. If you know the industry you want to work in, then great! Start researching the companies you want to work for. If you’re still not sure what to pursue then do not hesitate to Google search any areas that you might be interested in. Go to recruitment agencies and see if they can help you out. What I’ve learned from Queen Mary covers about 20% of what I need to know for my current job. Don’t get me wrong, this 20% is still the good stuff, it’s everything you’ve learned and skills acquired so far. The rest of it you’ll have to learn quickly. Accept that you still have more to learn.
Quick tips: (1) Do make an effort to make your first impression great. Whether it’s your CV, interview or assessment day make sure they remember you. (2) Once you’re in, it’s people, people, people. Get to know your immediate team and your boss. This immediate group of people will make or break you. Understand your internal network including how to play office or work politics. (3) Once you’re established and ready to move up, know your worth. Never settle for anything less than you deserve. I have asked for additional salary reviews (do your market research), renegotiated my salary offer, etc. I would like to reiterate here that you’ll have to be close to exceptional, above average on your performance for this to be successful. Simply put, you reap what you sow but sometimes only when you insist.
You mentioned persistence is key in order to obtain what you deserve in the office. What tips would you give to people when sticking up for themselves at work? Is there a certain approach you usually take? Ensure your actions and concerns are visible to the appropriate people who can support you. I usually take the approach of supporting my point with data / feedback from colleagues (evidence).
What sparked your interest in your current career within the Supply Chain profession? I have been exposed to the manufacturing, the concept of import and export and fleets of trucks at an early age because of my parents’ business. I knew I wanted to work in this field but it was a pleasant surprise to find out that planning, be it demand or supply, was a role in Supply Chain. This is where I built my experience from Reckitt Benckiser, GlaxoSmithKline and now AstraZeneca.
How was it growing up with parents who had their own business? Did they instil certain values in you as a child? Growing up with parents who own their business makes you aware at such a young age of the value of money and the hard work that goes behind earning and maintaining money - from early morning start times, to visiting clients during the weekend and how to treat your employees.
How did your time and study at Queen Mary help your career and development? The analytical approach and intensive research of my course helped me to understand that there’s more than one way to solve a problem. Exposure to the rich diversity of Queen Mary’s student population was invaluable experience. I learned that being able to collaborate with different cultures and in different levels of the organisation is not as easy as it seems. Also, I got involved in events and doing different activities which helped me to grow out of my comfort zone and be confident.
What advice would you offer to current students who themselves are considering a career in your profession? There are different pathways in Supply Chain, from Finance, logistics, analysts, planning, warehouse, clinical, customer service, distribution, humanitarian, etc. The reach is usually global so you’re exposed to a network that could provide plenty of opportunities. It’s also not just manufacturing, but humanitarian as well. There are roles in the UN to help aid get into war torn countries. Research the industry you want to work in. Automotive, defence, oil, manufacturing, etc. Almost all industries will have a Supply Chain function. Look at the different companies and their values. Is this something you can see yourself doing to build your career or is this just a stepping stone for you? Read the reviews from current employees. This should give you a glimpse of what the company is really like.
Lastly, remember that your career goals will change over time. After university I was revving at 200 miles per hour, unstoppable in trying to get to a global multinational company and to climb the career ladder. But later on it became more about being able to enjoy life. So no matter what you decide to do, be brave and kind and just enjoy it.
Why is it exciting to do what you do? There's a patient at the end of my supply chain and it’s about them and the people that I work with to make it happen which makes my job so worthwhile.
Working for GlaxoSmithKline, we had a routine to celebrate our patients’ story. One day it was time for me to share something I’d been involved in. We had just introduced a new drug in Europe which most countries are still in the process of getting their local health authorities’ approval for. A doctor wrote to us requesting this new drug for a named patient who would benefit from the drug given the severity of the patient’s condition. But unfortunately this country is still months away from getting their approval. And so from regulatory, to quality, sales, supply and distribution, we all worked together to get an exemption for a limited supply to support this patient and within a month we were able to get an approval and supply the drug. Hearing back from the doctor and hearing their gratitude and appreciation, it was an experience I would do all over again to help someone live a little better. Knowing that I made a difference to someone else’s life is a great achievement.
Do you have any role-models that you look up to, both inside and outside of your field? Old managers and colleagues. As I mentioned in my quick tips, it’s people, people, people. You’ll meet different types of people. Some will help you develop and some are toxic. It’s knowing when you need to stand your ground and also knowing when you need to shut up and listen. It’s a balancing act at the beginning of your career. When you see something that's not quite right, have the courage to speak up or better yet do something about it. Don’t be afraid to take the good and chuck out the bad. Be inspired by the mistakes you make. You learn from your mistakes. Lastly, don’t forget that outside of your working life, you need to balance it out with family life, other passions, etc. Your downtime is just as important as your work time, otherwise you’ll burn out too quickly.
I understand that you’re interested in supporting Filipino students and events here at Queen Mary. What has sparked your desire to want to give back to these individuals? Being an international student was a challenge at the beginning of my studies. I had some relatives to help me through but this isn't always the case for every other international student. In my professional career, I now lean towards mentoring and supervisory roles and I find that I enjoy supporting people in their different roles. I also recently opened my own business in consultancy and mentoring services for Filipinos. I wanted to gain more experience at work and reach out to my old schools / universities (UK/Philippines).
I also understand that you spoke to Queen Mary’s Biomed society this November. What kind of things did you speak to them about? I spoke to them about having a career in supply chain and how Queen Mary helped to set me up for success. I also spoke about the Graduate Programme of AstraZeneca (specifically the Operations Graduate Programme) and collected the CVs of those who might be interested in applying for next year’s round. It was great to meet and talk with the individuals who are so crucial in helping to build our future.