What is it like to be an Epista Automation Consultant?
The Epista Automation Technology team is a group with big ambitions—like bringing the industry 4.0 revolution and IoT into the pharma industry. They’re a hard-working and fun-loving group contributing to Epista’s mission of continuously improving regulatory compliance. But what is it like to be part of this industry influencing team? We asked some of our Automation consultants—and their answers provide insight into diverse projects, exciting challenges, a hygge social atmosphere, and a lot of rewarding moments on the job.
1. What kind of education and experience did you have before Epista?
From physics to robotics, the team comes from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Mikkel Kreipke and Morten Nylin studied Electrical Engineering, focusing on AI and robotics. Christian Conradsen holds a Master’s in Physics and a Ph.D. in Atomic and Nanoscale Material Physics. Samer Hussain studied Chemical Engineering, focusing on design and optimization of chemical plants. Jon Jonsson studied Engineering Management and Electrical studies. The commonality? Technical savvy and an interest in automation.
According to Christian, in his previous role as a Post. Doc. at DTU, he “really enjoyed seeing how automating simple experimental setups could save time and do work for me.” Jon, who was working in process and IT optimization, wanted to learn how to automate business processes. Samer also had an interest in automation and some process knowledge but notes that he did not have prior experience with coding. However, his previous experience working with MATLAB prepared him for the Epista training program. For graduates who aren’t sure if their experience lines up, having a technical flair and a desire to learn about automation will make all the difference.
2. Why did you choose to work as a consultant?
The variety and diversity of projects motivates the team. The scope of projects, people, and organizations that they work with means that they are able to meet and talk with different people and apply cross-organizational and cross-operational insights to each new project.
Christian tells us more. He wanted to be a consultant because he “really liked the idea of diversity” in his work. He wasn’t disappointed—“It is great fun being involved in a big pharma project that evolves every day: from the close contact to customers to the diversity of tasks such as documentation, coding and implementation of process software. One day you sit at your desk, the next you walk around in a construction site with a helmet and safety shoes.”
Others, such as Samer, chose this career path “to avoid a typical desk job—I have the possibility of working on a variety of tasks that require different skills, as well as working in different environments, and maintaining a relationship with the customers.”
3. Is there a ‘typical day’ for you?
The short answer is no—the role changes from day to day. The daily work depends on the phase of the project, the client, and the experience level of the consultant.
“There is a lot more than just programming,” says Mikkel, who moves from inspecting physical machines in the factory, programming the software controlling the valves and pumps, documenting the design, to participating in meetings. Samer, who joined recently, is going through the Epista training program, so his days revolve around training on programming languages, like SATTLINE and PROCOS, and on the job training. Jon’s days involve a “mix of meetings with people, both on Skype or in person, to discuss IT challenges and issues and then coordinating with relevant people that need to be involved in the problem-solving process.”
Christian says that the ‘typical day’ really depends on the project phase. The beginning of the project involves “clarification of project scope, which can be meeting with the clients, looking at old documentation, and planning the project.” Then comes the design phase, in which “all the ideas of how the automated is supposed to work is put on paper. At the same time proof of concept code is written to see if the ideas would work in real life.” After implementing the code, up next is testing—"This means a lot of fun problem solving when, for example, a crucial valve won’t open. Testing is normally a desk job, but when things won’t work the hardware needs to be inspected and you may need to enter the construction site.” In other words, always have your hard hat ready, because you never know what the day may bring!
4. What are some projects you’ve been working on recently?
Epista is built on qualified skills and measurable results, and our consultants put these into practice through all of their projects. For instance, our consultants have been working on design, coding, validation, and installation of a new factory, helping pharmaceutical companies replace their outdated IT systems, servers, and infrastructure, and testing a programmed automation system.
Jon is in the midst of two projects, both of which involve helping a pharmaceutical company modernize and upgrade their IT. The first project “mostly consists of talking with other companies in the pharmaceutical industry and IT providers, collecting information, understanding the cost and benefits and presenting this information to my colleagues,” while the second involves working as a project manager to implement these changes.
Meanwhile, Christian is also working on two projects for a global pharmaceutical company. He’s been involved since the early stages, so he helped with planning, designing, coding, execution, and testing. The best part? “Getting to dig into a problem and solve it in a way that makes the client happy - I love being technical in designing the solution and seeing it work in real life afterwards. The projects revolved around a freeze dryer which uses some cool aspects of thermodynamics.”
Morten is working for a pharmaceutical company on an already programmed automation system, which has introduced him to a new programming language, DeltaV. Mikkel is working for the same company, but he is programming in PROCOS to replace digital inputs.
Each of these new projects is addressed with qualified skills and a learning mindset. The outcome? Our Automation consultants are trusted to bring measurable results to small and large pharma and biotech companies.
5. What is the job like socially?
Epista prides itself on our unique working culture, embodying our core values of lasting relations and trustworthy conduct. Samer believes that “the unity in Epista is strong and it is something you notice from the beginning. You also get to be part of the unit quite quickly,” adding that, “the atmosphere in Epista is both professional and relaxed at the same time.”
Christian mentions that the balance between meeting new people on projects and having close contact with Epista colleagues works well—"We have a policy on working at our headquarters on Fridays, so the atmosphere is always cheerful around the foosball table.” Fridays are also the day to “discuss about our work, play table football, work on client tasks, work on internal projects regarding improving Epista, and other social tasks such as planning a night out with the colleagues.”
Day-to-day, the team enjoys both meeting new people—from business analysts, system owners, IT architects, IT vendors, to project managers—and developing long lasting relationships with Epista colleagues and recurring clients.
According to Morten, “When I’m on a project I work almost exclusively with clients. However, I do not consider them clients or customers, but more like colleagues I will be working with for however long the project lasts. That said, it is nice to have a set of colleagues who are constant, and with whom you over time can build a more personal relationship and have a framework to support you.”
The support, teamwork, and strong relationships on the Automation team are evident in their shared ambitions, such as pioneering methodologies and validation strategies to bring IoT solutions to the pharma industry.
6. What is the most challenging and the most rewarding thing about your job?
Being an Epista automation consultant can be challenging: “The projects are never the same. You always must adapt to a new project, new clients, and new project colleagues,” says Christian. “At the same time, this challenge is super rewarding when everything works in the end.”
Jon agrees, adding that, “I always feel I am learning something new. I never feel I´m doing the same thing. I am constantly meeting and working with new people. Sometimes it can be a bit stressful but at the end of the day, you feel like you have learned something and that you are better prepared to solve the next challenge.”
Morten and Mikkel note the challenge at the beginning of a new project, when the learning curve is steep, and they have to learn new skills and company operations. However, this turns into something rewarding, says Mikkel, who “really enjoys seeing the machines function as I command them to; I enjoy the physical aspect of the programming, to see the code coming alive.”
Epista’s core mission is continuously improving regulatory compliance. Our automation consultants practice this every day by embracing new challenges. Automation brings diverse work environments and a lot of new skills to learn. As Christian says, that makes it all the more rewarding. One of the best things is “seeing my work functioning in real life. It is a great feeling to see a production line work smoothly, a happy client, and to know this is my work.”
“At the end of the day, Jon adds, “I feel that I have made a difference and that I am better prepared for the next challenge.”
Thanks to the Automation team for their input.
Want to be part of this industry influencing team? We’re looking for newly educated Process Automation Consultants. Find out more here.