From Food Production to Pharma: I Made the Change and So Can You

Supply chain team lead, Hannah Hirst, tells us why changing industry from food to pharma has been a game-changer in gaining a rewarding career and striking a healthy work/life balance.

I joined Teva as a supply chain team lead seven months ago, coming from the food industry and completing my degree and master’s in supply chain. My aim was always to do something akin to the work I'm now doing, so working here feels like I'm utilizing my previous experience and knowledge.

Already, I feel like I belong here. I can honestly say there's a great culture – warm, friendly and focused, and there's a relaxed atmosphere too, with lots of flexibility in how and where we all work. We're actively encouraged to share ideas and talk with peers and managers about our workload to make sure everyone is working at a comfortable pace.

"Teva is a very open place where we all get to share thoughts and ideas. There's no one-size-fits-all approach; good ideas can come from anyone in the business"

So why did I decide to move industries? Well, for me, it just made perfect sense. I joined Teva to pursue personal development opportunities no longer available in the food industry. I knew if I was to apply my knowledge and grow, I had to move industry. Pharma is the most complex supply chain, so I understood that once I made the step into this industry, the work would be more challenging and more rewarding – and it hasn't disappointed! 

The other reason was that Teva was open to me working a four-day week, which was essential in allowing me to spend time with my 14-month-old daughter. This flexibility means I can take her to music and art classes and soft play, which I love. My previous employer couldn't accommodate this. So here, my work fits in with my childcare needs. It's part of this changing world, and I can honestly say Teva is driving it for me.

And what about the benefits that come with working in the pharma space? There's a greater focus on financial incentives and more benefits offered to employees, like private medical cover, which they encourage us to utilize. The benefit Simply Health has been great, as it allows me to claim back on glasses and dental. I also have access to Babylon, an online GP service provided by Bupa, which provides a conversation with a doctor when you can't get a GP appointment – it's been invaluable!

There's also a real focus on our wellbeing in and outside the workplace. Ways to improve your mental health are shared via email, and further support is provided through money and parenting workshops. Plus, they respect your work style and you as an individual. Our managers invest time in understanding our personalities and what drives us. For example, mine knows that I love to travel and walk my two dogs outside work because they've taken the time to get to know me.

As part of establishing my healthy work/life balance, I take advantage of our hybrid working scheme, where I work four days a week: two from home and two in the office. It helps me balance childcare, and there's never any expectation for me to work long hours or overtime. If I need to finish early one day for whatever reason, the business and my manager are always supportive.

So how different is it working in the pharma industry? Well, it's certainly more interesting compared to food supply! I deal with far more people day-to-day on the commercial side of the business, as the demand and forecasting teams are a huge part of supply in pharma. It's also allowed me to work with global teams in Hungary, Israel, and Spain. But for me, the main difference has been the level of interest shown in my career development - which I'd never experienced in the food industry - so I always feel empowered to be my best.

I don't think people can really appreciate the work involved in medicine until you work with a company like Teva

But it's been a learning curve, too, not least because of all the abbreviations I had to learn! Also, in my previous food industry role, I was used to rapid turnarounds, even shipping things the next day if necessary. But here, it can be a few months in forecast and production. Everything is meticulously planned and considered – there are no split-second decisions. You can't rush things and bend the rules in this industry.

The leadership and management style at Teva truly inspires me. Our managers run regular meetings, support sessions, and review and development meetings, and the regional directors openly discuss business areas, key challenges, and priorities or new products.

There are great interdepartmental relationships where everyone is helping everyone

The fact there's a female general manager is also significant. My experience in the food industry was no female leaders across the business other than in HR. But here, there's an even mix of female leaders throughout the wider business, with none of them vying for power.

My management and leadership skills have been allowed to grow too, and just four months into my journey here, I was encouraged to be the point of contact for my line manager, tasked with leading or joining meetings in place of my manager. Initially, it was pretty overwhelming, but I'm comfortable with it now and consider it an area I've successfully developed.

My advice to someone considering moving industry? Do it. While it might seem daunting at first, once you get a handle on it, you'll find your previous knowledge transfers well. There's such a focus here on personal and career development that you'll find no pressure to 'come from pharma’. My colleagues certainly don't care that I'm not from a pharma background! It's all about collaboration, learning, and being the best I can be - and how people can share that with me at Teva.

Working here, I get to see first-hand the benefits of Teva's work and the people we help. The impact I see is greater than the sum of us as individuals – and it's a privilege to experience this.

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