From the Military to Medicine, Ensuring Quality Every Step of the Way

Darrell Baranowski joined Teva 12 years ago and is now Director of Project Leadership, Combination Products in the US. Here, he explains how the transferable skills from his military career led him to seek new challenges in the pharma industry. 

I started out working in the Military as a member of the Marine Corps, where I worked specifically with aviation systems, ensuring our helicopters and other airborne equipment were checking off all functional and safety boxes.

When I left the Marine Corps, a friend gave me great advice about moving into pharma as they’d made the leap a few years prior. It immediately appealed to me, so I used my background to leverage a position within a medical device’s quality assurance department. I did some valuable training in that role and became a certified quality engineer when I moved over to Teva.

The transition was easier than I thought, helped by the onboarding procedure, which encouraged me to feel like I was in the right place. From first joining Teva, I never felt there was a big focus on the fact I wasn’t from the industry. Yes, there were steep learning curves on the medical QA side where we needed a basic understanding of chemistry, but no matter how many questions I asked, I always got an answer, enabling me to learn quickly.

After being in my quality role for around three years, I gained the reputation of being organized and having a good influence on people. The project management lead saw my potential, so shortly after, I moved to a project management role and worked my way up to leading a team. Before I knew it, a few more years passed, and I ended up taking over from my previous manager, who’d moved into a new role within Teva. It reminded me of my time as a 19-year-old marine when we were always told to never stop training and never stop building our skill set.

When Teva sees potential, they promote from within. They want their people to feel valued and like they’re always learning

Consistency is the most significant difference for me in the pharma space compared to military aviation. For example, the primary systems on an aircraft and processes we’d adhere to always stayed the same in aviation. However, the pharma industry changes daily, with new guides being passed down by the FDA, so the posts are moving all the time. If you were looking after just one product, that might be okay, but we look after a minimum of ten, so the mindset you need to have is to be much more flexible, which I’ve learned.

I’ve found it surprising that many skills I learned as a marine have been valuable at Teva. Efficiency has been a key one – it’s something I’ve tried to drill into my team and not just practice it myself. The Marine Corps allowed me to lead and be assertive when I needed to deliver news or actions, which could be pretty intense in that setting. It stood me in good stead to lead a team in the private sector, which is what I’m doing now.

“There’ll be a time in everyone’s lives when you need to draw on past experiences no matter what job or experience that might be from.”

I was fortunate in moving industries that I had a solid technical background to lean on. Still, the concept in most types of assurance and quality control is much the same, like being able to guide processes and requirements. We see people joining the pharma space every single day, moving across from all walks of life in productions, facilities, business, and people management. I’d always recommend this industry to those outside of it – just don’t get bogged down in the job titles, which can seem intimidating until you delve deeper into the job description. That’s the first step to making the change.

From experience, I’d say it doesn’t matter what industry you’re coming from; if you have the transferable skills and a desire to work in the industry, you can move to pharma. Teva is good at spelling out precisely what they’re looking for and are always welcoming new people and elevating them.

It’s not all about chemical reactions; it takes many cogs across different departments to make Teva work, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a role here to anyone.

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