iSpeak Blog

Empowered by Community; A Mentor ISPE Experience

Amy Washco
Mentor ISPE

As a mid-career employee, I’ve earned expertise in many areas but feel I still have much to learn. More importantly, I feel have much left to offer.

In conversations with new hires and interns, I’m often asked for insight on career advancement. The truth is that none of us get to where we are alone. If we’re honest, we’re guided and encouraged by individuals throughout our lives. In our formative years, parents, teachers, and coaches light our paths.

These beacons of direction and encouragement can be difficult to spot in our early careers. It takes effort to seek out and align with individuals who will genuinely invest time and energy in our personal growth. Larger corporations may offer structured mentorship programs while smaller companies aren’t resourced to provide this level of employee support. Couple lack of resources and support with industries that struggle to attract and retain talented women and it’s easy to see why mentorship programs are so important.

ISPE offers countless ways for members to interact and plugin. I chose ISPE’s Women in Pharma® as I was seeking community with women in the life science space. I was hungry for common ground. What I found was a group of talented and driven women who were eager to make a difference. The vision for a mentor program existed. ISPE just needed the arms and legs to execute. Eager to give back, I raised my hand and joined a committee subset focused on bringing what has come to be known as Mentor ISPE to life.

My experience with our Women in Pharma Committee that helped form Mentor ISPE was highly rewarding. All ideas were welcome. We gathered survey information from members and quickly aligned on an international program with a structure and charter that champions diversity and inclusion. We developed a plan for matching individuals to groups and even removed financial barriers by establishing student scholarships. For a limited time only, and thanks to the generosity of FARRAR™, we are offering 40 FREE ISPE Memberships to active students who participate in Mentor ISPE. Space is limited, so if you are a student or know a student who might be interested just follow the two simple steps:

  1. Visit ISPE and be sure to use code MentorISPE during the last step of the checkout process to receive a complimentary membership.
  2. Submit your application for Mentor ISPE

Through creativity, determination, and teamwork, Mentor ISPE launched in early 2023. The program provides an opportunity for students, graduates, mid-level, executive-level, and retired professionals who are ISPE members to share insight about their experiences and accomplishments. Students pursuing majors in the pharmaceutical industry have a safe place to ask questions, graduates receive a deeper understanding of real-world applications, and mid-career, executive, and retired employees can tap into new trends and new learnings making their experience even more valuable. This knowledge-based ecosystem fosters a unique mentor/reverse mentor opportunity.

Our mentor group is fantastically diverse. We have an executive-level professional based in Ireland who currently serves as a Principal Consultant in a Commissioning, Qualification, and Validation firm. He’s a former process engineer with over 35+ experience in designing and constructing modular cleanrooms and biosafety labs. He’s committed to changing lifecycle sustainability and championing a circular economy where we respect the future of our planet. He joined Mentor ISPE because he is passionate about paying forward the support he was shown throughout his career. He’s invested in uplifting talented women in the pharmaceutical industry, and he feels accountability in guiding future generations.

We have two recent graduates, one who is based on the West Coast in the United States and serves as a Commissioning, Qualification, and Validation Engineer at a Life Sciences Consulting company. Her goal in joining Mentor ISPE is to develop meaningful connections with those in similar careers and to gain insight and knowledge on professional development and leadership. The other recent graduate serves as an Emerging Leader and Asset Management Engineer/Commissioning, Qualification, Validation Engineer. She consults with

pharmaceutical clients on a range of projects to help them improve processes and increase their speed to market and is particularly drawn to cell and gene therapy. She joined ISPE because she’s passionate about pharmaceuticals and biotechnology and how they can improve patients' lives.

Our student member, based in Germany, is working towards a PhD at the Institute of Technology. His experience with major pharmaceutical companies, a concentration in vaccine development, and passion for emerging leadership sparked interest in the Mentor ISPE program.

As a mid-career member, I bring a pharmaceutical sales and marketing background to the group. I joined Mentor ISPE for the community aspects. It allows me to both keep learning and support younger colleagues along a journey that while changing, tends to be male dominated.

From a structural standpoint, my mentor group holds standing monthly meetings with well-defined topics. We take turns facilitating the meetings which helps from a bandwidth perspective. To date, we have covered a variety of topics including the Path to Leadership, Managing Conflict, and Unconscious Bias. We are forging close bonds quickly in our small group which enables transparency and a safe space for vulnerability.

Is Mentor ISPE what I thought it would be? No. It’s much more. I’m thrilled that from my experience, the program is exceeding personal expectations. Early feedback from the program in general is that member groups feel empowered by this community. The program isn’t driving the members. The members are invested, participatory, and helping to drive what this program will become in the future.

In our first year, Mentor ISPE has over 240 active members participating in over 60 mentor groups. While many lessons have been learned, the program is quite successful, and plans are underway for improvements and new resources in 2024.

Interested in joining Women in Pharma or participating in the 2024 Mentor ISPE program? Applications are being accepted through 31 October 2023.

Learn more Apply 

Want to gain a deeper understanding of Mentor ISPE?

Join us for an info session on 14 and 15 September for an opportunity to meet the Women in Pharma Mentorship Committee and other potential participants as they navigate frequently asked questions and explore the offerings of Mentor ISPE.

Thursday, 14 September | 1100 - 1200 ET
Friday, 15 September | 0800 - 0900 (GMT +8)