iSpeak Blog

How a Conference Can Be a Life-Changing Experience

Cy M. Rodriguez
Martin Burns, Jr., BE, ME
Kerren Bergman
2018 Annual Meeting & Expo Membership breakfast - ISPE Pharmaceutical Engineering

Student Poster Competition Undergraduate Winner

The 2018 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo completely exceeded my expectations in all aspects from the:

  • Lessons I couldn’t have learned anywhere else,
  • What-I-thought-was-impossible networks I gained
  • Treasured memories I made
  • All the out-of-reach opportunities that were suddenly made available to me

The Meeting was just so incredible that I am still in disbelief that it all happened!

I began the conference with what is considered to be the premier advantage ISPE has to offer: networking. Luckily, I got to attend the invitation-only Leadership Reception as the plus-one of our consistently supportive ISPE Philippines Affiliate President, Ma’am Vivien Santillan. Right off the bat, I got to meet and have conversations with global industry leaders – good thing I prepared a lot of name cards. These exchanges of names, ideas, and contact information with a diverse group of people, who have the shared enthusiasm and passion for the pharmaceutical industry, continued throughout the entire week; everyone I met was eager to connect and offer their support in any way they could. As Ma’am Monique Sprueill said during our Young Professional and Student Orientation Brunch, I’d be surprised how much people are willing to help. All of a sudden, my goals and aspirations in my future career became more conceivable through connections with this supportive crowd.

Learning about everything from the recent advancements on lifecycle process validation to good manufacturing practices specially tailored for young professionals from leading experts was a chance I will never encounter inside a classroom. More importantly, the other valuable lessons I learned were the distinct views, professional interaction, and skills that encourage wholesome development as a young professional – these for me were worth more than what it costs to attend this conference, although I was fortunate enough to have my registration and travel generously subsidized by the ISPE Foundation.

Some of the things that will forever stick with me are from the opening plenary session were Sir Jørgensen’s talked about the importance of innovation and social responsibility, Sir Nepveux’s call to action to be goal-driven and discover the cures, and Ma’am Furuta’s inspiring story of turning adversity into purpose. Also, how the different officers of ISPE broke down what it meant and what it will mean to be an ISPE member during the Membership and Awards Breakfast will continue to be an inspiration.

Lastly, as the Asia Pacific Representative to the Undergraduate Student Poster Competition, what I looked forward to the most was meeting the other students and having a blast with them! It was less of a competition and more of a bonding experience since we were all already winners; being an overall was just a huge bonus for me. From exploring Philadelphia to participating in the Student Poster Competition, are memories I will cherish forever. The friendships I built fellow participants are some of what I treasure the most out of this event. I hope to see them again soon – hopefully at the 2019 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo!”

By: Cy M. Rodriguez


Cy M. Rodriguez - Undergraduate poster winner

Student Poster Competition Graduate Winner

“I’ve had the opportunity to participate in many conferences, poster sessions, and networking events, but the 2018 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo stands apart. The social, professional, and scientific presence at the meeting was key to making it so enjoyable.”

I was very impressed by the attention and access given to young professionals, both in the social events and in the technical material presented. ISPE organized many exciting events for us to participate in including multiple networking sessions, a brewery tour, a dinner party featuring many excellent restaurants unique to Philadelphia, and other events all within a four-day conference. The 2018 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo gave me an excellent opportunity to network with students and professionals alike. The camaraderie and friendliness among the poster competitors were excellent, and I feel like I made some amazing friends through the conference. I also got to meet many of the people responsible for these events and for implementing the ISPE’s focus on young professionals, and it was clear that they were very in touch with our interests as individuals and professionals.

The 2018 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo also gave me the opportunity to expand and develop professionally. I was able to participate in workshops beyond my experience and expertise with nothing but support and inclusion from the others present. By talking with these professionals from a wide range of disciplines I managed to gain new perspectives on my own research and get a look at the industry ahead of me after my degree. I found many people throughout the expo hall doing fascinating work adjacent to my own and made a lot of industry contacts who I look forward to collaborating with or working with in the future. I enjoyed the opportunity to share my own work and research experiences with others, and to gain valuable practice pitching and presenting my work to others.

I think what really struck me about the 2018 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo was how invested everyone was in the pharmaceutical industry. This industry is united behind a very powerful and motivating goal: to help people by developing better treatments. This cause goes very far to unite people across various disciplines, leading to some truly awe-inspiring innovation across the board.

In closing, I had a fantastic time at the 2018 ISPE Annual Meeting& Expo. The event was a success both professionally and socially, and I would like to thank Monique Sprueill, Debra Kaufmann, The New Jersey ISPE Chapter, and everyone else who made this event such a success. Thank you, and I hope to see everyone in 2019!”

By: Martin Burns


Martin Burns Graduate poster winner

Women in Pharma Dinner

Our group had such a great time at our Women in Pharma dinner. Our discussion topic was “Stepping into Your Power.” We had a group of people from different areas of our industry, with varying years of experience. We discovered that no matter our experience level or role, one of the key challenges of accepting and stepping into our power was to take risks and not let the voice of doubt in our heads hold us back. We discussed turning points in our careers: a time when we stood up for ourselves or said what we were thinking in a meeting but were initially hesitant to say or took what at first appeared to be a setback in our careers – layoff, acquisition, etc. – and turned it into the stepping stones we needed for our next career phase.

Tools that came up during our discussion included the books Strengths Finder 2.0 and Lean In. We also discussed the challenges of balancing work and life obligations and how powerful we all truly are, juggling so many responsibilities effectively. An affirmation we discussed was, “What would my wisest, and therefore most loving self say to me now?” This came up during our conversation regarding how harsh a critic we can be of ourselves, and how defeating that self-talk can be, greatly diminishing our power. The topic of diversity came up as well (gender, race, age), and how challenging finding your power can be in consideration of these factors. Mentoring was also discussed, as often others see our power long before we do, and many of us referenced male mentors as being powerful advocates in our careers along with our female mentors.

It was a lovely meal and a fantastic opportunity to connect and share ideas and challenges. We walked away feeling more positive, powerful and supported. We’re already looking forward to the Women in Pharma dinners next year.

Read the additional blog post from the Women in Pharma dinners about How to Become the Authentic Leader You Envision.

By: Kerren Bergman