March / April 2018

The Value of Travel, The Benefits of Diversity

Caroline Rocks, CEng

I was inspired to write this editorial after attending the YP and Student Brunch at the 2017 ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo, where Kelly Keen, a member of the ISPE Board of Directors, shared her story. In particular, she emphasized that traveling had been an invaluable part of her career. Her story resonated with me.

Unlike a lot of YPs, I didn’t study or work abroad in my early career, or take a year o after graduation to travel. I considered myself a little bit of a homebird, and secured my first job in the same city in which I had studied: Dublin, Ireland.

The first opportunity to travel in my career was factory acceptance testing of process equipment in Europe. More recently, I was able to travel outside of Europe, visiting manufacturing facilities in India, Malaysia, and the United States.

I expected that my skills as an engineer would develop as I gained experience. What surprised me was that by traveling abroad as part of my job (rather than just on vacation), I was pushed outside of my comfort zone and I gained new skills, both professional and personal. Every small aspect of travel has increased my confidence and my independence.


Like every other traveler, I have experienced delays, gotten lost, dealt with language barriers, had flights canceled, and arrived to overbooked hotels. These experiences have strengthened my adaptability and resourcefulness both on the road and at home. I now find it much easier to adapt to changing circumstances and environments; I’ve become more resourceful and am a better problem solver.

Traveling requires you to pay attention to many details beyond your work. You must be organized and mindful of your safety, all the while representing yourself and your organization in a positive light. For me, this doesn’t just include planning flights, transportation, and accommodations; I research my destination to learn about cultural differences in dress or behavior. I also adapt menus wherever I land to beat jet lag, and incorporate basic workouts so I stay on track for the busy schedule that awaits.


It is tremendously rewarding to work with colleagues from all over the world in cultures and climates so different from mine to achieve the same goals. Travel has taught me cultural understanding and sensitivity, which are vital in today’s global pharmaceutical industry. In truth, though, when I consulted with my international counterparts while writing this editorial, we exchanged stories of our cultural faux pas—for which we have (fortunately) forgiven ourselves. I have seen how other cultures conduct business, and as a result have learned new ideas, solutions, and ways to approach problems.

Young Professional and Student Brunch, ISPE 2017 Annual Meeting & Expo
Young Professional and Student Brunch, ISPE 2017 Annual Meeting & Expo


Along with business travel this year, I went to my first international ISPE conferences: the Europe Annual Conference in Barcelona, Spain, and the Annual Meeting & Expo in San Diego, California. It was my first meeting with international ISPE YPs and members, and the first time I’d attended a large-scale international ISPE event.

Networking at these events pushed me outside my comfort zone, as networking styles differ across cultures. I appreciated how many ISPE members took the initial step to approach me and introduce themselves before asking about my background and accomplishments. Taking their lead, I became more comfortable introducing myself to someone new. I returned from both conferences having broadened my network and forged meaningful connections.


I continue to find it invaluable to explore new parts of the world. It has been humbling, terrifying, and exciting all at the same time. Here are a couple of things I do that help me connect with new international colleagues on a personal level.

  • Often when you meet a person for the first time you exchange names only, and they can be difficult to remember. I ask to see their badge, then repeat their name back to them, which helps me remember it when we cross paths again. There have been lots of ice-breaking laughs when I struggle to pronounce new and unfamiliar names.
  • Another strategy is to understand a little of the local language. Learning a few words like “thank you” or “how are you?” or telling a story about an experience you once had in the country has really helped me forge relationships and strengthen our teamwork to achieve business goals.

Have you any experiences or business travel trips to share? Join the conversation on the YP Community page.

To join our YP Community, select it during your registration process or update your existing account on It’s that easy! This is the place where all the local chapters and affiliates share details and photos of their events so you can get new ideas and guidance for your own group. I also blog here on a regular basis to provide updates on the work of the International YP Committee.