Our “Meet Me in 5” series covers 5 people, topics or questions to illustrate how our business nurtures exceptional people, provides an energizing purpose and enables extraordinary potential in its employees’ careers.
In this article, we spoke to Ilse Mathieu, Site Lead European Operations Center – Associate Director, EMEA Distribution, based in Mechelen, Belgium. She discussed how the Covance Mechelen site is ramping up to become a major kit production facility to supply clinical trial kits across Europe, the Middle East and Africa – and what this high-profile project means for career growth opportunities in Mechelen.
1. Finding a life sciences career without a scientific or medical background
People may think that Covance and LabCorp, our parent company, only hire people with a scientific or medical background, but Ilse and her team represent the logistical expertise required to support global clinical trials.
“I am not a ‘lab person’ and I don’t have a medical or scientific background,” said Ilse. “My experience is in logistics, fulfillment and printing-on-demand. Ten years ago, when I saw an opportunity to work at LabCorp’s Clinical Trials Division in Mechelen, I was excited that I could play a fundamental role with my background. Today that division is part of our Covance drug development site in Geneva, and our logistics teams in Mechelen support dry ice production and shipping along with kit supply distribution. They ensure on a daily basis that doctors and patients have all the supplies needed, to allow them to quickly route their samples for testing at Covance laboratories.”
2. Building a career at Mechelen
After managing logistics for our clinical trial division in Mechelen, Ilse was assigned roles with increasing responsibility to ensure collaboration between the logistics and sample management departments. Today, she is leading activities around our Covance Central Laboratory Services (CLS) site in Mechelen, while also preparing the site’s new buildings for expanded activities.
“We currently house employees working in Project Management, Data Management, Investigator Services, ELMS and Flow Cytometry. I’m very proud of the work we do to ensure employees across all departments are empowered to own their careers. That might mean moving across departments for a broader experience, or spending some time in a role to develop specific expertise. We want them to find both personal balance and increased visibility into career paths and opportunities.”
3. Expanding and hiring for key roles
Beyond the main activities of dry ice production and kit supply distribution, the Mechelen site has a major initiative underway to expand into a kit production site. Their close-knit team is rapidly growing and looking to hire exceptional people across several departments. Some roles will not require any experience or secondary education.
“By 2023, we will need 90+ additional people on-site to support our expansion,” explained Ilse. “We will hire kit assemblers, shipping operators and supervisors for the kit production, multiple functions to support the warehouse activities and technical profiles for the automated production line. These functions will be opened throughout 2020. Additionally, we will continue to attract new talent for project management roles, including regional study coordinators, and investigator support staff, among others. With our relatively small team and major plans for expansion, there are many open positions and opportunities to quickly grow your career here.”
4. A balanced workplace
Ilse highlights the benefits of having a flexible work arrangement with partially remote positions at Covance Mechelen.
“Many of our positions can be performed remotely and are not linked to a single location,” she explained. “We’ve implemented a program at the Mechelen site that allows for certain functions working from home for 50% of the time, and you can choose which days to work at home. People appreciate that work-life balance here. In parallel, we also motivate people to come to the site to build relationships with their peers and to support internal communications across departments.”
For those people who do live in or near Mechelen, Belgium, Ilse is quick to point out the highlights of the city.
“Mechelen is ideally located between Brussels and Antwerp. Our Covance site is very near the highway and close to the airport, which makes it great for travel time. It is known as a historic medieval city with lots of green spaces and terraces in the city center. I think it’s also a great place to enjoy Belgian food and our locally brewed beer, along with some of our famous chocolate shops.”
5. An Energizing Purpose to fulfill one’s Extraordinary Potential
Over the next two years, the Mechelen, Belgium site will be the main European hub to support Covance kit production.
“To me, a kit is not just a box with clinical trial supplies,” said Ilse. “In that box, we are really providing people the hope that they might benefit from their clinical trial. We have the potential to make their life more comfortable in one way or another. Without the support of our exceptional people, trials would not be possible, so I appreciate the difference we make for patients every day.”
She adds, “If you want to join us to help work on these innovative projects, there are many possibilities here. That’s the exciting thing about working with Covance and LabCorp – we have many new opportunities for expanding your skillset in a global company while growing in your career.”