Family and Career – at Roche that works very well!
Dr. Kerstin Borgards joined Roche Diagnostics GmbH in the Diagnostics Operations division 10 years ago as Group Leader at the site in Penzberg. Today, she’s the Head of Production Planning & Systems of Diagnostics Operations in Roche’s biotechnology plant in Penzberg.
What did you study and how did you become aware of Roche?
I studied biotechnology in Braunschweig. Since you already have frequent contact during the studies with companies in the healthcare sector, Roche quickly caught my attention. That’s because the Penzberg site is one of the biggest biotechnology centers in Europe. Due to my traineeship with Roche in Basel and my scholarship granted by the Study Foundation of the German Economy ("Studienstiftung der deutschen Wirtschaft") as well as e-fellows.net, contacts repeatedly came about with Roche during my studies. In this way, I also got to know the Penzberg and Mannheim sites.
What was your first position? And what were your tasks?
After obtaining my doctorate, I sent a speculative application to Roche and was hired as group manager in the Diagnostics Production division in Penzberg where I was in charge of the filling and freeze-drying of products which were manufactured for the research market. The wide-ranging tasks of a leadership position were new and challenging at the same time for me.
What is behind the term "Production Planning & Systems"? To what extent is this important for Roche?
On the one hand, I’m responsible for the production planning of Diagnostics Operations Penzberg. Our product portfolio is very extensive; we produce up to 10,000 products across various value creation stages. These include, for example, antibodies, enzymes or peptides, which are used for the production of diagnostic tests.
The control of production, i.e., when, for example, a product must be produced on the basis of market demand, runs through my organization in coordination with our internal customers and the global supply chain.
On the other hand, I’m in charge of the Information Management and SAP Application Management, summarized under the term systems. We use SAP for the production planning. The basic data such as the duration of a production, planned production quantities per batch and a whole lot more are stored in this system. My employees give training on how to use the system and we also take over the data maintenance. Information Management covers all IT issues.
What is absolutely essential for your job and what do you especially enjoy doing?
Due to the extensive product portfolio, my job involves multifaceted and responsible tasks. Our objective is to ensure the supply of our customers with our biotechnologically and chemically manufactured products. The wide-ranging variety of our products brings along exciting challenges at the same time, e.g., when it comes to systematically improving our processes. We’re continuously working on optimizing our work processes and on structuring them more efficiently.
I especially have a lot of fun shaping and further developing my area of responsibility together with my team. And as a natural scientist, it’s, of course, extremely motivating for me that our products are used for diagnostic tests and that we deliver a contribution to the health of people.
What was your further development at Roche like and how does Roche support further development opportunities?
I found it exciting to change twice between the divisions, which entailed various requirements. I started in the Diagnostics Division and then worked for several years in the Pharmaceuticals Division. Now I work for Diagnostics again. Roche offers a tremendously broad scale of opportunities for personal and professional further development, in both the various divisions as well as in the relevant specialist fields and departments. In my opinion, professional further development is excellently supported by Roche. I always received the necessary trust from my superiors to successfully implement new projects.
What are the challenges between family and career? How does Roche support achieving a better balance between the two?
Of course it’s a challenge to reconcile and meet all requirements. For this reason, everyone should decide how this can best be implemented, taking into account the relevant framework conditions. After my son was born, I took maternity leave for six months, and then decided to go back to work full-time. Among other reasons, this was possible because my partner had taken parental leave for seven months, too. After returning to work after my maternity leave, I found good opportunities to combine family and career in coordination with my superiors, for example, working in the home office once a week. I really appreciate this because it saves me time commuting to work, and at that time, it gave me the chance to be even closer to my family, something that is very important to me. Roche also provides support for finding a place in a day nursery/kindergarten and all other issues relating to striking the right balance between family and career.
Should women in leadership positions get more support? What kind of support does Roche provide?
In principle, it’s important in the case of possible career changes to ask the question: Which job am I applying for, what does it involve and is this the next right step for me? Looking back, it was very helpful for me in making those decisions to have an experienced mentor within Roche who gave me advice. Now I’m a mentor myself for employees who are looking for my advice.
As a woman with leadership responsibility, I sometimes ask myself why there aren’t more women at my management level who could serve as a role model for colleagues with similar questions. I can only guess as to why this is the case. Maybe they tend to have less confidence in themselves, which is why I can only recommend getting support, for example, through mentoring, for making a decision on the professional further development.
From my point of view, when it comes to striking the right balance between family and career, this affects men just the same as women due to changing role models.
In your opinion, in what way do women play a role in change processes?
During change processes, it’s generally exciting to bring in different approaches and lines of thought. Diversity is extremely important here because everyone deals with change in a different way. In diverse teams, everyone benefits from the various approaches and experiences of men and women, male and female colleagues with many years of experience or from career starters.
Nowadays, we’re working in an environment that is continually changing, and therefore the requirements on each individual, too. Precisely in order to seize the opportunities of digitalization and to broaden specialist know-how, it’s important to actively shape change processes. In doing so, one success factor is to leverage the potential of different people and to not focus on one prototype that only covers one issue or just a few aspects.
How do you spend your free time?
I love to spend my time off with my family and friends. The shared time and experiences are enriching for me and they help me find the balance for my professional challenges. If there is still a little bit of time left, I enjoy practicing sports, going to the theater or visiting an art exhibition.