Biomanufacturing Certificate Program Opens a New Career Chapter for Stay-at-Home Mom

Deborah Carr
Deborah Carr

When Deborah Carr decided to return to the workforce after 16 years as a stay-at-home mom to three, she knew she wanted to begin a new career. Before having children, she was a library assistant. Instead of returning to that role, she turned to Johnston Community College. With her family’s support and a new certification program in the state’s growing biopharmaceutical industry, Carr was able to launch that new career.

When Carr arrived at JCC, she earned two certificates in medical technology. During her subsequent job search she worked temporarily in JCC’s office of the registrar. While working there she began to hear a lot of talk about a new certification in biomanufacturing.

“While working in the registrar’s office, I encountered several students who were interested in the BioWork program, and I kept hearing more and more about it,” she explained. “I knew about Grifols and Novo Nordisk since they were near my home and was really interested in learning more.”

With her interest piqued, Carr began exploring the program. In August 2020, with a back-to-school grant in hand, she took the first step in launching her new career. Right away, she knew she had found one that aligned with her interests and values.

'It just spoke to me'

“From the very first day, when the instructor started talking about safety and quality in the biomanufacturing industry, it just spoke to me,” said Carr. “It represented values that I share for myself. In my life, I have been more safe than sorry. That was the first thing that struck me from the very first class was the importance of safety.”

The BioWork certificate program prepares students for careers as process technicians in the chemical, pharmaceutical or biopharmaceutical industries and is often a requirement for employment. Courses focus on topics including the biotechnology industry, work safety, current good manufacturing processes (cGMP) and chemistry for process manufacturing, among others.

Deborah Carr (right) got interview practice with her daughter.
Deborah Carr (right) got interview practice with daughter Brianna.

In addition to learning about the biomanufacturing industry, Carr also learned how to promote her skills to potential employers in courses led by Roxanne Curry, JCC’s career development instructor.

“Roxanne talked to us about preparing our resumes and provided us with a list of industry interview questions, so we were able to prepare answers to the questions,” said Carr. “She gave us feedback on our answers, but it was up to us to practice.”

Preparing for her future interviews became a family affair. Carr’s daughter Brianna played the role of hiring manager so Carr could hone her interview skills.

“I realize now how important it is to practice,” she said. “It is important to say your answers out loud and hear how you say are saying them. It really prepares you. After practicing with my daughter, I felt really confident.”

With this confidence and her credentials, Carr attended a virtual career fair Curry organized in October 2020. There she met representatives from the staffing company Corestaff. Soon after, she began a temporary position in quality control at Novo Nordisk, located minutes from her home in Clayton.

Just months after beginning her temporary position, Carr interviewed for a full-time position at the company as an API Manufacturing Associate. For the interview, she drew upon the skills she learned at JCC.

“I was prepared for the interview, and, as a result, it was more of a conversation than an actual interview,” said Carr.

It all comes together

Last week, Carr began her new full-time position at Novo Nordisk.

Carr credits her family for their ongoing support during her transition back into the workforce.

“My children were happy for me when I started the temp position at Novo Nordisk, and even more so when I received the offer for a full-time position.” said Carr. “I’m so grateful for their ongoing support.”

She is also thankful for what she learned about biomanufacturing in JCC’s BioWork certificate program.

“The most important thing I learned from the program was the importance of safety and quality,” said Carr. “You are making a product that people are going to consume, so it is important that it is safe and of the best quality. You must have a mindset of safety in whatever you do. You do everything you can so things go as they should so at the end you have something that is safe and of good quality.”

Carr is just one of a growing number of adults who are either entering the job market for the first time, re-entering it after time off or seeking a career change.

“We have had students with Ph.Ds. who want to go in a different direction, and the BioWork certification helps them in that pursuit,” pointed out Curry, “There is one whole class that is nearly all teachers. We get all ages and backgrounds. High school students to people up to early 50s and early 60s. They want to help people, and they see this as a way to be able to do that.”

Mindy Hamlin, NCBiotech Writer
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