MEM graduate, Linda Tam (’01), works as the Director of Quality at Hydrox Laboratories, a health and beauty product manufacturer in Elgin, IL. Prior to enrolling in the MEM program, she received a Bachelor’s degree in Health Science at Rush University and a Master’s degree in Biology at Illinois Institute of Technology. Outside of the lab, Linda enjoys designing and creating jewelry and fashion accessories. We asked her a few questions about her MEM experience and how it has impacted her career.
You did not have the typical engineering background found among MEM students. What drove your decision to pursue the MEM degree?
I was lucky enough to work with many cutting edge technologies when I was in R&D. I created a laboratory and employed sophisticated instruments to develop and test the safety and efficacy of drugs to treat HIV. Since then, I have become an expert in building laboratories and developing methodologies to advance drug development in the company. In the subsequent year, I implemented a genomic toxicology laboratory for Monsanto/Pharmacia (current known as Pfizer.) I spent most of my day with my expensive toys and powerful automations in the laboratory. And then, I spent more time by myself to analyze data. I had limited interaction with my internal customers or colleagues. I enjoyed my work, but at the same time, I was miserable.
My husband introduced me to the MEM program and encouraged me to apply. I noticed that the program encompasses management practice, organizational behavior, and technology. I recognized right away that this degree would enable me to transition into other areas in the pharmaceutical industry, such as drug/device combination products, that better suited my personality.
Did you have a favorite class or professor?
Dr. Donald McNeeley was the most dynamic and inspiring professor I had in my student life.
What was the best part about MEM?
MEM is a dynamic program. The skills and knowledge I learned have helped me adopt and adapt quickly in new environments. Following my R&D career at Baxter, I left a company with 45,000 employees worldwide and joined a new startup company in 2004, focusing on cancer therapy development and manufacturing of a drug/device combination product. I joined the Quality Assurance team and had oversight responsibility for all of the in-house safety and efficacy laboratory studies, and the drug and device manufacturing in the contracted manufacturing facilities. Resources in the startup company were limited. The deposition decision of the product is not always simple. The MEM program gave me the tools to dissect and analyze information, especially, for finding a common ground in difficult situations. I stayed with this company until 2011.
Since then I have held Quality Director positions in 3 other companies, manufacturing medical devices, beauty products, and drug products. Each of these companies represent different market segments within the healthcare industry. None are alike, they are each regulated under different rules and regulations. Every new job and new company brought new stressors. What I learned at MEM really helped to enhance my confidence level and ultimately shortened the learning curve.
Any advice to future students?
Don’t limit your contribution by your title. Volunteer your service horizontally and vertically, but tactfully. Follow your passion. If you believe in and enjoy what you are doing, you will find satisfaction in your work. Without exception, we will all have to answer this question to our employer: what can you do for me today? I believe the answer is the secret to longevity and finding serenity in your work life.