5 Questions With Scott Pecor, Biomanufacturing Professional

“5 Questions With…” is a recurring BioBuzz series where we reach out to interesting people to share a little about themselves, their work, and maybe something completely unrelated. This week we welcome Scott Pecor, a biomanufacturing professional who is looking for his next exciting career opportunity.

Scott is detail-oriented, conscientious, and highly skilled at his craft, with 16+ years of experience working in a GMP environment, delivering high-impact results through an effective combination of fine-tuned technology/technical expertise, acute attention to detail, troubleshooting skills, seamless project management, and interpersonal communication techniques. He is a technology enthusiast who strives for perfection and is effective at multitasking in a highly dynamic, challenging, and fast-changing environment while juggling multiple priorities simultaneously and remaining focused.

1) Please introduce yourself to our audience by looking back at your education, training, and career. What made you want to pursue a career in biomanufaturing and why?

I honestly kind of stumbled into manufacturing, or at least GMP manufacturing. Right out of high school I joined the US Navy as a Nuclear Reactor Operator. My intention was to do my six years, get the GI Bill, and become a nuclear engineer. I started at the University of Maryland, and on the very first day realized Engineering Math was not for me (in the Navy we needed what I call an “explain nuclear power to your friends” level of understanding of the physics and math of nuclear power. Operational, not theoretical). I had always enjoyed biology, so that was my major come day 2. After graduating, I started at Spectra Stable Isotopes in Columbia, MD. We made compounds for NMR spectroscopy studies, so not GMP per se. We were just starting to implement GMP when the group was purchased and a lot of us were laid off.

This is where my GMP career really started. A friend of mine was working at Baxter Healthcare and helped me with my resume and some interview coaching. After a crash course in GMP, GLP, process automation, and other new concepts, I found what I really loved: biomanufacturing. Two jobs and three companies later I found myself with a Lead Manufacturing role at IDT Biologika , working on vaccine manufacturing, helping author Batch Records and SOPs, learning how all the various behind the scenes roles interconnected with one another. I was really loving my job and the people I worked with when a blood vessel in my brain decided COVID sucked, so it called it quits and I had a stroke.

2) Having been in manufacturing for this long, what are some tips you would give to someone looking to pursue the same career path?

There are some amazing programs out there to help you get the skills you need to work in biotech. Frederick and Montgomery County Community Colleges both have Biotech programs that are fantastic. These days, many four-year schools do as well. In hindsight, I wish I had enrolled in the UMD College Park biomanufacturing classes that were there when I was an undergrad. I had no idea until years after I had graduated that it existed, and I even had classes in the same building…

The other thing I would like people to know is that you do not need a biology or engineering degree to work in biotech. They certainly help, but it really is more a matter of mindset and personality. GMP requires you to do the same things the same way every time. To this, degrees help, but there is much more to finding success. The best team I ever worked with had accounting, English, marketing, and urban studies majors, as well as auto mechanics and several machinists. Oh, and a few biologists and engineers smattered in there as well. It was the personalities that mattered, and our Manager focused on finding the best people and keeping ahold of them.

3) What moments in your career were the most pivotal in helping you advance from an associate level role to a senior level role?

I think when I started asking to take on new responsibilities and started learning how other parts of the process worked, I really started to progress. Learning the day-to-day of your process and your department is crucial from day one of the job. That’s precisely what they pay you to do, after all. It will get you to your first or second round of progression and will make you stand out amongst your peers.

That having been said, it will only get you so far. I started at one company as an MAIII. Two years later, I was still an MAIII. I was very good at on-the-floor tasks, I was a trainer, I enjoyed what I was doing, but I wasn’t progressing. Eventually, after talking with my supervisor and Manager, I started volunteering for tasks and assignments outside my job description. This does a lot for you:

  1. It builds on your existing skills
  2. You start to understand how things work behind the scenes
  3. You gain more name recognition and notice from outside your group

And this lets you do what is important for job progression: making your bosses’ lives easier. If you can solve problems before they become huge issues 50% of the way, you are doing great. Managers are there to solve big problems, but if you can make it a brush fire and not a forest fire, people remember that.

4) You are publicly open about the health concerns you have had for the past year and a half. What are some things that have you excited about getting back into the workforce?

It might sound weird, but I really miss the structure of a regular workday. I liked having assignments, coworkers, due dates, deliverables, and problems that come out of the blue and need fixing. During the beginning of COVID, for example, we found that the vendor for one of our chemicals sourced it from Wuhan. That was an interesting few weeks, to say the least.

I also really want to be able to use the knowledge and skills I have built up over the years to transition over to a more knowledge-based role instead of an operator one, especially given right now my limited ability to use my left arm is going to prevent me from working in a biosafety cabinet or on a bioreactor of any size. However, I still know what these roles require and how to support other manufacturers on the floor while ensuring successful GMP operations occur, that manufacturing runs succeed, and the product goes out the door. I know how to ensure a process improvement sticks, as well as making sure it is compliant.

5) If you could have any superpower for one day, what would it be and why?

Well, regeneration sounds really good, as long as whatever heals stays healed afterward 😊