Embracing two contrasting careers: a wonderful balancing act
Call it good luck, but Alexandra Gummer (BE(Chemical)(Hons) 2016, BSc 2016) has worked hard to juggle two successful careers: one as a chemical engineer/biochemist and the other as an elite athlete. Let’s unpack the amazing life of this superwoman...
As a graduate in CSL Behring’s quality stream, Alexandra has spent the past two years ensuring the safe release of healthcare products to market. In this role, she has had the opportunity to rotate through different departments, helping to meet the needs of patients and fulfil pharmaceutical regulatory requirements.
“Currently, I’m in Quality Assurance Release, where I complete deviation investigations – when a product or process falls short of a standard, I identify the root cause and suggest a corrective and preventive action so that the issue won’t recur,” explains Alexandra. “I’ve also had a rotation in Process and Cleaning Validation, which involved confirming that manufacturing and cleaning processes are capable of consistently delivering quality products.”
All the while, Alexandra has also been playing professional soccer with the Melbourne Victory Football Club. The team competes in the W-League, Australia’s top-division women’s soccer league. Previously, Alexandra played for Adelaide United, as well as Doncaster Rovers Belles Ladies in the Women's Super League 1, the highest tier of women’s football in England. She credits Monash with having strongly supported her athletic pursuits, by making scheduling allowances for her laboratory sessions and exams.
“I’m now incredibly fortunate to also have a supportive employer and a flexible work arrangement!” says Alexandra. “I try to be as efficient as possible during business hours to ensure that I complete all my work, but sometimes I need to miss a training session or work later at night. There are some sacrifices, but I know how blessed I am to have two careers that I’m extremely passionate about.”
Being crazy about sport is one thing, but what attracted Alexandra to chemical engineering? “I always loved processes and working out ways to innovatively complete tasks and activities – smarter and faster – so chemical engineering was a no brainer for me!” she shares. While completing her double degree, Alexandra squeezed in an exchange in Chemical Engineering at the University of Leeds.
“When I was just about to come back from my exchange, CSL opened up its graduate applications in Australia. I knew it was a great company where I could have a future,” she relays. “After the initial screening, online testing, video interview, assessment centre and final interview, I was so happy and relieved to get a position there! And I’d love to have a stint with them in Germany or Switzerland.”
Alexandra has also found time for volunteer work. While at uni, she mentored children in science classes in low socioeconomic areas. She also served as Vice President of the Society of Monash University Chemical Engineers. And, last year, she joined CSIRO’s STEM Professionals in Schools, helping to bring science, technology, engineering and maths into Australian classrooms.
So what does Alexandra say to engineers just starting out? “Just keep your head down and work hard,” she advises. “Grab opportunities with both hands, and never say no to something that offers you a learning experience.”