Larne man chosen for skills ambassador role

Phil McGurk.
Phil McGurk.

A Larne man has been chosen to be an ambassador at a two-day careers exhibition at the Titanic Exhibition Centre.

Phil McGurk (35) will share his career journey with visitors to Skills Northern Ireland, telling the story of how he climbed the career ladder at pharmaceutical company Almac, where he is now a Product Quality manager.

The Skills NI Exhibition, which is sponsored by NIE Networks and is aimed at 14-19 year olds, parents and teachers, takes place on November 7 and 8 at Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast.

As part of the exhibition, Belfast Met has sponsored an ‘Ambassador Hub’, where visitors can meet apprentices, employees and students from companies, colleges and universities to get inspiration about their own future career journey.

After gaining a BSc in Geography at Queen’s University Belfast, Phil supported himself to complete a Master of science degree in coastal zone management by working in retail. After graduating, Phil was promoted to an assistant manager post.

Seeking a change from the world of retail, he saw entry-level posts at Almac Pharma Services within the quality team and was pleased to fit the required criteria.

After securing a validation officer position in 2010, he moved into Quality Compliance and has risen through the ranks to his current position which he has held for over a year.

Phil said: “The line management experience I gained in retail has proved to be very valuable in my career at Almac. My prior experience taught me transferable skills including the ability to work in a group and independently, having an awareness that the specific task I am responsible for contributes to overall goals and being able to take on a significant body of work and plan projects so they are successful and meet all the required standards.”

Phil believes there are excellent career opportunities in the pharma industry even if you don’t have a strong STEM background.

He said: “In the beginning certain technical aspects of the formulation process were challenging to familiarise myself with, but I received great support from my colleagues and line manager to help me develop the level of understanding that is needed to fulfil a quality role.

“The principles of quality management can definitely be taught on the job and there are no barriers to moving up once you can demonstrate the high standards needed.

“The training and one-to-one mentoring I have had access to from experienced staff at Almac has been invaluable.”