Success Stories

Cultivating a Career

Abigail Smith

Abigail Smith

Class of 2024

Area of Study
Biopharmaceutical Technology
Favorite Aspect of Wake Tech
Hands-on labs and opportunities to learn from people who have worked in the pharmaceutical industry
Career Goals
Profession in pharmaceutical manufacturing or related industry.

"Attending the career fair gave me a leg up!"

    — Abigail Smith

Abigail Smith is proof that investing time and preparation in a career fair pays off.

The Biopharmaceutical Technology Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree student landed an apprenticeship as a maintenance technician at CSL Seqirus in Holly Springs, and she may well be on her path to a good-paying biopharma career as a result.

Working 40 hours a week at CSL Seqirus, Smith's earning a paycheck while also attending classes at Wake Tech. She's rotating through four different teams within the global influenza vaccine manufacturer's maintenance department – shadowing on-site electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians; working within the control room monitoring and maintaining the site's major utility systems; and calibrating instruments throughout the facility.

Smith says the apprenticeship is helping her decide what career within pharmaceutical manufacturing excites and fulfills her most.

"The practicality of drug manufacturing appeals to me," she says. "So far, the apprenticeship has been an awesome learning experience. I'm getting a very broad view of the different tasks and roles that are needed to maintain a pharmaceutical plant, and I'm learning a lot!"

Smith connected with the company when she attended a biotech career fair at the college's RTP Campus in October. There, she met Debi Hittel, senior manager of maintenance at CSL Seqirus, and made an excellent first impression.

"It was helpful being able to talk to Ms. Hittel in person and make that connection," Smith says. "Later on, when she saw my resume in her stack, she remembered me, and that had a big impact on me getting the apprenticeship. That really gave me a leg up."

Hittel says Smith's initiative makes her an excellent employee.

"Abigail is not afraid to ask probing questions so that she understands how and why something is done a certain way," Hittel says. "She is also comfortable making suggestions about how to improve antiquated processes. Her desire to learn and her excitement about learning are facilitating her rapid growth here."

Hittel says CSL Seqirus values apprenticeships because they provide an opportunity for the company to develop talent within North Carolina while giving experienced employees opportunities to share their knowledge.

“We see these apprentices as our next generation of company leaders and the experience that they have with our program will be foundational for their entire career,” Hittel says. “An unintentional positive consequence of this program is the enthusiasm shared by our experienced staff members to also give back to the next generation.”    

Smith will graduate this year and she’s hopeful her on-the-job performance at CSL Seqirus will open up future roles within the company as well as support her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology through a transfer partnership with East Carolina University. The partnership enables her to stay local and take ECU baccalaureate classes at Wake Tech’s Southern Wake Campus.

Wherever she lands, Smith says she’s better prepared for her future because of Wake Tech and her apprenticeship.

“I have really enjoyed the hands-on labs in my degree program as well as the opportunity to learn from people who have worked in the industry,” she says. “It’s great to be taking classes and then applying those things you are learning at school to real-life situations, or to be working on something in the field, and then have the background information described in detail in a class. I have so many teachers at Wake Tech and Seqirus and I’m grateful for the amazing opportunity.”

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