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A Conversation with Dr Alison Winger

A Conversation with Dr Alison Winger
Writer and expert1 month ago
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A conversation with Dr Alison Winger – General Manager PrecisionBiotics® Cork

Hailing from the beautiful shores of New Zealand, Alison embodies the spirit of determination, innovation, and leadership that defines women in science. As the Head of Product Development and the General Manager of the home of PrecisionBiotics® in Cork, Alison's journey is not just inspiring but a testament to the limitless possibilities when talent meets opportunity.

In our exclusive interview with Alison, she shares her insights, experiences, and thoughts on what it means to be a woman of science in today's world.  Alison's dedication to pushing the boundaries of scientific innovation while fostering a culture of empowerment and diversity within PrecisionBiotics® is truly commendable. Her leadership serves as a guiding light, inspiring not just her colleagues but future generations of women in STEM fields.  Its no wonder she has been awarded an Ambassador for Women Mean Business for championing gender diversity.

Hi Alison, thanks for taking time out of your incredibly busy schedule to sit down with us today.  Firstly can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure, my name is Ali I am from New Zealand I have a PhD in Biochemistry from university in Australia. I currently live in Ireland and head up a global team of product development scientists.

I left New Zealand almost 25 years ago, and I've lived in seven different countries all following different research positions.  I moved to Ireland 10 years ago, myself and my 1 1/2 year old boy.  And it was for a dream job, absolute dream job. I was very nervous to come over because I had never been to Ireland and I knew no one in Ireland. But I couldn't not take the role as it was just so amazing.

So here I am now, 10 years later. I met my Irish husband when I was 40, I have two young children and I lead a global team of research scientists. I have a team in Ireland. I have a team in Denmark and the US and I've scientists in Germany and Switzerland as well. And I've also recently been appointed the General Manager for PrecisionBiotics in Ireland. So I have two jobs!

That sounds like a lot, what does a typical day look like for you?

So typical day I get up early enough because I have a three-year old who jumps on me every morning. My husband gets the kids ready primarily - I have to say he's amazing - as I usually take calls first thing in the morning. I have a global team so there's always someone online and needs a chat at all times of the day.

So I take a few calls from home and then I head into the office and meet up with the team, both the science team and also the admin team for the Cork site, and make sure everything's running smoothly.

Then after a full day of meetings I go home, cook dinner. We love cooking, cooking is a big thing in my house. We're definitely foodies and everyone's involved as the kids love to do it as well. My kids are budding little scientists too, we make our own sourdough and yoghurt and we grow our own vegetables, berries and fruit as we have a glasshouse in the garden.

Can you tell us a bit about what it means to you being a women in science?

Doing a bit of research this weekend, I found out that only one in four of all people in STEM in Ireland are female.  That’s only 25%!  These figures are really low and as you go into decision making and as you go into leadership roles, senior leadership roles, it gets even less. I do think the tide is changing. For example, I have 70% female in my global research team and we work for a company that is looking to get gender parity by 2030. We're led by a female CEO Ester Biaget and a number of our senior managers are women. It doesn't matter where you're from, doesn't matter your gender. Diversity of thinking is the most essential thing for any company to embrace right now.

Why is having diversity in your team so important to you?

I'm very proud to say that my team is not hired on gender or demographic we hire based on your talent. What you know, what you can bring to the team, and your culture is also really important.

We know that diversity in a company equates to success of that company. And the only way we are going to make a difference in this world, to make a better planet, is if we actually embrace diversity.  We're all responsible for the world we live in. That is not just one subset of the population. So we need everyone's minds, we need everyone's passion, We need everyone's ideas. And when that all comes together, truly inclusive, diverse with equality all the way through the leadership chain, that's when we're going to make a difference.

What would you say to a young female who is thinking about a career in STEM?

Find your passion, work hard and go for it. Sometimes you need to follow your guts. You've got to do things that are really scary and I've done a lot of those things.  Just don't overthink it. If it excites you and really sets that fire in your belly, then grab it with both hands. Go for it. You'll never look back. Not everything's going to work. Some things won't, but if you keep at it success will come.

We need to encourage woman to follow their dreams.  If their dream is in STEM, go for it. You can have it all. You can be in the lab. You can be a leader. You can be a decision maker in an organisation. You can have a family at home. You can have your sports in the weekend. Everything is possible. It's hard. You'll feel guilty sometimes. A lot of the time there's a lot of juggling and there are sacrifices, but it's absolutely worth it if it's something that you love.

Gender Diversity Ambassador 2024 - Alison Winger
Writer and expert
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