Registration Case Study – David Gill

Science CouncilDavid Gill Registered Scientist
Role: Senior Microbiologist
Unilever Burton Plant

Career Background

David Gill - Registered ScientistDavid started off in Environmental Education, trying to put his BSc in Biology to some use, helping to write leaflets and nature trails, but it soon became apparent that as soon as the leaflets were finished the authors were out of a job…

He then started work in the lab at a local dairy, learning about milk quality and dairy microbiology. Moving on to another dairy, one that produced tinned evaporated milk and rice pudding, eventually becoming a Senior Analyst. His next move to an ice cream factory saw him develop skills outside of the laboratory environment, becoming the factory’s HACCP auditor in addition to his Quality Analyst role.

David then took up a Senior Analyst position at a local contract lab, initially in the microbiology department, but later in nutritional chemistry and eventually in a newly opened dairy department. On passing his NEBOSH General Certificate he also became the site H&S Officer.

Wanting to get back into a food manufacturing environment David took up the position of Site Microbiologist with a well know chocolate manufacturer.  Again stepping outside of his normal lab-based role he became a “process coach” for the factory’s implementation of SAP QM. He was then offered the newly created position of Laboratory Manager at a water treatment company.

This was David’s first foray into management, but with his team maintained our UKAS accreditation through their three surveillance audits and  reassessment, before the economic downturn led the company to close their on-site lab and contract out the work. Now David is the Senior Microbiologist at another food manufacturing site, managing a small lab team and getting involved in various factory hygiene and “5S”/TPM projects.

David tells us about his journey through registration

Why did you choose to go for registration?

I think I probably chose to go for registration out of curiosity – I wanted to see if my skills and experience would count towards an application. I’m glad to say they did.

What do you see as the benefits of registration?

I think there are two benefits that stand out in my mind. The first one is fairly obvious; the new registers enable a person’s skills, competencies and experience to be more than just words on a CV, they have been peer-reviewed and recognised, and an employer knows they will bear up to scrutiny. In today’s job market that could very well be the difference between a successful or an unsuccessful application.

But equally as important, certainly from a personal point of view, is the emphasis on CPD. This has always been a key feature of IST membership, but applying to be included on one of the new registers brings this even more sharply into focus. Anyone who has worked in a lab accredited by UKAS, or one of the other forward-looking accreditation bodies, will be familiar with the concept of “continuous improvement”, but it wasn’t until I had to sit down and write about my own continuous improvement that I came to realise how much professional development I’ve done over the years. And now that I’ve had the chance to properly review what I’ve achieved in the past, hopefully I can put more structure to what I will do in the future – and remember to document it on the way. 

What are your key skills and responsibilities?

I feel that I combine the technical skills and attention to detail needed in a laboratory environment with the pragmatic approach that is necessary in a factory environment. I manage my staff through guidance and encouragement and I’m able to articulate concepts and ideas in simple terms. I enjoy problem solving (although, naturally, everyone in the factory hopes I don’t find problems to solve). I’m responsible for the smooth running of the microbiology lab along with the safety and well-being of my technicians, including their CPD. Other key responsibilities include factory hygiene monitoring and ensuring that factory hygiene procedures and protocols are understood and implemented. I also carry out GMP audits and help in HACCP plan reviews.

What sort of CPD activities you undertake and why?

I have been fortunate (if fortunate is the right word) to inhabit an ever-changing landscape when it comes to CPD. I’ve worked in a variety of labs, in a variety of places, sometimes moving on by choice, and at other times not. Each new role brings new challenges and new opportunities to learn. And I never turn down the chance to learn something new within or outwith of my routine work, whether it involves a shiny new PCR machine or a 30 week health & safety course. I’m becoming increasingly involved in 5S and TPM (I recently learned that “Kaizen 5S in 90 Minutes” takes rather longer than 90 minutes to digest!). I also have a natural curiosity about the world around me, so I use the Internet, Twitter in particular nowadays, to keep up with things that interest me; things that may have little bearing on my life or career right now, but in the future who knows?