Near Saffron Walden
STEMPOINT East STEM Ambassador, Lisa King is External Science liaison Manager within the BioPharmaceuticals R&D Communications team at AstraZeneca.
Having joined the organisation in 2019, her role involves building AstraZeneca’s STEM outreach programme for the UK, supporting employees in getting out into the community to work with schools and organisations around the main AstraZeneca locations.
As part of her role, Lisa has worked closely with STEMPOINT East, helping colleagues in becoming ambassadors but also serving as an ambassador herself, and representing the diverse roles available within the STEM sector that don’t always involve the practical application of science or engineering.
How it all started:
Lisa joined the Ford Motor Company through its marketing training scheme after completing her A-Levels, before moving on to a marketing role at Stansted Airport. She took on roles in PR, marketing and communications before running the press office and gaining experience in crisis communications, community relations and stakeholder management.
She went on to have children and continued to work, before setting up as a freelance PR and marketing consultant then returning to the Manchester Airport Group in an employee engagement and internal communications role.
Her next role was with Cambridge Consultants, specialists in product development and technology, which was the start of her move into the Cambridge science and technology area – something she hadn’t seen as accessible before.
Lisa explains, “I’d always been interested in the STEM sector but didn’t think I had the skills or knowledge for the roles available. I was wrong. I realised I had fantastic transferable skills which are relevant in the science and technology arena. I took on an internal communications and employee engagement role for Cambridge Consultants, heading up a new function which was really exciting. The business was at the cutting edge of technology, working in artificial intelligence and it was a great environment to be in. It felt very rewarding to be part of a company that was making a real difference particularly through its medical and healthcare innovation.
“When the opportunity came up at AstraZeneca, which develops pharmaceutical medicines for patients, I knew it was a company I wanted to work for.”
AstraZeneca works heavily with STEM learning and STEMPOINT East, and participates in the Enthuse Partnership, committing to working with an agreed number of schools each year, offering resources, teacher placements, ambassador visits and STEM clubs for young people. They are currently working with schools in Saffron Walden and the surrounding area and are soon to announce new partnerships.
The organisation has over 120 STEM ambassadors in the UK, based in Cambridge, Luton and North West sites, and Lisa and her local colleagues liaise with STEMPOINT East as their local hub.
Lisa personally gives presentations to young people on what it’s like to work at AstraZeneca and arranges a full programme of opportunities with ambassadors delivering online STEM sessions, with plans to re-start visits and practical sessions once Covid restrictions lift.
The Need For Ambassadors:
For Lisa, the role of an ambassador is about bringing careers in science to life, which has such an impact on young people. She explains, “Seeing and hearing someone’s personal story makes it so much easier to understand what the opportunities are. You have to see it to be it. Ambassadors bring to life the practical application of what the students are learning in the classroom.
“We still see a major lack of representation from certain parts of society when it comes to STEM jobs, and this can often be due to the fact that young people simply rule out jobs because they don’t think it’s for them, or they don’t think they’d have a chance to work in certain sectors. It’s the role of everyone in that young person’s life – parents, teachers, industry leaders, to encourage them that it can be for them. Our role with the Enthuse partnership is key here, as we can get teachers into our sites to experience our workplace and our careers, and truly understand what their young people can have access to.
“Alongside this, we need to showcase the huge difference in disciplines within STEM. I’m not a scientist, I’m a communications specialist working alongside very talented colleagues, and it’s this combination of skills which make us strong.”