Why I’m So Glad I Went Down the STEM Career Path


Written by: Shailee Patel, Senior Bioanalytical Scientist at CSL

I grew up with a surgeon dad and a dentist mum, so as a child, I always understood that there were patients and that my parents were treating them. What I didn’t know was that there was a whole scientific world working behind the scenes creating the medicines that made it possible for my parents to do their job.

Given my parents’ careers, an interest in medicine and a passion for patient care was natural, but as I grew older I became more attracted to the science side. Every time there was any sort of global health problem, I saw that the scientists were the ones who came up with the solution.

So I thought, ‘Let’s see what this is all about!’

Igniting my passion for STEM

At a young age, I started reading about STEM and science in general. And then one scientist's work caught my eye.

Anders Bjorklund worked on stem cells for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. He found that, under the right conditions, stem cells could be inserted into the brain to help regenerate damaged areas.

Bjorklund’s research really triggered the ‘wow’ factor for me. I went down the science rabbit hole, reading paper after paper, and becoming more and more interested. When I told my parents, they were very supportive of me pursuing a scientific rather than medical career and here I am now, very happy with my decision!

Life at CSL

I have been at CSL for five years. One of the first things I noticed when I joined the company was how many women are in senior roles and on the board.

This showed me CSL is an employer that really supports women. I felt assured they would support me and my growth in STEM, and I was right. I see colleagues come back from maternity leave and offered great opportunities despite being away for a year or more, so I know my development would never be halted here.

In fact, I love the culture at CSL. I am a very curious person and I love that I can approach anyone and be invited to spend time finding out what they do.

I also appreciate how we are offered the correct training opportunities based on our strengths and areas to be developed. There have been multiple occasions where I've been signed up for training because someone thought it would be a good fit for me. This has helped me improve a lot of skills I didn’t even know I had. But I'm still pretty new to the field and I feel like there is so much more to explore.

What I do is just a very tiny part of the whole process that CSL stands for. In terms of ‘climbing the career ladder’, there are endless training opportunities to progress. I am always learning and growing.

My advice for others?

I know that a lot of people, particularly women, struggle with knowing how to ask for that next role. With that in mind, I think it’s really important to be able to recognise when you're ready to do something new.

One of my biggest pieces of career advice is to never become too comfortable in your role because that is when you are no longer challenged or growing.

My first role at CSL was as an associate scientist, and after two years, I knew it was time to challenge myself. I expressed my interest in a more senior ‘scientist’ position I had seen come up in our department, and after undergoing an internal interview, I got the role.

I also suggest finding a good mentor. I recently found one for myself and I can already see how valuable it is. My mentor has helped me work through challenges and come up with strategies to develop myself. For example, being a people person, I find it difficult to say no. It has been important for me to learn to decline some things, so I don’t end up with a pile of tasks I really have no time for!

I see STEM as an industry that has become welcoming to women, with equal pay and equal opportunities. It is also such a flexible field that no matter what age you are, you’re always welcome.

I would certainly encourage women to take up careers in STEM. I think it is a fantastic world to be in. I am very glad I went down that science rabbit hole all those years ago because I love what I do!