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Voices of Viatris
By: Niki Kapsambelis
February 12, 2024
In the neighborhood where Lee Bradford grew up, most of the other children shared her interest in discovering how things work. They built simple machines, repaired minibikes, tinkered with small repairs on a snowmobile.
Today, Lee is the Senior Director of Engineering Facilities and Maintenance at a Viatris manufacturing site in St. Albans, Vermont, not far from where she spent her childhood. And her neighborhood friends, who were mostly boys, aren’t surprised by her profession.
“I’ve always had an interest in manufacturing: how things are transformed, how equipment runs, how things are produced,” said Lee, who holds a master’s degree in engineering and global operations. She also loves process improvement and problem solving, and she believes strongly in the company’s purpose.
“I often think about how important our roles are when I’m at work and we’re producing product: that this could be for my mother. It could be for my daughter. It could be for my best friend; it could be for my neighbor,” she said. “I’m very passionate about the work I do because it really does impact the lives of others, and you get to be a part of it every day.”
Because her name is gender-neutral and she works in engineering, Lee said people who have not met her sometimes assume she is a man, addressing correspondence to “Mr. Bradford.” But she believes more women are entering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professions, bringing with them valuable perspectives.
“I think the sky's the limit for women in the STEM field,” she said.
Lee has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 30 years, the last 10 of which have been at Viatris. Part of her role is providing the strategic plan for the site in terms of capital spending, which covers new production equipment, facilities upgrades and new automation technology. As new technology evolves, Lee and her colleagues look for ways to make equipment and processes more efficient.
They also provide preventive maintenance and repairs, and they are responsible for the facility’s infrastructure that allows production to happen.
“I feel like I bring a different element than some of my male counterparts because I’m also a mother,” she said. “I think we tend to be able to multitask. We are strategic thinkers … and we can make decisions based on strategy and logic, because we are women. That brings a whole new element in the technical fields.”
Today, Lee sometimes speaks to local classrooms about her work, encouraging students to consider careers in manufacturing and STEM.
“The advice that I that I give to people is: find something you love, go where you feel it in your heart and always believe in yourself,” she said. “There were points in time in my career and in my life where I thought, ‘This is a bit of a reach for me, and there's mostly men in the field.’ But I always believed in myself and I always pushed myself to get a little uncomfortable. Reach beyond your comfort level and go where your heart really wants to be.”