As I mentioned on Friday, I spent the day touring our vaccine filling and packaging plant in Marietta, PA with women who blog, among other topics, on parenting. These women were quite interesting, and their blogs are well-researched and -written (and a few of them include wording that...well let's just say it would never make it through our review process...so if racy language is not your cup of tea, perhaps you might not want to click on a few of the links...but that's the Internets for you).
I seriously underestimated how far Marietta is from Philadelphia, and I desperately needed some coffee halfway between here and there. I apparently spotted one of the attending bloggers at the rest stop, but I didn't know that until she walked into the meeting room.
It was a diverse crew of women who accepted our invitation to tour the facility and, for some, it was the first time that they had met in person. While on the tour, the group heard from a number of GSK experts in research, manufacturing, and public policy--many of whom were women. A few of the bloggers asked if we strategically brought female leaders to speak just because they were women. (Big Pharma can never catch a break!) But it did lead to a discussion about GSK's benefits like flex time--which the group saw in action as one of the women leading the tour had to scram at 2.30PM to pick up her son. (I swear we didn't plan that.)
During the tour, the group suited up and went into the production facility, where we saw a room full of employees manually inspecting vials that had been filled. What struck me was that while much of the process is, of course, highly automated, at every step there is a human being involved. This was one of those epiphany moments for me--and I work for GSK!
There was another moment that I honestly thought was going to come across as scripted but there was no way to plan for it. We were talking about safety, and how if necessary, a lot of vaccines would be pulled if something was discovered to have gone awry. "Well of course--its your reputation on the line," one of the attendees said.
Almost in unison, every GSK employee answered "No, it's patients lives at stake" or some variation. Again, I promise that happened spontaneously. How could we have planned for that?
I think it was great day, with meaningful discussion, and some tough questions, from the group (but don't take my word for it, take theirs). I gained some good insights into social media, I saw an amazing facility, met some new colleagues (both within GSK and from the blogosphere), and got to take my new car on its first road trip!
The traffic, on the other hand, reminded me of why I went so long without a car in the first place.
(Group photo courtesy of Stephanie from CreatureBug. The manufacturing photo is ours.)