60 Seconds With

“Be true to yourself, personally and professionally” – 60 seconds with Ken Keohane, Operational Excellence Lead at Thermo Fisher Scientific

By Business & Finance
12 March 2024
Pictured: Ken Keohane, Operational Excellence Lead at Thermo Fisher Scientific

Ken Keohane is Operational Excellence Lead at Thermo Fisher Scientific. He joined the team in 2023, bringing with him over 27 years of experience across Pharmaceutical & Chemical Manufacturing, FMCG (Cosmetics, Food and Dental Fixatives) and Medical Devices. He leads the Practical Process Improvement (OE), Learning & Development and Engagementat Thermo Fisher Scientific’s campus in Currabinny, Co. Cork. 

What was your first job?  

After I qualified as a Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineer, my very first job was as a Research and Development Engineer with a cardiovascular medical device company in Galway. Since that first job, I now have over 27 years of experience across pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing, FMCG, and medical devices, which led me to the role of Operational Excellence and Learning & Development Lead at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Co. Cork. 

What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?  

I come from a family of tradesmen. From a young age I was interested in dismantling and fixing all sorts of mechanical and electrical objects. One grandfather was a carpenter and the other a stone mason and I was fortunate to spend time with them. I worked on building sites labouring for my uncles from a young age. From them I learned the importance of nurturing the future by mentoring the next generation. Mentorship is now my everyday with Thermo Fisher, as I lead on ensuring excellent employeeexperience, through support-driven and varied career pathways. Recently, I was appointed president of the Irish Science Teachers’ Association, taking up the position from outgoing president, Prof. Luke O’ Neill. Given my daily work life, accepting the presidency felt like a good fit. ISTA is dedicated to the advancement of science teaching and works to develop co-operation between teachers of science at all levels. 

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date? 

It’s difficult to pick one achievement.  Professionally, I have had a varied background and have built a rewarding career, that has a positive impact.  After nearly 30 years of working across these industries, I am privileged to be able to say that I look forward to work every day with a sense of excitement. 

Career-wise, would you do anything differently? 

Nothing. All the work that I have done, through its variation, has led me to a position where I have a real impact on shaping the next generation through clear career progressionwithleadershipdevelopment programmesand a supportive network. 

In one sentence, how would you define success? 

Loving what you do and making a positive difference to those around you.  

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? 

Be true to yourself, personally and professionally. Professionally, strive for the career you want even if the pathway you can see for yourself, doesn’t necessarily follow the norm. 

How do you motivate yourself and your staff? 

Keep it simple, have a clear picture of where we are going and what we need to do and, most importantly, focus on self-development along the way. I champion the fact that at Thermo Fisher, at all levels, your work will have a real impact. 

How do you handle adversity? 

Put it all in the context of what’s going on and try to deal with it calmly and patiently. 

How do you relax? 

I exercise regularly and read a lot. I spend as much time as possible with my wife Caroline and four children. 

What are your aspirations for the future of the business? 

Thermo Fisher is a global company, and at our campus in Cork we are developing and manufacturing the active ingredients for a range of transformative medicines. In 2019 we were serving just one customer, we are now serving 24 different customers, from large pharmaceutical companies to niche biotechs. We’ve also significantly grown our team of chemists, engineers, craftspeople and operators. Our ambition is to continue to grow, to develop and manufacture even more life-changing medicines, and enable our customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer.


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