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Fireside Chat with Flavia Krauer, Production and Quality Assurance Engineer

July 29, 2021

Flavia Krauer, our Production and Quality Assurance Engineer, is a Zurich native and was one of four employees at CyanoGuard when she started. Not only does she help create the devices and produce the cartridges that we're known for, but she has also helped our company grow from the bottom up while developing personally as well. Discover how below.

1. To kick things off, could you tell us a bit about your career background and current role?

I completed a three-year apprenticeship as a Biology Lab Technician at the City of Zurich Water Supply. I gained further work experience there in the field of microbial quality monitoring. I then did an exchange in England where I worked for the DEFRA-Environment Agency National Lab Service as a Lab Technician. In England, I focused more on molecular biology. In 2016, I began my studies in biotechnology at ZHAW, the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, and eventually made my way to CyanoGuard. I was one of four employees at CyanoGuard when I joined and I helped out Livio, the former Lab Manager, as a Production Support Engineer. At first, I did the typical student-type tasks that were top-level and repetitive, but eventually, I grew with the company and learned quite a lot by doing different things. I recently completed my bachelor's degree with a thesis on process optimization in the biopharmaceutical production of live attenuated vaccines and now have more time to contribute to CyanoGuard as a Production and Quality Assurance Engineer.

2. How has CyanoGuard changed from when you first started to now?

It's growing and more people keep getting hired. In the beginning, we had a lot of manual work. But now, thanks to automation, we can do more. Our research capacity has grown and we have more inputs from chemical points. We're much more structured than before too. You could say that we're all grown up now.

3. What excites you most about CyanoGuard's technology?

The thoughts behind it are clever. The fact that cyanide detection triggers a specific color change is ingenious in its simplicity. Moreover, the device and its cartridges are non-toxic and easy to use.

4. How do you like to best approach an issue in the production line?

With the team! It's incredible because we work together and discuss a lot as well. Everyone has a say and can give their thoughts and opinions. We know what's going on at the production level, know what's doable and what's not, and people need to listen to us. No matter what problems we face, we put our heads together and figure out a solution. Being solution-oriented also helps bring up a lot of new ideas. Even if they're not all doable, at least we try them.

5. How do your current studies complement your work at CyanoGuard?

After gaining some practical work experience, I decided to start my studies to expand my knowledge. Now, I'm thrilled to be able to put the theory I learned into practice and, in the case of quality management, to put it into practice right away. Above all, as a startup, CyanoGuard offers me the opportunity to help build something from scratch, compared to work at a corporation. For example, I was able to put the relatively dry theory of quality management into practice right away and thus understand the importance fo individual steps and realize how much work goes into it. So, I can always think, "Why is this process being done this way? Can we do it better?" I get to optimize my way of thinking and doing and have a deeper understanding of what's going wrong and what's going well. I come from a biological background, but with CyanoGuard, I have the opportunity to see how the processes in the scientific field are ultimately not so different in their basis. As this company continues to grow, I feel like I grow, and my knowledge does too.

6. How do you balance working and studying simultaneously?

At the moment, I only work. In the past, however, it wasn't always easy to reconcile my studies and work. Whereas today, I am happy about regular working hours I used to be pleased about the flexibility CyanoGuard could offer me. I had deadlines for specific tasks and projects and could manage them on my own time. I think the most important thing is communication.

7. It's no secret that there aren't many women in engineering; how can we get more women in engineering and manufacturing?

On the one hand, gender-specific professions are a social product that continues to have a significant impact on our job market. Already at the preschool age, society promotes feminized occupations for girls. Therefore, we should do away with gendered roles from an early age. On the other hand, it's also a question of the accessibility of technical professions. In my own experience and the student demographics of Swiss universities show that many people who are viewed as females are studying science or engineering. But I often ask myself, "Where are all my former peers now? Why can't they find a job in their field?"

8. How're women changing the face of science?

It's not women who'll change the face of science, but rather science itself that must change its' face. There've always been women who've made significant contributions to science, but they're often kept to a minimum. The inclusion of women in research is undoubtedly an important step to create a intersectionality production of knowledge.

9. We're based in the canton of Zurich. As a local, what do you think makes Zurich so unique?

Even though Zurich is a small city, it has the character of a metropolis. The cultural offer is excellent. No matter the time of day or year, there's always something going on. Compared to much of the rest of Switzerland, the population is also quite open-minded.

10. What values do you like to live by?

I call myself anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-ableist. I try to behave accordingly in my everyday life and am aware of my privileges.

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