Transferable skills helped Orlaith in her career and as an entrepreneur

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Pictured from left are Orlaith Ryan and her business partner Sharon Cunningham

Pictured from left are Orlaith Ryan and her business partner Sharon Cunningham

WIT School of Science graduate Orlaith Ryan is a great example of how entrepreneurial-minded WIT students can go on to run their own businesses

Orlaith Ryan, co-founder of Shorla Pharma, and a WIT graduate features in the Local Enterprise Offices' national campaign, Start. As part of the campaign she tells her ‘Startup Story’ across video, podcast and a written case study.

Working in a successful Irish pharmaceutical company gave Orlaith and co-founder, Sharon Cunningham the idea for their own business. Shorla Pharma develops innovative, pharmaceutical therapies with a particular interest in women’s and paediatric health. The company has featured in the media recently, as Sharon was named Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur in 2019.

Schooldays: From Clonmel Co Tipperary Orlaith is a past pupil of Loreto Clonmel.

Courses: studied the BSC (Hons) in Applied Biology with Quality Management (08-09) and the BSc in Biotechnology with Quality Management (07-08) in WIT.

What attracted you to study at Waterford Institute of Technology?

I decided to transfer to WIT after second year for a number of reasons, firstly the smaller class size and the accessibility to lecturers, secondly the opportunity to partake in a lot more laboratory classes and bench experiments and finally the opportunity to take industry relevant modules such as quality management and regulatory affairs the latter inspiring me to complete a MSc in Regulatory Affairs in later years when working in industry.

The invaluable laboratory experience lead me to securing an analytical chemistry role in a beverage company during the summer after third year, experience which really stood to me after completion of my degree when securing employment.

What words of advice do you have for new students?

Enjoy student life but stay focused on the reason you are there and the end goal you want to achieve. You get back what you put in during your student years. Also don't worry if a course is not exactly what you expected; having a degree is invaluable and is key to opening doors and securing employment down the line you always have the chance to change your trajectory but having your foundation via a degree is extremely important.

What have been the highlights of your college experience?

A friendly environment with approachable lecturers and relevant modules that prepare and lay the foundation for future employment.

How did your experience at WIT help get you to where you are now?

My experience at WIT helped me to get where I am today in a number of ways. Firstly the relevant lectures prepared me for working in the pharmaceutical industry modules such as regulatory affairs spurred my interest and inspired me to pursue both a career and masters in this area. Secondly I gained a lot of confidence while at WIT, challenging and interesting projects prepared me for working in industry. All of the skills gained at WIT were transferrable when I gained employment and were an excellent foundation to build upon as I developed my career. Finally after studying in Waterford I was extremely fortunate to gain employment in a Waterford pharmaceutical company that was at the time a start-up company (later employing over 200 people), getting the opportunity to grow, develop and be part of a regional and national success story inspired me to later start my own company Shorla Pharma with my co-founder Sharon Cunningham.

Anything you'd like to add?

I would strongly encourage anyone considering a career in pharmaceuticals to consider studying at WIT. The undergraduate courses offered are a fantastic foundation to build a career upon. A comprehensive degree and accessibility to extremely important resources such as the Local Enterprise Office are invaluable if you plan to start you own company, having technical expertise together with grants such a business priming grant will really help you hit the ground running.

Take the risk, thanks to LEO there is both financial and mentoring support available along with people willing you to succeed and achieve your company milestones and goals - #MakingItHappen

Start is aimed at ensuring innovative startups and entrepreneurs get the funding and supports they need to develop their business or grow a business idea. 

Related Courses

Bachelor of Science (Honours) in  Molecular Biology with Biopharmaceutical Science
Bachelor of Science in  Molecular Biology with Biopharmaceutical Science

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