You often read about workplaces that ‘feel like family’, but for one mother and her two daughters, it’s more than a marketing metaphor!
We spoke with sisters Nina Djordjevich and Anja Kozulin who’ve worked at science and bio-technology company CSL for six and ten years respectively. Having experienced great career development and support, they share the things they enjoy most about work, and what it’s like working alongside family.
Getting started in STEMM
Interestingly, their mother joined CSL more than 16 years ago. They both completed degrees in science, following in her footsteps.
“Mom always used to say, ‘One day, we’ll all work together at CSL,’” says Nina. “Back then, the idea of working with your parent wasn’t the most appealing! But I’m forever grateful for her encouragement and persistence.”
“She encouraged both of us to join and always had great things to say about the company,” says Anja, “So I decided to apply straight out of university, and I’ve never looked back.”
The pros (and cons?) of working with family
Are there upsides and downsides to working with family? It turns out, not for these women.
According to Nina: “To be honest, I’m yet to find a negative thing about working together. When I first joined as People Manager, it helped to have someone to speak with openly, without hesitation, like a family member. It meant the world to me back then and still does to this day.”
Anja adds: “I think it’s great! Prior to my move to our new Tullamarine site, the three of us would catch up for coffee or lunch. It’s great to have people to bounce ideas with, and speak to frankly about certain situations. Plus, it was also very handy if we needed to carpool… But on a serious note, my family are the people I’m most comfortable around and can be honest with.”
Speaking openly has been valuable for them to gain different perspectives on the business.
“When Anja was in the Sterility Assurance department supporting my department, we would work through issues on the daily,” says Nina. “We learnt to take our, at times, ‘brutal family dinner’ honesty and apply it in a professional setting, which strengthened our relationships in the process.”
Sisters in management
Both women lead different departments but still have opportunities to work closely together. Nina, as Senior Manufacturing Manager, Facility A, and Anja, as Products of National Significance (PNS) Production Manager.
Nina has been part of CSL’s Facility A since she first joined.
“I’ve watched our department grow from strength to strength. When I first started, we were a team of no more than eight, running a few batches a week. That’s grown to a team of 54 across a 24/5 structure. My favorite part of my role is seeing all our years of hard work paying off and my team succeed.”
As a Production Manager, Anja has recently started working on an $800M project, CSL’s Project Banksia – building a brand new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility for vaccine and antivenom manufacturing.
“It’s enabled me to work with an incredible team developing a new site, from design and qualification, through to routine operations. It’s also allowed me to continue building networks throughout the organization and collaborate with many teams. We’re identifying and establishing processes and procedures for us to implement and execute when it’s up and running.”
Working in Sterility Assurance, Anja works closely with her sister too.
“We’ve had to create our own way of navigating these new interactions, which has introduced a new angle to our relationship. I feel like we work really well together. And, in some cases, when we have different views, we’ve always found a way forward that meets both Quality and Operational needs.”
Around the family dinner table
There’s no doubt work is an unavoidable topic at the dinner table.
“At one point, our other sister worked at CSL Parkville – so there were four of us working under the company banner! Considering how much our husbands and partners hear about CSL – they’d fit right in if they decided to start tomorrow,” laughs Nina.
“Typically, as it is for most European families, it takes us about 30 minutes to say our goodbyes after family get-togethers. Work discussions usually take up twice as much time – or more!” shares Anja.
The gender balance
If you’re considering roles in science, biotechnology, or manufacturing, you probably already know they’re sectors that typically attract more male workers. But at CSL, there’s more to it than meets the eye.
The trio all work in the manufacturing stream. And while the department has more men, there are other departments in the company with more women.
“There’s definitely a strong appetite to balance the numbers,” says Nina. “I’m personally supporting the growth of women in manufacturing by promoting jobs and engaging on platforms to bring light to the opportunities manufacturing has to offer.”
Anja shares a similar experience.
“When I first joined Quality Control, it wasn’t male-dominated – it was the opposite. It wasn’t until my current role, working closer with manufacturing, that I even noticed there were more men working in some areas. In my current project, that’s been the case.”
Both sisters are motivated to see changes in women’s employment, particularly in Operations.
“Many of the women I know in Operations have backgrounds in Quality Assurance – which I think is a great thing for the area, as it provides a balanced approach,” says Anja.
She’s proud of all the women in her inner circle.
“My mom came to a completely foreign country, not speaking the language, to complete her degree at the top of her class; and go on to have a successful career and raise four children. The other women in my life – who are lawyers, nurses, upper management, architects, business owners – while balancing home life and raising children…
“…among all these incredible women, I honestly don’t know any different than to challenge myself. I also think that the company is very family-orientated, with people at its core. That goes a long way.”
Divergent career development pathways
Both Nina and Anja have received career development opportunities to learn, grow, and succeed in many forms. Nina is particularly proud of her six-month secondment in Bern, Switzerland.
“My husband and I packed our things (mid-COVID in 2021)! I was terrified about moving in such an unpredictable time, while also navigating the challenge of navigating life and work in a new country.
“But looking back, it was by far the best experience I’ve had. I grew exponentially, both professionally and personally. Now, I have a fantastic network of colleagues who I call very close friends.”
Anja’s career highlight is her present engagement in Project Banksia.
“In every role I’ve had at CSL, I’ve given it my all. In this project, I’m proud to continue my learning and to have the opportunity to be a member of such a passionate team. I’m really looking forward to the day it all comes together, and we run our first batch.”
Underpinning these achievements has been CSL’s culture of support and recognition.
“I’ve always felt my hard work and loyalty has been recognized, particularly through new job and mentorship opportunities,” says Nina. “Plus, I’ve had some fantastic leaders show me the ropes. Our culture truly fosters retention, which I’m personally very passionate about.”
“CSL definitely recognizes hard work and dedication,” Anja agrees. “I’ve received so much exposure to develop my technical and management skills. In each of my roles, I’ve also had great managers, who’ve always provided support and encouraged me to try new things.”
Final thoughts for other women in STEMM
For others looking to grow their career, the sisters share their best takeaways.
“Network and build your personal brand,” says Nina. “Before, I didn’t understand what this meant… but essentially it’s this: If you weren’t in the room, and someone asked about you, what would you like your colleagues to say?”
“If there’s something you’re striving towards, just go for it!” says Anja.
In her decade-long career at CSL, she’s worked in three departments, with the intention of growing her knowledge and experience in other areas of the business.
“It’s daunting starting a new role – but here, I’ve always found myself surrounded by great teams who’ve been incredibly supportive and helped me find my feet. I always put my hand up for new projects and opportunities to continue learning and gaining experience. So step outside your comfort zone, take on new challenges, and keep developing.
“For me, I’m looking forward to continuing to give my best at CSL. The future’s bright here.”