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June 01, 2021

Q&A with Apotex Inc.’s Inventor Mentors

Denise Tran, Planner, New Product Launch, Apotex Inc.

What’s your top tip for identifying a creative solution to a real-life problem? What’s one example of a time you came up with a creative solution to a real-life problem?

Just because something already works or is ‘good enough’ doesn’t mean it can’t be improved on or revamped completely. Think to yourself: if it could be done better, you can take the first steps in the changes that you want to see.

For example, at my workplace we used to take physical measurements of inventory and catalogued the data for logistics and warehouse purposes – labour intensive and not so time-efficient. In a collaborative effort, this manual process has since been updated to an automated system – just by confirming the components that make up the finished good, the software will automatically aggregate and provide the measurements and weight of the finished product as well as at each stage of packaging. It did take some time to develop initially, but has been a big time-saver in the long run!

What advice would you give your middle-school self? Consider how the skills you learned when you were younger influenced your career path.

As much as you can, try something new! You’ll never know what works for you unless you give it a go. When you actively look for new experiences, your way of thinking changes – you become more adaptable and train yourself to see problems in a new light.

Don’t be afraid if you fail the first (or even the twentieth) time. Our successes and pitfalls are all learning experiences, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Listen to what others have to say and accept critiques. Sometimes, your biggest challenges or ‘failures’ can become the platforms to new, creative ideas.
 
Kajal Palan, Sr. Director, Operations Finance & Strategy, Apotex

What’s your top tip for identifying a creative solution to a real-life problem? What’s one example of a time you came up with a creative solution to a real-life problem?

When innovating, always ask yourself what problem you're trying to solve. Is there a real need for it? Don't just innovate because you have an idea and think others will like it too.
For example, we had some products we could make in three different factories. So how do I choose where to make them? What if none of the factories can make all the products I want so I need to select at least two?
 
I had to come up with a process optimization to help me solve the problem of what to make and where to make it. That is neat, because I saved a lot of money for my company by finding the best solution. And we can use this app again and again. Cool!”

What advice would you give your middle-school self? Consider how the skills you learned when you were younger influenced your career path.

One piece of advice I would give my middle-school self is to learn chess at a young age. Chess helps your brain to understand the big picture. What are your options? What should be your next move? How will your opponent react? This is strategy. When you learn to think like this, you will learn to anticipate problems and look for solutions. Some people focus on the problems. Others focus on solutions. That is the difference.
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