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‘I’ve found what I was looking for:’ A Story of Career Success in Athlone

Roberto Caiffa was recently promoted to pharmaceutical and device testing lab manager at PPD ® Laboratories GMP laboratory in Athlone, Ireland. Since joining PPD over four years ago, he has constantly demonstrated his ability to build high performing teams that deliver top-quality service for our customers. Roberto is always positive, proactive and ready to help. His story of determination and dedication is truly inspiring.

Entering the Challenging Lab World

At just 19 years old, Roberto started his career in a chemical lab and “fell in love with it.” Since then he has continued working and studying in chemical environments. In 2001, Roberto completed, with honour, a degree in Quality Controls/Assurance in Pharmaceutical Industry.

“I approached the pharma world in 2002,” Roberto said. “I have never changed the field again.”

Relocating to Ireland – A Dream Come True

After working 20 years in Italy, Roberto and his wife started dreaming about relocating to the Emerald Country.

“In 2011, we visited Ireland for the first time,” Roberto explained. “We fell in love with the lovely atmosphere, the friendly people and the fantastic perspectives of a fast-growing economy — especially for the pharma world.

We thought this was only a dream, though, given the life changes related to such a relocation scenario and considering we both were working on a permanent contract in Italy.”

Day by day, Roberto and his wife focused to define their dream, exploring chances and tailoring them to become real. Roberto applied for several different positions and landed a position for a big pharma company in Ireland in February 2015.

“My daughter was only four at the time, and she didn’t know even a single word in English – quite like me,” Roberto said. “My wife and I had to make a ‘brave’ choice on her behalf as well, accounting for future perspective and integration challenges. The decision was made — we went out of our comfort zone and resigned from our permanent positions in Italy.”

Beginning their lives in a new country was both challenging and rewarding for the Caiffa family.

“We faced language differences. It took time to have integration in the local community. Finding accommodation, setting up a bank account and PPS number were the first challenges in the new land. Going in a new international work environment was difficult too but was also a great piece of motivation for us.”

Despite the obstacles they faced, the Caiffas felt all the effort was worth it.

From Associate Research Scientist to Lab Manager

Even though Roberto had landed a position in his dream country, he hadn’t quite found what he was searching for. He kept looking at pharma opportunities and came across a position with PPD, based in Athlone, during his search. At the time, Roberto was living in Dublin, but that didn’t stop him from applying.

“Athlone happens to be a lovely town, right in the center of the Emerald Country,” Roberto said.

He had an interview and landed the role of an associate research scientist.

“When I started at PPD, I realized that our company is placed in the nice and strategic location of the Athlone town,” Roberto explained. “Athlone’s accessibility to the rest of the Emerald Country is certainly a plus. We are in the middle of the country, right on the motorway exit and circa an hour from the Dublin airport, so travel is easy from here. These, along with the more affordable cost of life (compared with some other Ireland’s locations), can be considered a key factor in improving the quality of life. My small family and I love it.”

Roberto pictured with a scientist from the biopharmaceutical team. Photo was taken prior to COVID-19.
Roberto pictured with a scientist from the biopharmaceutical team.
Photo was taken prior to COVID-19.

Looking back on his first day at PPD in February 2016, Roberto recalls being excited about the new professional challenges in his career path. Since then, he has been exposed to state-of-the-art analytical lab technologies in the pharma environment, as well as supporting clients on several different aspects of the drug life cycle.

“This variety has genuinely enhanced my passion for working in the pharma world,” Roberto said. “Step by step, day by day, challenge by challenge and with invaluable support given from the PPD management and all my colleagues, I progressed up to a lab manager, effective March 2020.”

Roberto credits the ongoing learning opportunities at PPD for driving his passion to help a multitude of patients worldwide.

“Even after more than 20 years spent in the lab, I have never stopped learning,” Roberto said. “This gives me a genuine boost every single day. I am sitting at my desk in PPD, and from here I am trying to support my team, the management and the whole company to deliver the best contract research organization (CRO) services possible and support patients worldwide. It is amazing how one person among thousands of employees worldwide can make a difference and can feel that their day-to-day work links with a bigger purpose —helping to improve patients’ health.”

A message from Roberto:

The level of commitment and the invaluable link between taking care of their employees and delivering life-changing therapies is one of the best professional values I found working with the company.

The invaluable team spirit I have found here in PPD, was something completely new to my career history. The “we are one PPD” approach is a true win factor for a continuously growing CRO like PPD.

Regardless of the workload we are experiencing, when I have questions, problems or concerns, my team, my manager and the entire PPD structure is always there for me, ready to support me so that “we are one PPD” is a real thing, not just a principle on paper. The PPD team spirit is certainly a huge plus when working with so many deadlines and multiple clients every day.

Now, I am more than four years here in PPD, and I am satisfied that I keep facing so many motivating and interesting professional challenges each day. A big thank you again to Grace Barret, Emma Cooney and Emma Proud who interviewed me in 2015 and gave me the invaluable opportunity to join PPD in February 2016. I can finally say, “I’ve found what I was looking for!”

To consider a career path with PPD ® Laboratories GMP lab teams located in Athlone, Ireland, and Middleton, Wisconsin, U.S., explore available opportunities and apply online at