Inspirational scientist spent a decade cleaning

A woman who used to empty her boss’ bin is now a senior scientist at the business she used to clean.

Stacey Walker, 34, was a cleaner for 10 years, often working seven days a week to support her young family. She was employed by a company which had a contract with the Wilton Centre – near her home in Redcar – and used to clean the offices of one of the occupiers, Absolute Antibody. Even though Stacey had no background in science, the more she visited Absolute Antibody the more interested she became.  Eventually she plucked up to the courage to ask the boss – Dr Catherine Bladen – if there were any jobs.

“It was a spur of the moment thing,” said Stacey.  “I didn’t really have any idea what I was walking into.  I thought I’m just going to ask Catherine and thankfully she gave me the chance.”

After a successful interview Stacey was recruited as a laboratory technician in 2016 and she has never looked back.  She has been promoted several times and is now a Senior Scientist and Team Leader.

Her story was shared with Year 7 and 8 girls on a school trip to the Wilton Centre.  Claire Morton, the Centre’s Leasing and Assistant Asset Manager, said: “I’m sure it will inspire them and other young people. There are more than 50 companies at the Wilton Centre and there are so many exciting opportunities: whether you’re leaving school, finishing university or – like Stacey – looking for a complete change of direction.”

Dr Bladen, Absolute Antibody’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “What Stacey’s proven beyond a reasonable doubt is that given the chance people can flourish to levels that they probably thought they could never achieve. She’s not afraid to ask questions and that’s how you learn.”

She added: “There was no ego involved in the training.  Stacey was willing to learn everything from scratch and I think that’s one of the reasons she’s done so well so quickly.”

Young scientists joining Absolute Antibody are sent to see her soon after they start.  “She has a particular skill for training people in a way that they really understand what’s happening.  She is a real asset for this company,” said Dr Bladen, who described how Stacey also played a crucial role during the pandemic.

She was just one of five people coming in to work as Absolute Antibody developed antibodies that were used in testing kits and sold to scientists working on vaccines. Stacey said she only studied science at GCSE because she needed the qualification to go to college. There she took a course in computer studies but, by now a young mum, decided a career in IT was not for her.

“I didn’t know what to do.  You’re trying to find yourself, as well as be a parent, and earn money because you’ve got a house to run and children to look after,” said Stacey.

That is why she took up cleaning, a job she loved, until her growing and unexpected interest in science opened a new door.

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