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Manufacturing Solutions: Get to know Eli Lilly exec and Krannert alumna Karen Harris (BSIM ’92)

Friday, December 4, 2020

Karen Harris

Karen Harris is the Vice President and Information Officer of Manufacturing and Quality for Eli Lilly and Company. She joined Lilly in 2000 and is currently leading the company’s Information and Digital Solutions (IDS) Organization supporting the Global Manufacturing and Quality Organizations worldwide.

Why did you choose to attend Purdue and the Krannert School?

Growing up in Indiana, I always knew what a strong STEM school Purdue was as well as its national rankings. I actually was accepted into Purdue’s engineering program and IU’s business school. My honors calculus teacher in high school shared information with me on the Industrial Management program at Purdue and I felt it was the perfect blend of engineering and business. My parents both encouraged me from an early age that I could do whatever I set my mind to, and I worked hard to achieve academically as well as in sports. I was fortunate to have such encouragement in my formative years pushing me to take the most challenging honors curriculums.

What are your favorite memories of your time as a student?

I absolutely loved my time at Purdue. I was in the Delta Delta Delta sorority and made many friends as well as served on leadership positions on the sorority board. I loyally attended Purdue football and basketball games and played on several intramural teams.

I met my husband in the first three weeks of my freshman year and dated throughout college. I enjoyed my time at Krannert and was active in many clubs as well as received a tuition scholarship for my last few years of school. I was fortunate enough to have an internship with United Technologies Carrier Corporation in Tyler, Texas, between my junior and senior years that gave me a chance for hands-on application of my studies.

How did Purdue and Krannert prepare you for your career?

Academically I was very well prepared. I started off with a strong foundation in business and manufacturing. From a leadership perspective, I had many opportunities to lead via various clubs as well as through my sorority. I also found my internship after my junior year to be quite beneficial.

What led you to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry?

After graduating from Purdue, I accepted a position at a firm as an enterprise resource planning systems consultant specializing in manufacturing and distribution areas. I spent almost eight years there, loved it, and was able to work with many different manufacturing companies across different industries throughout the United States. I was drawn to the mission of saving and improving lives around the world and was fortunate enough to enter the pharmaceutical industry full time 20 years ago.

How important is data analytics to your job and the industry?

Data and analytics are extremely important. With the transformation that we are experiencing right now, so much of what we do is digitized. As we all run our businesses, data is as an important an asset as the products we actually make. Leveraging analytics to provide insights on our data is transforming our companies. Roles of the future will all need to have a foundation in data and analytics, not just IT.

What advice do you have for current students?

First, have fun and enjoy your time at Purdue as you are at a unique point in your life. Learn as much as you can but know you will need to be a lifelong learner, continuously growing and developing yourself. Do things beyond academics to grow your leadership and collaboration skills.  Work hard to obtain a summer internship so you can get a feel for what a job in your field entails. Realize that all of us have had failures in our lives, no one is perfect and it is about picking yourself back up and learning from it. Lastly, be open to opportunities and trying new things, as you may find a passion you never knew you had!