Taking the Leap – Moving from Pharma to CRO
Moving from a pharmaceutical company to a CRO can be a complex decision to make and candidates can often be apprehensive about the move. To expand on the risks, coupled with the overwhelming positives, here I interview someone who has recently made that transition.
Can you briefly describe your current role?
Working in Project Management at a CRO means that my key focus is to manage standalone projects to ensure each is delivered on time and on budget. Often the projects I oversee are part of a larger business ‘programme’ which means that my project needs to be delivered successfully in line with initial plans or we risk an adverse impact to the overall umbrella programme which my project is a part of.The nature of the role means that the work can be very varied and challenging and I particularly enjoy using my regulatory knowledge, which has proven to be a great advantage.
What made you decide to go to a CRO?
I wanted to make a career change towards project management when the right position became available. The challenge I faced when working in pharma was that every role is very specific and oriented towards certain regulatory tasks where one may find themselves restrictively ‘pigeonholed’ to a certain type of work – if I may say that. Throughout my career I have acquired substantial and varied knowledge and experience in many different aspects that would enable me to be a good PM, but such roles are not easy to find in pharma companies and can be short-lived if you are lucky enough to find one.I am now finally in a role where I can utilise all of my skills and my regulatory knowledge comes as a big bonus. I also understand what my clients want and having previously been the client, it’s nice to know you understand what they need!
What is the best thing about working for a CRO compared to Pharma?
I am fairly new to the CRO world and I am already seeing a big difference in terms of flexibility and exposure to many different areas. The possibilities of where I can grow are very clear to me and I have the freedom to try new things and develop as a professional. Flexibilities in terms of working hours and location are really good, and this provides so much more in terms of work life balance and quality of life. It was a big change and it takes time to get used to it – you are working independently, and expectations are very high. However, if you don’t like change you may at times feel out of your comfort zone – it takes a certain personality to work for a CRO.
What is the worst?
The stress and the pressure is much higher than in pharma, and also the logistics can be complex. It’s like being employed and in demand by two companies with several operating systems, software packages, multiple calendars and you need special skills to handle this and be very well organised to manage your time and deadlines.
The exposure to so many different aspects can be tough to manage, but the benefit is that you will learn a lot more and have more opportunities to grow than in pharma.
Is the pressure and workload as intense as people expect?
Yes, but in a nice way where people are very accommodating. Everything is much faster; the deadlines seem to apply a lot of pressure and there is little to no flexibility on timelines.You need to be prepared but the work is very rewarding and it’s great to see people complete a project with a real sense of accomplishment!
What was the most unexpected thing?
Flexibility and very advanced technology.
Would you recommend it to anyone else?
I would definitely recommend it as there are so many exciting and positive aspects.It can take you a while to adjust but when you do the positives are great. I must say it takes a certain personality to work for CRO, but if you are the right type you will most certainly enjoy it.The flexibility alone in terms of working hours and working from home was a huge draw and contributed to my decision to make the change: a decision that I am very pleased I made!