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Monday, January 5, 2009

How I got here

Today I am reflecting on how I came to be a CRA and thought I would share the specifics of how I ended up where I am today.

I did an internship for the marketing department at a large pharmaceutical company all through college and then went to England my final semester to finish school and earn my degree in Business Management (coursework in Marketing and Computer Science). When I returned to the states I worked full time as a Clinical Project Assistant contractor at a large CRO for a few months doing patient recruitment, supporting the PIs when they had protocol or IVRS questions, managing study materials (CRFs, mailings, etc.), and performing Quality of Life (QOL) assessments to enrolled patients via the telephone. I wanted a permanent position so I joined a large specialty biotech working in commercial field sales support. After a few years, I was up for a promotion and relocation to another state, however, my boyfriend had an offer to move to San Francisco with his employer so I left on good terms and relocated with him.

I had been taking pre-requisites for nursing school before we relocated but eventually decided that stepping out of the workforce for up to 2 years would cost me more than the gains in salary than the RN credentials would give me so I abondoned my plans to get the RN BSN. In the Bay Area, I worked at a small data management firm and then a company that created EDC software. In these position I built databases, developed/programmed edit checks, and validated databases for various studies in multiple therapeutic areas such as oncology, device, cardiac, etc. From there I moved on to an in-house Data Management position and provided support for biostats and managed external vendors. I made connections with the clinical group and networked my way into an open in-house CRA position.

In order to prove my commitment to the CRA career trek, I took CRA training courses at the extension college for the rest of that year. There is no substitute for experience so I had to be prepared to take a pay cut. I decided to approach it like going back to college. I couldn't exactly take out a student loan, so I just managed the best I could and made sacrifices like lowering my contributions to my 401K, living a little more meager, skipping Starbucks, etc. I read a lot of Suze Orman, complained to my girlfriends, and in time I had the experience I needed to merit pay increases and an eventual salary adjustment. I had to ask for all of these things, but fortunately for me, my bosses have been nothing if not overall fair and reasonable.

I travelled both domestically and internationally for that job and I loved it but my primary responsibilities were trial fiscal management, protocol development, and overseeing the contract monitors. I was so eager to be out monitoring more on my own that I moved on to a large CRO and now I travel all the time and love it! Ultimately I want to be an Independent Consultant and eventually provide more Sr. level CRA services. I know it would be a great gig for me because I am experienced in this industry, an excellent communicator, willing and able to travel, tech savvy, and self-motivated but that is still several years down the road.

I hope you find my story helpful if you are trying to get your foot in the door as a CRA. It took me several years of networking and determination but I am thrilled to pieces with my job and wouldn't trade it for anything.

1 comment:

Ellen Downey said...

Dear Nadia,

I am a recruiter, and I just came across your blog. You are a wonderful writer and I read your entries with great interest. I am always fascinated by what makes someone interested in their job and what makes them great at their job. Thank you for shining a light onto that.

I wish you the best in your career and the best for 2009.

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