Why I became a CRA
I’ve been a CRA for a decade so hopefully that puts me in a good position to explain why I chose this career (and why I’m glad I did!).
Like many others in this industry I have a science degree, in Microbiology. During my time completing my degree I hadn’t heard a great deal about clinical studies so I decided to take a role working in a lab once I completed my course. However, it turned out this wasn’t the right working environment for me as I found it quite an isolating experience. I realised that I wanted to work with people. Although I hadn’t had much exposure to clinical studies whilst at university, I had a personal connection with if after my mother became ill and participated in a clinical trial. I used to accompany her as part of this and I took full advantage of being in this environment to talk to everyone involved in it. Seeing first-hand how the study worked gave me an appreciation for how incredibly important clinical research is and I realised that I had the right qualifications to follow this path.
I started looking into the opportunities that were out there and decided to apply for a role as a CRA Assistant with ICON. I still wasn’t sure how it would all work so in addition to this I called up the HR team to see what else I could discover and how I could set myself apart from the others who were applying. They gave me further details and were impressed with my initiative. After a successful interview process I joined the company. As I progressed within this industry what I quickly came to learn that personality and behaviour are what really counts in this area, even more than experience. You’re tested to see if you can find mistakes and asked about how you would deal with conflict – in the role of CRA it’s crucial that you’re highly adept at spotting mistakes and working with people to address and alleviate them.
Being a CRA really is a job where you have to be a people person. Before taking on this role I wouldn’t have described myself that way but I discovered that I actually really like the interaction and working closely with my team to achieve goals.
There are a number of things that appealed to me as I became a CRA. First of all I liked the flexibility – you can work from a number of different locations, I particularly enjoy working from home when I can. The hours can be long but this is paid off by the fact you are judged on output instead of the number of hours you’ve been sat at a desk. I also like the feeling of being part of something! On a study you’re all working together towards a common goal: to get a drug to market, and this creates a real sense of camaraderie. There’s an incredible sense of satisfaction that comes with finally seeing a drug you’ve worked so hard for years on come to market and knowing that it’s going to improve the quality of life for a number of people. I do particularly like the Phase I of a project though, right at the beginning, because you see quick results, not something you generally see in this industry.
There are also the travel perks, it’s definitely the right role for someone who enjoys moving around and experiencing different working atmospheres. This is also backed up by the competitive wage – which certainly was another of the factors that drew me in when I started. I also like the fact that the CRO industry is very balanced, gender-wise, it’s certainly very welcoming to women, which can sometimes be lacking in other areas of the scientific industry.
Finally, and I think most importantly for me, I’m passionate about being a patient advocate. It may be because of the way I was introduced to the industry from a patient perspective via my mother but I keep patients at the heart of everything I do. My colleagues and I know that everything we’re working towards should be for the benefit of patients.
I’ve learned a lot in the last ten years too. Quite often drugs that you’ve spent years working with don’t get to marketing, which can be dispiriting but ultimately it’s all about quality – I only want the right drugs to go to market. I mentioned that I enjoyed the speed of a Phase I project but Phase II and III require a different perspective - you really need a long term vision with them and a sense of patience as they progress.
My top tip for those looking to become a CRA: it’s a small industry and everyone knows each other. Keep that in mind in terms of how you treat those around you as you will almost certainly work with them again at some point in the future!
The future of the industry is really interesting at the moment as we start to move increasingly towards drugs based on individual genetic makeup. It’s a fascinating industry to be part of and I’m looking forward to continuing my career in it.
You can learn more about our current CRA roles here.