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How to excel as a CRA in a Clinical Research Organisation

Brazil-based CRA II Debora Oh shares her tips on how to become a great CRA and provides an insight into life at ICON.

Since joining ICON in 2013, I’ve progressed from a CRA I to II. In that time I’ve learnt a lot about how best to develop and plan my future!

My background

I studied Pharmacy and Biochemistry in Universidade de São Paulo. During my study, I also worked as a Clinical Trials Assistant, allowing me to gain a strong level of experience in the clinical research industry. I received a hands-on idea of what it’s like to work in the sector, putting me in a good position after graduation. I then studied a phD in Management – I strongly believe in the positive effects of good management so I was keen to discover more in this area.

After I graduated, I become a Clinical Research Associate for a year before joining ICON, also as a CRA I. It’s here that I really began to develop and am now proud to have become a CRA II after about a year and a half.

How to develop

The key skills to become a good CRA are definitely organisation and a will to learn! To succeed, you really need to be able to organise your own schedule and fill it with activities that will balance your working week. Good organisation isn’t only helpful for working as a CRA, but also for your personal life. When you’re travelling between sites and have a period of time away from home, it’s important to plan in advance to ensure you can see friends and family and visit the places you’d like to go.

My time as a Clinical Trials Assistant while I was studying was very helpful as it confirmed to me that I really wanted to join the industry. Having contact with sites and project managers was beneficial and it gave me an authentic ‘behind the scenes’ experience!

One piece of advice

If I had to give one piece of advice for anyone looking to progress as a CRA, it would be to take as many training opportunities as possible. Most of the activities we do are online or via teleconferences, meaning a lot of training can be done in your downtime or when it’s more convenient for you. If you are willing to learn as much as you can, it’s possible to train yourself in your spare time and get ahead of the competition.

ICON’s training

The quality of training with ICON is exceptional – the structured programme is really high-quality and it’s a lot more dynamic than most: we have interactive activities and sessions that are very engaging and better than just watching presentations or reading various materials. It also helps to remember everything more easily! We have a number of refresh courses that we are obliged to take every couple of years to ensure everything remains fresh. We’re also notified about the upcoming training courses to allow us to factor them into our schedules or figure out which ones we can or can’t attend.

While a lot of the training is mandatory, there are many optional or recommended training modules. You should take as many as you possibly can! It’s important for not only your ability but also confidence as a CRA.

My future with ICON

I hope to become a manager within 3-4 years’ time. For now, I just want to work in my current role and learn more about my sector so I can use that experience and knowledge to be a good manager when the time comes. I’d like it to be within clinical trials, rather than project management, as I enjoy the contact with protocol, sites and CRAs. I would also be able to do this home-based, which is a helpful benefit.

Last word

I couldn’t recommend ICON more as an employer – I hope you do consider joining me here. My colleagues here are fantastic and it’s a privilege to work with so many talented people from so many different countries. The team culture helps keep you motivated and it means everyone can learn from each other all the time as well as enjoy every aspect of work.

Are you interested in joining ICON as a CRA? You can check our current clinical research associate vacancies here.

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