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Progressing as a CRA with ICON

Posting date: 23/05/2023
Author: Inside ICON

How to progress as a Clinical Research Associate

To thrive as a Clinical Research Associate (CRA), it is imperative to cultivate a multifaceted skill set and demonstrate unwavering commitment to excellence. 

Senior CRA, Yemi Moses, recounts her development and shares her career ambitions with ICON after joining from a smaller CRO.

Joining the clinical research industry

Before I worked in clinical research, I taught for several years, having gained my BSc in Human Sciences. However, I was drawn into clinical research and saw an opportunity to work as a Clinical Trials Assistant (CTA) in Pennsylvania. It was a great introduction to clinical research and I learnt quickly about the various methodologies and procedures during clinical trials. After some time as a CTA, I was still motivated to work in clinical research and decided to pursue a career in it. I saw an opportunity as a CRA I within my company and was quick to apply. 

As career development has always been important to me, I took this time to learn and grow as a CRA as much as I could. When a CRA II opportunity opened up a couple of years later, I knew that I needed to challenge myself, and applied for the position. Again, I excelled at this position and knew that the sky was the limit. At a certain point, and after years with my company, I became interested in working for a larger CRO. As I was already aware of ICON’s influence and reputation in the industry, I was motivated to apply here, and was hired!

Becoming a CRA with ICON

My background had put me in good stead to be a CRA II so I was confident of developing quickly. That said, the processes, programmes and management systems were all very different to my previous workplace – it was apparent that ICON’s size required a noticeably different approach to coordinating trials across multiple areas and countries. 

The first six months or so were spent balancing and delivering the expectations and requirements of being a CRA with ICON and becoming accomplished according to ICON’s standards. The size and scope of ICON mean that there are always new programmes to get to grips with depending on what trial or study you are working on, so I found that I was constantly learning from others, as well as helping others learn the programmes that I was most familiar with.

This approach wouldn’t have been possible without having a strong team and management structure in place, and it’s because of that that my team has been so successful. To date, we’re all very open about providing assistance to others, no matter what level of seniority. I often find myself showing other CRAs how to use certain aspects of a particular programme, or vice versa – it’s a lot quicker and a more efficient way of knowledge-sharing than going through the managerial structure, and it also builds relationships within the teams.

Progressing as a CRA

After sixteen months with ICON, I was promoted to a Senior CRA, following the natural career progression. The training programmes that ICON offers definitely helped me speed up my readiness to become a Senior CRA – while many of the training modules are mandatory, the optional ones can really help you round out your ability in clinical research. For example, my study-based training provided me with an excellent insight into that subsector, while if I have a particular interest in a certain aspect of clinical research, I can log onto iLearn – ICON’s online learning system - and look for that course, without having to have it assigned to me by my manager.

I think that the managers at ICON play a huge role in developing CRAs. I was proactive in reaching out to him and found him to be an enthusiastic and experienced mentor. I was very open with him about my ambitions as a CRA and we meet regularly to discuss my development. He’s been able to offer me advice about any specific area that I need to understand or learn, as well as talk about opportunities down the line. 

Within a couple of years, I think I’ll be ready for a management position and a lot of that is due to the guidance I’ve been given, as well as my natural thirst for improvement! The courses I can take through iLearn definitely help, but I can’t recommend enough the importance of one-to-one contact with someone who is willing to help. What also helps is the very structured career path of a CRA which has been tried and tested for decades – it means I can plan not just one or two years ahead, but much further.

What happens next?

Within clinical research, I’m open to becoming a project manager or a clinical trials manager, so I don’t feel there’s a rush to become something I’m not completely ready for. It’s best for both personal and professional development to acquire the necessary skills first, rather than applying for something completely out of my comfort zone.

My journey with ICON has been great so far – the support from my clinical and CRAM teams has been fantastic. The relationships I’ve formed with them have been key to not only developing as a CRA but also enjoying my work – something often overlooked in large companies. I’m eager to keep learning and am excited about what’s to come!

Interested in joining ICON as a CRA?

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