What led you to this role? Why did you choose to join GSK?
I’ve been at GSK since 1989, starting as a Research Scientist in RNA Technologies in Greenford before moving into team leadership roles in DNA Sequencing and then the Molecular Target Analysis team. I became a Clinical Study Specialist in May 2005 and was recently promoted to Head, Clinical Support for UK & Ireland Pharmaceuticals. I now manage a team of Clinical Study Associates to ensure early and late phase clinical trials are conducted to company and international requirements.
The bottom line is that if we want to help the patients and the population we need to help each other to get drugs to patients. When we test drugs for patients around the world we try to do it in the safest way possible. Everyone, including volunteers within our clinical trials, is treated with high esteem and respect, ensuring their safety. Delivering safe drugs and health support to patients means a lot to me. I became deaf when I was seven years old and I don’t want anyone else to experience the kinds of things I’ve gone through.
When you work here, what strikes you is just how focused people are on getting the job done. There’s a very supportive environment here. We all pull together to get the project off the ground and it’s important to make the right connections and agreements. Once the connections are made, teams will bend over backwards and work as hard as possible to get things moving and make the project a success. I really like that approach.
Tell us a bit about the type of work you’re doing at the moment; what are your day-to-day tasks?
My role is very interactive. I talk to people around the world almost every day. Nearly all my communication is via Skype and email, and we work across time zones and company divides – we basically work together as one big team, whether it’s internal people or strategic partners outside GSK. I sit in an open-plan environment, alongside people who have varying skills and work on different projects, which is incredibly valuable.
How do you manage your disability at work?
When I started out working in the lab, some meetings were a bit of a challenge because of my deafness. I found myself lip-reading and then following up later, although sometimes close colleagues sat in meetings and typed up the conversations. As my career progressed and I moved across to Clinical, it became more and more important for me to be able to follow meetings. Consequently, about five years ago, I got in touch with one of the Occupational Health Nurses who found the right help for me. I started using a media company, which our CEO’s office had used frequently, to help me with meetings and communication.
In 2015, as a result of my diverse interactions across the company and my increasing network, I was invited to help make a film for our global online learning platform as part of the Write Right Programme, on the ‘Catch, Connect and Clarify’ principle – based on my experience as a lip reader.
What is your organisation’s approach to disability?
Looking back, as a big company that has science at its heart, GSK was the place for me but transferring across from my previous job in academia was a big leap. Building my network was crucial. No one held me back or stopped me finding out what was needed, but the culture was a little different – a little more focused on results. I quickly gained my confidence in the new environment and, with a supportive network around me, I was able to do just as well, if not better, than when I was in academia.
I would definitely recommend GSK to others – it’s not a scary corporate world, but a supportive environment in which there is the possibility of making projects work. By connecting with people I’ve grown in ways I didn’t know I was capable of and I’ve also been a mentor, helping others to discover their inner strengths and progress their careers. In my experience, the company will do whatever it can to support you to perform your role as well as you can, and the emphasis we place on networking creates plenty of possibilities for an internal move.