How did you get into project management?
I was already an experienced mid-size project manager when I joined PPD (see below for others’ experience).
In a CRO, what are the key aspects of the project manager role?
The PM provides oversight and the connection between function experts – clinical people, regulatory, quality specialists – and the project plan.
The key aspect of the role is to make sure that things are done on time keeping track of finance. CROs are very driven by budgets so there are usually templates that must be followed for this task.
Costs and delivery of client organisation’s exact requirements are very important to them. They regard efficient CRO project managers as very important. The most talented of the latter typically will attend the sales meetings when the CRO is trying to win a big piece of business from a client.
What are the typical challenges for the project manager in a CRO and what strengths do you need?
You will typically be clocking every 15 minutes of your day! Accounting for money is very tight and for the use of the functional specialists. A lean and mean situation! You need to be ruthless with time – metrics are everything. You are constantly risk-assessing.
Also, there are different sorts of contracts with clients; some will use you as a competent service for complete package of work. Others will treat you as ‘servants’, with constant interference, scope creep and many unplanned for changes.
Usually you do not need formal PM qualifications. The latter is more common in the US but not generally in the EU.
To what extent does a CRO PM role prepare you for a move to a Pharma PM role?
It can do. Especially if you have little or no experience, a CRO is a great place to start. If you have a decent CV, you will not need relevant industry experience – you will get training on structure cures, principles and tools.