A Journey of Growth and Success at PSI: Insights from a Principal Clinical Research Associate

This spotlight story explores Monika’s career growth, her appreciation of PSI’s inclusive culture, and offers insights into what influences a successful career.

Describe your role within PSI, the responsibilities you handle on a day-to-day basis, and how your role impacts a clinical trial? 

I am the Principal Clinical Research Associate in Germany. This role entails two primary responsibilities:

  1. In collaboration with the local clinical operations managers, I dedicate half my time to identifying and solving challenges facing our local team. I’m available to offer guidance when local CRAs require additional input regarding general work-related queries. Whether it’s providing personalized training to individuals or conducting training sessions for the entire CRA team in Germany – I’m actively involved. Additionally, I support local Clinical Operations managers in tracking the status of supervised field training, ensuring adherence to our Standard Operating Procedures and undertake supervisory monitoring when necessary. These on-site visits serve multiple purposes: sharing my expertise with junior colleagues, verifying compliance with PSI standards, and gaining firsthand insights into the challenges our sites and monitors face. By addressing these challenges, we can develop solutions and prevent recurrence across other sites and studies.
  2. The second half of my time is devoted to my role as a regional lead in an oncology trial. In this capacity, I oversee various layers of progress towards achieving project milestones while also addressing emerging issues. In essence, I provide support to the Project Manager on one side and the lead monitors on the other. My goal is to ensure the collection of reliable and high-quality study data, all in accordance with ICH-GCP, local regulatory requirements, SOPs, and timelines.

Have you grown in your career with PSI? 

Definitely! When I initially joined PSI as a Clinical Research Associate I (CRA I), I had only about a year of monitoring experience and had conducted a limited number of site visits. My self-confidence was relatively low, and I felt extremely uncomfortable when it came to addressing errors with sites. I often worried that I might be the one at fault rather than them. However, with significant support and encouragement from my colleagues and line manager, I managed to overcome this fear within a few months. The open and inclusive atmosphere fostered an environment where I felt comfortable asking what I perceived to be very basic questions without the fear of judgment.

Over time, I advanced through the roles of CRA II, Senior CRA I, Senior CRA II, and now, seven years later, I hold the position of Principal CRA. Through this journey, I have become more resilient and less easily intimidated. I’ve developed the ability to identify mistakes in a more constructive manner than before. Presently, I play a role in providing guidance and reassurance to my colleagues, which is incredibly fulfilling as it allows me to contribute back to the team. Interestingly, many of the questions I’m asked by my colleagues mirror the ones I encountered myself during my earlier years in a junior role.

What do you find most rewarding about your career at PSI, and how does it align with your personal and professional goals?

Throughout the years marked by the impact of COVID-19, our workload appeared to escalate significantly. Tasks that used to take only 20 minutes to complete on-site now consumed hours due to remote work. Even as we navigate the aftermath, staff shortages at sites continue to pose challenges. To ensure project progress despite these hurdles, a substantial amount of additional effort was required from all parties at PSI. Importantly, I never perceived these extra efforts as going unnoticed. What I find particularly gratifying is the consistent acknowledgment and gratitude I receive from colleagues, my line manager, and the project teams. This daily recognition not only makes me feel valued as an employee but also as an individual.

What skills or qualities do you believe are crucial for someone to excel in their career at PSI, and how have you developed or honed these skills throughout your career?

Effective communication and a service-oriented mindset are crucial factors. I firmly believe that many of the challenges we encounter in our daily work stem from gaps in communication with sites, colleagues, and clients. The smoother our communication of expectations, feedback, and priorities, the more seamless our journey towards achieving our objectives and project success becomes.

Since joining PSI, I’ve been consistently amazed at the high level of teamwork, our capacity to provide and receive well-deserved praise, and the sheer enjoyment of being part of such a cohesive unit.

What aspects of PSI’s culture do you appreciate the most, and how do they contribute to your overall job satisfaction?

Even before my initial start, it was PSI’s personal touch that left a lasting impression on me. Just before Christmas, I had sent my signed contract to work with PSI. A few days later, I received a Christmas card signed by all the individuals I had met and conversed with during my interview. The card conveyed their anticipation of seeing me again soon. This gesture only amplified my excitement for my impending first day at work.

Upon beginning my role, the international ambiance of the Munich office struck me profoundly. Given that I had spent nearly five years living in Oxford, I was feeling nostalgic for that place. Thus, hearing the diverse range of English accents resonating throughout the office brought a sense of familiarity. This sentiment was further magnified by our global operations. Connecting with colleagues from around the world and gaining insights from their perspectives consistently broadens my understanding.

I also find the approach to handling mistakes at PSI to be exceptional. Instead of focusing on punitive measures for those responsible, the emphasis is placed on preventing such errors from recurring. This differs from my previous experiences. Equally noteworthy is the open atmosphere that encourages individuals to openly acknowledge any missteps. This level of transparency is truly unparalleled.

What excites you about your career with PSI? 

Reflecting on my journey, I can clearly trace my evolution from where I began to where I am today. In just seven years, I have transformed into a recognized expert in my field. Along the way, I encountered a variety of challenges, such as supporting inspections in a study I wasn’t initially assigned to, at sites I hadn’t previously worked with. Remarkably, not only did I navigate these situations successfully, but I emerged even stronger than when I entered them.

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities that allowed me to experience these challenges and discover my capabilities and potential. It’s enlightening to witness what I can accomplish when the need arises. While I wish more individuals could gain similar experiences, I acknowledge that hindsight often makes looking back easier than peering into the future. If given the choice, I’m uncertain whether I would have willingly selected such challenges, yet I’m ultimately thankful for the growth they facilitated.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career with PSI? 

Give it a shot! If you thrive on being part of a collaborative team and are enthusiastic about learning something new each day, this could be the perfect fit for you. I personally feel valued for who I am, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t experience the same here.

Are you looking to take the next step in your career? Learn what makes PSI so unique, and check out our open positions.