Women's Month: An interview with Heather Wells
Heather Wells started in the industry as the one and only Clinical Data Manager in Bayer (UK) within three years, she was managing a team of 19 Data Managers including CRF Design staff and programmers. Then, she took maternity leave and the company restructured; she was “pushed” into a quality role for the biometrics team and ended up thoroughly enjoying what had felt like an enforced move. Son number two came along - and yes - there was another reorganisation! This gave her the opportunity to learn all about the clinical trials side of quality.
As the boys grew, Heather wanted to enjoy time with them and therefore became a part-time mother and consultant. The variety and the challenges she faced and the experience she gained made this a very special time; Heather remembered clients asking her to audit sales and marketing teams and translation companies. Her response was always – 'I have never performed that type of audit before are you sure?!' – well clearly, they were as she expanded her skill set.
Heather also lead a small CRO to obtain ISO 9001 accreditation on the first attempt. She also had the challenge of preparing and hosting a couple of MHRA Inspections. As the boys became young men, she saw a permanent role close to home and was fortunate to enjoy the challenges of working for small biotech companies building and managing the quality systems and still learning, this time on the manufacturing side of the business, all the way through to helping to review and check the BLA. She then decided to move back into the CRO world that she had enjoyed as a consultant and there are still new challenges to discover and enjoy.
What got you into life sciences?
Biology was the only subject I excelled in at school; so that was the only choice for university. During the course, I spent a year in the industry working in electron microscopy - I had a great year but realised hands-on science just didn’t motivate me. Having enjoyed the computing side of my Bachelor's degree, I went on to study for a Masters in Biological Computation. This is when I learnt about Clinical Data Management within the Pharmaceutical Industry and the rest is history.
What are your biggest career and personal achievements?
Successfully managing my own consultancy company and learning so much from many very varied challenges (and enjoying the flexibility to be around for the children as needed). Also, completing a marathon when sport just wasn’t part of my life until I was very nearly forty. It felt unachievable but my self-motivation and perseverance got me through the gruelling hours of training and over the finish line.
Who is your role model?
The leaders when I was a member of St John Ambulance, especially Malcom Stewart, who led the Officer Training courses; his clarity of requirements with the empowerment to achieve them; space and environment to be innovative; the support and care when managing things that went less well and he always recognised all that we did. He made every weekend training course fun not just for the participant but also for the leaders.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Rise above all negativity and remember your skills and strengths these will provide the confidence to find your happy place.