SEC awarded prestigious bronze accreditation from IAOCR

IAOCR logo - with wordingSEC is proud and delighted to confirm it has obtained bronze Workforce Quality Accreditation status from the IAOCR, the accrediting organization for the international clinical research industry. SEC is the first supply chain recruitment business to receive the award globally.

Following an extensive consultation spanning 2016 and the beginning of 2017, including a rigorous process of staff interviews, focus groups and review of processes and documentation internally at SEC by the IAOCR assessors, bronze status was confirmed in March this year.

The Workforce Quality Accreditation was developed by the independent IAOCR in collaboration with industry experts in response to demand from clinical research organizations (CROs) and pharmaceutical companies. The Accreditation is a seven-step process that recognizes and awards globally consistent and transparent systems that have good workforce quality practices in place.

Speaking of the award, Chief Executive Stuart Britton said “We are absolutely delighted to be the first recruitment partner to have achieved this well recognised mark of distinction in the life sciences sector. The award of bronze status demonstrates our commitment to delivering extraordinary results for our customers through the highest professional standards.

But for us this is only the start of our journey. We want to keep demonstrating our level of professional expertise and the work to obtain silver status is already underway”

Jacqueline Johnson North, Chief Executive Officer of IAOCR, said “SEC is a great place to work – the company has a clear and consistent workforce strategy, ensuring that employees feel valued and fully engaged. SEC has achieved the Bronze Workforce Quality Accreditation and it’s clear their values are role modelled from the top. They have developed robust and innovative processes that enable success at an individual and organizational level.”

The IAOCR Workforce Quality Accreditation recognizes four levels of accreditation, including foundational elements of quality. These characteristics must be verified to achieve accreditation in the following order:

  • Foundation – Company has accurate job descriptions and employees have access to core training for technical skills required to conduct quality clinical research
  • Bronze – Company has a proven “red flag” system for identifying and addressing lack of competence in high risk areas as well as a robust and systematic performance management system for employees
  • Silver – Company demonstrates employee engagement is an organizational priority; vision, values, goals and objectives are communicated across the organization; and the company invests in developing role-appropriate skills.
  • Gold – Competence of employees is verified against core global standards and 100 percent of clinical operations personnel undergo independent competence assessments within 12 months of entering a new role.

Interested in working with SEC? Give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7255 6600 or email

The impact of Brexit on the drug safety market

Hatty – our resident Drug Safety specialist at #TeamSEC – gives us an insight in to some of the developments in the drug safety market and how the relocation of the European Medicines Agency could potentially have an impact.

The possible impact of Brexit and its wide ranging ramifications on the pharmaceutical industry have been well documented and have certainly taken up a lot of column inches both online and offline, but I thought I would take some time to talk specifically about one part of the life sciences industry that I focus on, which is in pharmacovigilance and drug safety specifically.

Having spent a lot of time talking to employers and candidates in this space, it’s clear that the uncertainty is having an impact for some employers, with some already taking the decision to move their Qualified Person Responsible for Pharmacovigilance (QPPV) outside of the UK once the Brexit negotiations have concluded. I have heard and read that there are anything up to around 80% of QPPVs that are based in the UK for most of the life sciences industry but with Article 8, Directive 2001/83/EC and Article 24, Directive 2001/83/EC of the European Parliament on the Community code relating to medicinal products for human use stating that your QPPV has to be based in the EEA, it is understandable that many pharmaceutical companies are starting to look very closely at longer term strategic talent plans.

As we understand there is a lot of knowledge and very good people who work as QPPVs in the UK but when the decision of where the European Medicines Agency will relocate to is made, it too will have a huge impact on the planning of many of the employers that I speak to.

There will still be opportunities both within the UK and in Europe however, which is why working with a European-based recruitment partner could be very important. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK for example, are saying that they are expecting a local UK-based QPPV to operate within pharmaceutical companies, which means new roles will need to be created for pharma companies operating in the UK. So whilst there is concern amongst employers and candidates given additional potential costs of updating their pharmacovigilance system master file (PSMF), as well as establishing a European/UK QPPV – there will be opportunities.

It also means that those willing to relocate will become quite a precious commodity. Already at SEC we’ve seen some pharmaceutical companies hiring QPPVS on a permanent basis in countries such as Spain, Germany and Sweden (so to get ahead of the curve and secure the best talent). We have also seen CROs investing in additional QPPVs who are home based in countries such as the Nordics so they can be available to clients when companies need to outsource these activities on an interim basis and until the EMA headquarters are known there is an increasing trend in this, as well as home-based QPPVs.

What is clear is that a lot of the future of this particular niche skillset is dependent on where the decision of the EMA relocation takes place, but in the meantime there is somewhat of a ‘war for skills’ going on. Pharmaceutical companies are looking ahead in an attempt to get the best possible QPPVs in before Brexit takes place and as a result we’re also seeing the importance of getting the right salary and benefits package in place. Companies that can find a good QPPV who is willing to relocate will be desperate to hold on to them, so competition in the market is sure to be strong given the scarcity of talent available. Having said that, most people don’t want to make any decisions until after the decision on the EMA relocation, as that is where most pharmaceutical companies will want their QPPVs to be based.

One thing’s for sure – the decision of the EMA can’t come quickly enough for many candidates in this market. It will provide more clarity on where most pharmaceutical companies – especially those smaller companies who may not have multiple sites across multiple countries – move to and will create a clearer indication on what some of the pharmaceutical companies will need to do to get their operations up and ready in time for the British exit from the EU.

From an SEC perspective I must declare our hand, because as a European provider of talent with networks across all European countries and speaking over 21 different languages, we are here to adapt to the needs of the pharmaceutical, biotech and CRO companies that we work with. So if you’re a candidate reading this and concerned about where your career is going, or if you’re an employer looking for strategic advice on competitive packages in the market, give me a call on +44 (0 20 7255 6600 or email me at


Pandora’s box of ROI – a recruitment marketers quest

Ok, so I’m sat at my desk on a Thursday lunchtime, having just spent an hour trying to work out the true ‘cost per hire’ of some of the placements we’ve made at SEC since the beginning of the year. I’ve got my marketing budget spreadsheet open and Broadbean (multi-job posting tool for those that don’t know) primed and ready to review some of the job boards and effectiveness of the consultants’ advertising, as well as my Bullhorn (our company CRM) source tracking report minimised on my desktop ready to be referenced. We’ve spent a fair few months talking to the sales team about making accurate source tracking a key part of their processes and they’re all doing a pretty good job at filling in the details accurately, I have to say.

So now it’s just a case of putting all of those numbers together to work out the average values of placements, the cost of the job board, or the website costs, or LinkedIn Recruiter licences, right? Simples, right?

Hmm, you’d think so, but it’s not quite as easy as that.

That’s where Rich, our loveable IT manager, who sits near me enters this particular story. You see Rich is a stickler for detail and as I’m sure he won’t mind me pointing out, he loves to explain that detail in…well…more detail. I was chatting through this particular ROI review I was looking. Rich listened intently, throwing in the occasional nod, before pausing in his philosophical way and asking me “But have we thought about the desk costs in those total costs? You know, the cost of running the PCs, phone lines, internet, etc?” he says. And it’s at that point that Pandora’s box creaks open and once Rich and I have had a peak in to the great abyss, we know there’s a heck a lot of other considerations to be made before we can count the true ROI and cost of a placement made.

What about the cost of having a consultant man that desk? or the fact that they use Broadbean? Or that some of them will have spent hours sourcing and headhunting for a role, whilst others might have had a relatively streamlined process because perhaps they wrote an effective job ad that got a load of great responses? Some have access to job boards that others don’t, because it’s not relevant to their market, so how do we calculate that? And what about the fact that consultants, resourcers, sales managers all earn different salaries? And their different commission structures? How can you accurately measure the cost of a hire on a macro, company-wide basis when there are so many variables that need to be taken in to consideration?

It’s not only that though. What about the work that was needed to bring in that particular client beforehand? The pitch from our CEO and Strategic Key Accounts Director, the prep for the pitch, the meetings, the analysis, etc, all before we’ve even got to the point of the hiring manager firing across that initial spec to one of our team?

I got a bit of a headache thinking about it if I’m honest. The ten year old version of me wanted to throw down my calculator and tell Rich I’d had enough and was going home to watch Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors. But the adult in me knew that it would only irk me more if I didn’t at least have a go at finding a workable solution (also that Jayce wasn’t on TV any more, sadly).

I came to the conclusion that the reality of any recruitment business, is that determining exact value of ROI either takes a very very  long time to work out the value of every single placement, or you have to make some assumptions and work out some mean averages for your business if you want to be able to have a pretty good guess at determining the exact ROI on your activity.

But more than that, and my central point to this cobbled together collective of thoughts, is that you need to make sure you have a pretty darn good relationship with your sales floor as a marketer. Because that is what is going to get you as close to determining true ROI as you can possibly be. In my instance it was about working out how many hours – through physical conversations and discussions with multiple people on the sales floor – our people spend making sure they can get the right candidate for the role they are working on.

It turns out a lot.

There’s a lot of work that goes behind that candidate rocking up for their first interview and quantifying that is no easy task because there are a lot of component parts. But by spending the time with the consultants, by digging deep in to their processes, I was able to get some really good insight in to their time and also start to put some actual numbers on the ROI we generate as a business when we make a sale.

And that is probably one of the best pieces of advice I could give to any marketer, anywhere, in any industry. Get close to your sales floor. Talk to them all the time. Ask them for help. Get them to provide you with intel. Develop good relationships and make sure you leverage those relationships when you’re looking for qualitative or quantitative data to support your work. If you do you’ll find that despite the fact some of them are as busy as you, if you’ve got a good enough working relationship then they’ll be as happy to help you as you are to be helped.

There will be some who may be reading this and thinking “alright for you mate, but you work for a smaller company who has one office where you can walk to people’s desks to ask them, but my company are on multiple sites and I’m based at head office”. Well, unto thee I say merrily, that I’ve done that too and developing relationships with certain advocates in branches across the land helped me to no end. In one of my previous lives in recruitment I worked for a multinational organisation but I still had a group of about 12 ‘advocates’ that I could call on whenever I wanted and they would always support. I was able to get data, insight and determine ROI not through delving deeper into my spreadsheets, but by calling on the relationships I had with these individuals.

Getting that intel from your sales floor isn’t full proof – it can’t be when you are dealing with humans – but it will give you a darn sight more confidence that what you are doing is working (or not working). So use the people in your business to determine ROI.

The ‘high turnover’ elephant in the recruitment room

If you have had any exposure to working in the recruitment industry, you would have been bombarded with either

  1. Materials on how this is the best industry to work for – pictures of recruiters in glamorous resorts or on a yacht happily enjoying a drink/meal, or
  2. Materials on how recruitment is soul crushing and gut wrenchingly difficult.

If you work in the industry however,  then you know that recruitment could be both at times, but more often than not it’s somewhere in the middle on that spectrum.

The truth is that where you position yourself as a recruiter on that spectrum also depends on a number of intrinsic factors such as:

  • How resilient are you?
  • How well equipped are you to work under pressure?
  • How strong is your internal drive?
  • Do you have a naturally persuasive style of communication?
  • How comfortable do you feel outside of your comfort zone?
  • Do you have the right work ethic?

But also on a number of external factors like:

  • How good is the match between you and the company you work for?
  • What about the match between you and the desk/ industry you are covering?
  • Or the match between you and your manager’s leadership style ?

If you are reading this and have been working as a recruiter for over nine months -congratulations, you are amongst the 57% of recruiters that haven’t left the industry after nine months (There is conflicting data around industry attrition, but majority of sources suggest figures between 41-45%). Let’s face it, this makes recruitment sound a bit like a career gamble, right?


Whether a hire is successful or not shouldn’t be a gamble and addressing the issue starts with the recruitment process.

Let’s make one thing clear – I am not suggesting that there is a magic formula that guarantees successful hires. Not even the slightest.  If there was, I’d bottle it and sell it……However after three and a half years  of recruiting recruiters, you learn that there are certain things you can do better in the recruitment process in order to minimise the chances of an unsuccessful hire.

Addressing high turnover starts with asking the question: ‘Why do our recruiters leave?’  In my opinion, all reasons can be generalised in these two categories:

  1. They are leaving recruitment
  2. They are leaving your company/manager/industry

Leavers in category A are more often than not, junior level hires in their first or second recruitment role. Somewhere along the way, category A leavers realise that recruitment is ‘not for them’, which essentially means that their expectations of what recruitment is were not met or they simply changed their mind about what they want to do with their careers. Fair enough. There is very little that can be done to predict such changes of heart, other than making sure that during the interview process we get a solid understanding of the intrinsic factors (listed above) affecting the candidate’s possible longevity in the industry.

So how do we influence the attrition of category A leavers through the recruitment process?

As obvious as it sounds, the answer is by setting the right expectations early on. You will be surprised how many candidates that I have met have been ‘sold the dream’ of recruitment. Recruiting recruiters is a highly competitive gig- there are plenty of options for talent to choose from, so selling the role you work on is, of course, an important part of securing a candidate, but being realistic about what recruitment is, does not mean underselling or undervaluing the actual opportunity.

This doesn’t always apply to people new to recruitment either. I have spoken to consultants who were considering leaving their agencies because someone did not deliver on their promises and failed to mention that winning the competition to go on that Ibiza trip is actually quite a lot of hard work. The risk of being brutally honest about the challenges in recruitment is that you may lose some candidates in the process, but surely that’s better than the alternative?

Leavers in category B on the other hand, could have a particularly negative effect on a recruitment business if they are performing recruiters. Needless to say, if that is the case then it is imperative that we investigate the reasons for this person to want to leave the business.

So how do we influence the attrition of category B leavers through the recruitment process?

Frankly speaking, a lot of the reasons why those people would leave, are often a product of personal factors that employers may have little influence over. When this is not the case however, you may find that some of the external factors (listed above) may have a part to play in that decision. The good news is, by tweaking the recruitment process slightly, we can increase the chances of getting company, team/manager and industry/desk fit right.

Let’s take team/manager fit for instance. When hiring new people a lot of the team/manager fit decisions tend to be made on the basis of whether there is a vacancy there. In an ideal world, that would make perfect sense, but in such a personality lead industry like recruitment, things are not that simple and making sure candidate A is the right fit for team B could have the effect of ‘make it or break it’ for a specific hire. That’s why at SEC, when possible, we have a more flexible approach to recruitment; we focus on getting the right person into the right team as opposed to trying to fit a candidate into a vacancy. A lot of our consultants will confirm having met more than one leader in the business during the hiring process to make sure the fit is just right.

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that recruitment is a two-way process and this is true for any field.  Both parties should enquire, engage, test, and promote themselves professionally to increase positive experiences for all, regardless of the outcome.

The bottom line

Perhaps recruitment as an industry does have a high turnover. We can all agree with that and continue to recruit the same way we did.


Perhaps we can start scrutinising the way we do our own hiring and ask ourselves ‘how can we do this better?’ and make a difference.

The evolution of the drug safety market – an overview

Harriet Lawford from the Drug Safety team provides us with the latest instalment of #TeamSEC’s vertical market breakdown. Harriet is in her second spell at SEC having worked here since May 2013, then re-joining the organisation following a relocation to South Africa in February 2016. With a wealth of experience in drug safety within the EU marketplace, she shares some of the latest developments she’s seen in the last four years.

Talk us through what you do at SEC?

I focus on the search and placement of drug safety professionals (pharmacovigilance) across the UK and Europe. It’s rewarding work and involves me working across a number of different verticals and with people from associate level all the way up to vice president (VP). So we’re talking about Drug Safety Assistants and Pharmacovigilance coordinators, Senior Drug Safety Officers, Scientists, Drug Safety Physicians who can be either compliance or risk management focused.

The types of roles I specialise in can have responsibility for line management, are integral to the strategic planning process of safety departments, as well as the implementation of new systems and processes. Usually these people hold a medical degree. Some of the more entry level roles are focused on case processing – i.e. reviewing and analysing all of the documentation and data surrounding drug development – with the more senior roles looking at the reporting required to send to the relevant regulatory authorities.

Compliance is a common theme in the work of the candidates I place, as well as auditing. PV Auditors are very niche & QPPVs are also – they are the only individual who could face criminal charges based on any significant issues.

The niche candidates I spend a lot of time talking to are often risk management physicians and these candidates are specifically important in the department and look at the overall signal detection and safety evaluation of a specific drug. They then report on the risks associated with this drug to deem its safety on the market / in development.

Tell us about what the ideal candidates look like to employers you work with.

For my specialist focus medical qualification is a must and solid clinical practice experience is also something my clients demand. If you’re going to really excite my clients then the perfect candidate would have extensive industry experience within a defined therapeutic area as well as having prior experience within risk management. Experience wise you’re looking at five years or more at a global level.

Historically clients are very keen on those with full authoring experience – risk management plans – as well as those who have come from key global pharma backgrounds. It seems that this gives them a keen advantage over those within a CRO as they have experience working on a specific product with a deeper knowledge into the product overall as opposed to a project basis as in a CRO. The flip side to this, however, is those working in a CRO environment tend to have a larger volume of experience as they are working on a number of projects at any one time.

That perfect person for employers is somebody with excellent communication skills as they are often in direct contact with the relevant health authorities and the level of these positions include a highly strategic influence too – you’re talking about people sitting at director level within an organisation so influencing corporate strategy is vital. I tend to work across seniority levels for these types of positions so those incorporating line management too are generally deemed as ‘gold’.

Given the seniority of these roles, clients are very fond of those coming from a loyal background. Whilst movement from companies is incredibly understandable, we look to supply those who have come from a stable background with over four years in the same company.

What sort of personalities do the people you work with have?

Personally I love working within this niche as the element of work these individuals are doing is so interesting. They are highly knowledgeable and display a keen passion for what they do. They’re also very good to talk to from a communication perspective – they have to be, given that they are speaking to regulatory bodies as well as being senior level strategic people within their own business!

I find the people I work with fascinating. Talking to medical doctors who focus on a specific product, in a specific therapeutic area, looking at every different degree at how a drug changes and what it’s doing to every human that interacts with that drug. The impact that these people are having on the changing landscape and lifestyle of all of us through their work is really interesting to find out about.

What’s changed in this space in the last few years?

The challenge within the drug safety market is that it’s always changing. So there is always expectations to deal with the latest regulations and adapt. With a continuous focus on effective and safe drug therapies, both regulatory agencies and the pharmaceutical industry are making efforts to improve the safety of drug development. Over the years we have seen that there is expectation to do more in terms of safety evaluation and risk management planning, compliance and auditing (whilst on a tighter budget to achieve this). I have personally seen that the pressure felt by these large organisations are then being transferred to the CROs and consultancies chosen to outsource these activities.

Another and more recent change we have seen is with the EU QPPVs. With the announcement of Brexit we saw what one can deem as a pharmaceutical panic and many companies were trying to stay ahead of the curb by relocating their EU QPQPVs/ positions to Europe (specific focus on Sweden and Germany). The EMA will likely be moving out however the cabinet ministers have announced that specific plans shall be put in place to make things work. I believe that with the initial announcement of Brexit there was an element of panic but slowly we are seeing everything begin to stabilise once again.


We’ll be putting together a separate blog on Brexit and how it affects this market in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more information and if you’d like to talk to Harriet in the meantime, you can get in touch on +44 (0) 20 7255 6600.


SEC’s Charity of the Year receives planning permission to build a new hospice

At SEC we’re proud to support a local charity in the South East – Thames Hospice – based in East Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire. They provide expert care for people living with life-limiting illnesses and over the course of the year we’ve supported them in a variety of charitable events all aimed at raising money to support the Hospice. So we are delighted to hear that Thames Hospice has announced planning permission has been agreed, in principle, to build a new, state-of-the-art hospice for the community near by their current location in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

This announcement follows several months of planning and consultation before the planning application was submitted.  The charity will now finalise the details and secure the option to purchase the land from local business, Summerleaze, starting the process towards building the new hospice.

Debbie Raven, Chief Executive, Thames Hospice, said:  “This decision represents a huge step forward in the provision of specialist palliative and end-of-life care for our local community.

“Our Hospice, first opened 30 years ago, is no longer able to keep up with the volume of people who need our care and services. Pine Lodge – our much-loved existing building – has been added to, altered and expanded many times and we cannot adapt it any further. Patient numbers are increasing dramatically and we are caring for more patients with increasingly complex illnesses and symptoms. Put simply, the care we provide is outstanding – but the building is holding us back. The new hospice will allow nursing and medical teams to continue to deliver exceptional care, without hindrance.”

Set in more than eight acres, with stunning views across landscaped gardens and Bray Lake, the new hospice will have 28 inpatient beds in individual en-suite rooms. A new Day Centre (the Paul Bevan Centre) will offer a wider range of daily therapeutic and social activities for day patients and inpatients and will allow the hospice to double its day service provision. A new Education Centre will be dedicated to promoting palliative care excellence – ensuring staff receive ongoing training so patients get the best care. We will also be able to offer education to others in our community.

Debbie Raven continued: “Thames Hospice is a vital part of the local community and its expansion will address ongoing end-of-life care needs. Once built, the new hospice will be an unrivalled state-of-the-art facility for the residents of East Berkshire and South Buckinghamshire, and one I know they will be incredibly proud of. We hope to open the doors of the new facility in 2020.”

Stuart Britton, Chief Executive of SEC, said “Needless to say everyone is delighted to hear of the good work and development that Thames Hospice do and that this planning permission has been granted. Through a member of our team internally we have first hand experience of the amazing job the team do and so for us we are proud and delighted to support Thames Hospice’s efforts through our Charity of the Year scheme.”

If you would like more information about Thames Hospice, or how you can donate, visit the website at or call 01753 842121.

What’s the latest in data management?

We’re delighted to have Mark from our Permanent Team – and data management expert – talk us through what he’s seen during his time in the industry. Having come from the life sciences industry following spells at Covance, Orion, then latterly as a Clinical Data Manager at Roche before joining Merck Sharp & Dohme as a Data Project Lead, Mark has been placing people in data management roles at SEC since 2012. 

Give us a brief overview of the types of positions that you work on and the types of individuals you work with.

We generally work with CROs these days but also we have some big pharma companies we partner with. In the main it is with CROs that we work with because pharmaceutical companies tend to use the CROs as full service to support on all aspects of their work. That type of model has been in place for the last ten years or so, from my time in the industry.

The level of the roles that we look at are the Project Data Manager level and below. This is where we place most of the people in this space. The types of work that the people we work with get involved in will be on leading the study, the design of the study, setting up of the data management plans, the edit checks, validation plans, user acceptance testing, then setting up the study to accept the patients ‘first visit’, which is the milestone.

Thereafter, the role of most Project Data Managers we work with is to co-ordinate the other data managers, who could be based anywhere from Poland to India, China, Colombia, Romania, etc. So the model is that they are working across a variety of different countries where the main Project Manager is the lead in ensuring all other Data Managers are delivering on what is required. These data managers tend to do a lot of the processing and cleaning of data.

The Project Data Managers we work with would typically have between three to five studies to manage – these could be either therapeutically aligned or client aligned – with the majority working with similar studies. The Project Data Managers would then work on the studies throughout the entire life cycle, which sometimes lasts anywhere from six months to a year on the early phase studies, or up to eight years for a full service oncology trial, for example.

Usually the average amount of time you will see a Project Data Manager in a role would be around the three year mark.

How has the data management market changed in the last ten years?

I would say the big change in data management was actually about eight years ago – possibly slightly more. I would say one of the big changes came when a series of major Pharma’s decided to use an outsourced model route to India, pushing more of the entry level data manager roles to India and taking those roles away from the UK and Western Europe. What then emerged in the UK was that you would have more senior roles remaining in the UK and Europe, with the most senior roles remaining within the pharmaceutical companies or the largest of the CROs globally.

Today, data management is moving in to more technically challenging areas, such as clinical data interchange standards consortium (CDISC) which is a consortium of data standards where everyone has to reach the required data standards for regulatory submissions. These are the kinds of technical roles we work on.

What does the perfect candidate look like to a lot of the employers you work with?

Anybody with between five and ten years’ experience and will be somebody who has worked within a CRO or pharmaceutical company. Anybody who has led studies by themselves are always valuable to employers, from study start up to database lock and people who have managed teams are always valuable. Individuals with diverse therapeutic area experience are always sought after too. Communication skills are key because dealing with clients can be difficult whether you are on the CRO or sponsor side.

What does the data management market look like in ten years’ time?

You will always have people talking about artificial intelligence and in many industries I can see why that is a hot topic right now, but it is my belief that you will always need to have an element of human interaction within the data management market. Certainly technology will have its impact, as will the advancement of more intelligent tools to help data managers become more efficient. Perhaps the roles of the future in this space will be in the designing of these tools; doing the work that previously was completed by human hand. Or perhaps in the quality control and monitoring of these tools by human hand. As I said, there will always need to be an element of human interaction in the process, it just depends at what stage that interaction occurs. Can computers manage people effectively? I don’t think so and so there will always be a requirement for people in the industry.

Is there one piece of advice you could give to somebody in this market?

Yes. Equip yourself with CDISC and be ready to adapt. The world of work is constantly shifting and our industry will evolve too.

SEC in the technology market

The latest SEC blog in our series is on the Information Technology market. Michele Vinciguerra – Sales Manager for our Technology Division – gives us his perspective in the sector.    

Give us a brief overview of the types of positions that you work on and the types of individuals you work with.

My team and I deal with the consulting community and end user clients in the technology space. We work across a variety of different industry verticals, such as SAP, JD Edwards, Analytics, Big Data, etc. The individuals we place are both technical and functional specialists; with an emphasis on customer satisfaction but also stakeholder engagement skills, because they are figures who will interact with their clients at chief executive level or more. So the types of people that we work with have both a technical profile as well as having developed themselves within a consultancy environment.

Our clients are constantly searching for candidates who are able to propose solutions and to put them in to practise and who are able to work with a commercially-oriented approach.

Where do you see demand from employers you currently work with?

There is always demand for experienced people (the sweet spot is anything more than four or five years) who have worked in different industries and on infrastructure projects in different countries. Our clients look for people with a problem solving mindset as well as candidates who take a more macro-level and global perspective to their work. A lot of the employers we work with are international organisations, but the specific areas of the business that they require our candidates to work on are with quite niche products, so when we place somebody in to a role, it is about getting the quality of the individual to fit the company culture above all else. For example, we work with global fast-moving consumer goods end users on multi-country projects and the opportunities are vast, but because of that you need to be able to fit within the organisations culture. Project work at a multinational is very different than the experience of a similar project but working for a smaller company. The project can be the same but the experience is different.

What does the perfect candidate look like to a lot of the employers you work with?

The ideal candidate should be passionate not only about technology but also about business; they should be able to find technological solutions to improve the company’s business – and we’re talking about global businesses that we work with – so having that commercial acumen is important but also means finding the right candidate can be more complex.

At the moment it is very difficult finding people who are able to combine business and technical knowledge; there is a real candidate shortage when you are looking for people who have international experience, technical and commercial acumen and who are also willing to relocate where they’ll be working on multiple projects and will have to travel. But we have a great team who are good at selling some of the very lucrative benefits on offer so we always find a way to deliver to our customers.

The bigger challenge for the Information Technology market is finding people that – in addition to technical skills – have face-to-face and relationship development skills, that are able to relate to their employer and be solution oriented.

What is the best working relationship you can have with a candidate?

 For my part good candidates are people who are transparent, honest, focused, know exactly what they want and are clear when communicating that to us, because that sets out clear guidance for both myself and the team to be able to deliver the best possible service for them and the employer. Communication is key and providing the entire chain has it then the recruitment process can be a positive one for all involved.

As the candidates representative honesty and clarity from a communication point of view help me to be a perfect spokesperson for their ambitions.

It is about professionalism, focus, transparency, honesty and clarity. If all parties have that then success usually follows in my experience.

What does the technology market look like in ten years’ time?

 Technology is constantly evolving and every day new tools appear in the market. That makes it very difficult to predict because it is not a linear process. But there are certain patterns that we’ve seen. For example it seems the sector is heading in the direction of even more artificial intelligence, or through liquid architecture and machine learning. With such an emphasis placed on AI and machine learning, the type of roles that are available in the technology space will also change. It is quite feasible to suggest that the key roles that we place in 10 years’ time look completely different to the roles we were placing ten years ago.

The type of working is changing too. The move towards flexibility surrounding the way people work is definitely impacting the industry and contracting in the Information Technology sector. It has long led the way in comparison to other industries. I have seen consulting companies in the technology space build specialised labs for workers to transform their ideas in prototypes, which with the support of AI and other machine learning, reduces the cycle of products getting to the market quicker. Projects are more brief but a lot more specified, also aided by cloud logic. So in the future companies will need to look for much more specialised profiles and skills of people to work on projects rather than as full time employees.

The game changer in the technology market is therefore the way in which people work and how they interact with machine learning, AI, etc, on shorter term projects. A ‘job for life’ isn’t something you hear too much in the technology market and it certainly isn’t going to increase in future! It’s about constantly learning new skills and adapting and being somebody who can quickly adapt to new projects, potentially across multiple companies.

The Biometrics world according to SEC

The Biometrics market is as technical as it is rewarding. One of our SEC consultants, Marco Menesello, gives his professional insight in to his experience in the sector.

Can you give us a brief overview of the types of roles you place?Marco 6 bright

I handle biometrics which consist of two different types of roles: biostatistics and SAS programmers, but also all people who are involved in analysis into pre-clinical, clinical and post-clinical research. For my part, I deal with discovery and selection of biostatistics and Pharmacokinetic/Pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) Modellers (scientists). Biostatistics develop statistic methodologies to evaluate drug qualities, for example its efficacy and efficiency. PK/PD Modellers study for example new molecules or drug dosage, to test their toxicity. It’s a detailed market!

Describe your ideal candidate – what do they look like?

The ideal candidate is somebody with past experience in the industry who has already worked in consulting (pharmaceuticals or biotechs). It is better if they have worked in a similar role within a therapeutic area or phase study. It’s so important the candidate is able to communicate, in the true sense of the word, so they should be able to explain a concept (often a technical and specialist concept) to a non-technical person. This skill is not easy to find however and somebody who can articulate with brevity is ideal.

The ideal candidate should be flexible and not be phased by challenges. Somebody who can quickly react and adapt to any challenges are always important.

For my part, I love working with candidates who are honest, sincere, balanced, professional, who have integrity and are committed to the recruitment process they want to engage in. It is very much like our values at SEC – we have trust, honesty, integrity and commitment and when we work with anybody we would like them to treat us as we promise to treat them.

Good fluency in English is valuable, because our projects are global projects and they will be joining a team where English is the primary language spoken, so we find it important to test and challenge the language skills of all of our candidates.

What I like about the candidates I deal with, however, is that the vast majority are professional, willing and dependable. I present them opportunities in the best way, the situation, benefits, salary, etc., but I always tell them is that the best way to understand if this opportunity is right for them they should put their everything in to getting it. Then it is up to me to sell them to hiring manager. It is a team effort in getting that candidate the role they’ve always dreamed of!

So, professionalism, availability, flexibility, honesty and maturity. If you can demonstrate those, then your skills and knowledge will help me to get you that job that you are looking for.

What have you seen happening in your market in recent years?

I have been in this market for two years, but my job means I have had to research the industry as far back as 20 years ago, to get a good idea of how it is evolving and certainly recruitment companies weren’t as aligned as they are now to the clients and their needs. Now the word ‘partnership’ means so much more. Perhaps that was because of competition, fewer tools and access to candidates via LinkedIn; all have played a massive part in the evolution of the hiring process within every industry and the life sciences sector is no different.

The pharma industry has also seen much development in my time too. I see a lot more investment in Europe and the rest of the world and many countries and companies have invested in pharmaceutical research and development, but there is also a drive for positions to become more specialist, more niche. If you have a particular skill set and you have extensive market knowledge in a very niche area within pharma, then you will definitely go far.

With regards to candidates, they are much more open to talking about changing roles than 10 years ago. The change in the acceptance of positions is certainly something I have seen, especially in  the biostatistics field, because nowadays they know the important role a recruiter can play in transforming their lives.

How has it changed and how will it be changing moving forward?

As Mark Wilkins has said in a previous blog, the world is definitely becoming more regulated and we’ve seen plenty of that in the pharmaceutical industry too.

I think also that nowadays recruiters have become more specialised to, as increased competition has had an impact on the life sciences market, but the demands of employers have required us to be more specialised. For example, if you think of us at SEC: we have grown and evolved as a business in to the life sciences sector and our disciplines and the way that we are divided by skills, we have people who are real experts in their field and with accreditation’s and certifications like our IAOCR bronze WQA, we are more qualified and specialised and we can give our candidates and clients peace of mind that they are working with a recruiter that really understands its field.

How will it change moving forward? I think Brexit will produce changes, but there is a lot of uncertainty, so we have to see what will change and how much. I think Brexit indicates a kind of “deal breaker” for some people but for some companies it is not so simple. It is true that pharmaceutical companies with British headquarters may consider whether they will remain in the UK or to move to other countries. But from what we are seeing there is still demand across Europe and with the way we are structured as a company – speaking over 20 languages and with people from all over the world in our London office – we are in a good position to support regardless of what challenges Brexit provides us.

Technology will develop other tools in recruitment that will help us to be more fast and accurate in candidate sourcing, but the recruitment industry has always been very adaptive, so I think that we will as an organisation also evolve and continue to develop as we look to service our candidates and clients’ requirements.

Compliance isn’t scary, it’s essential in delivering extraordinary results

Airis 4_2At #TeamSEC we view our professionalism with everyone we work with as vitally important. Demonstrating that we are an organisation that views best practice as the foundation of our business is essential and in today’s blog our Contracts and Compliance Manager – Airis Palk – provides a brief overview of what we do to deliver the best possible service to our customers.

Non-compliance can have very serious and even devastating commercial consequences to any business. An organisations reputation takes years to build and minutes to lose and once your reputation is not trusted within your chosen marketplace, then other customers are unlikely to work with you, because they see the potential risks to them of working with you.

Conversely, when a business has an excellent reputation for consistent delivery, it can help to actually win business too. The word ‘Compliance’ may sound to some as ‘just more admin’, but if you approach your compliance measures with an attitude of positivity and make sure that you use it as an advantage, then seeing it as admin couldn’t be further from the truth.

At SEC, we like to demonstrate our compliance by being members of APSCo, we also have ISO 9001:2015 certification to ensure we are working to a measurable and well-known standard of quality, as well as being the first recruitment business to achieve the Bronze – Workforce Quality Accreditation issued by the Accrediting Organisation for the International Clinical Research Industry (IAOCR). We undertake these external validation methods because we believe that showing your customers that you are willing to go that extra mile is not only valuable to them, but also your own business, as it allows you to reflect and review how you can improve.

For us, it is also about trust – one of our company values – and that is a big player here. For example, in an employer context, the client must be able to trust that the people working at their site are properly vetted, that the people who have vetted them have the appropriate level of knowledge and experience.

How do we deliver our trust with our customers? For us it is composed of three elements: repeated interaction, honest communication and following through with any commitments we make. Our four values are trust, honesty, integrity and commitment and this is how we deliver compliance with customers in everything we do. We live by our values in everything, especially compliance, and we’re proud that our customers recognise that too.

The recruitment industry is built on people and working with people and compliance is part of ensuring the integrity and safety of everyone involved as well as prevention to eliminate any potential risks while abiding by the rules and regulations of recruitment industry.

We work in a partnership with our clients, to deliver levels of compliance that both we – and they – demand. For us this means effective documentation of processes, of checking, as well as training for our internal staff too. This is all managed centrally by a dedicated compliance person – me! – and that allows us to have a central point of contact both internally and externally. I work with the business on everything from reference checks to internal training processes, but I also work with clients too, as we are often asked (and ask ourselves) to conduct periodical audits to demonstrate compliance with the requirements of that specific employer.

What I have also found in my time at SEC is how important the development of relationships are within compliance. Especially when you are working closely with somebody from another organisation. When you have developed positive relationships, you learn to understand the nuances of each employer’s audit process and it helps to deliver a more efficient service. It certainly isn’t something to be taken for granted though, and if I am completely honest with you, audits are always slightly nerve wracking for me, even though we have many years of experience and 100% compliancy confirmations from our customers! Whilst sometimes they can be quite nervy however, they can also be very rewarding, a selling point to the employer and another opportunity build on a positive relationship.

For more information about how we work to deliver the best possible levels of compliance, get in contact with us on +44 (0) 20 7255 6600.

Have we forgotten the basics of polite society? Part 2


We received quite a bit of feedback from the previous blog I wrote and so in response I thought I would follow up with a sequel. Everybody loves a good sequel, don’t they?

So have we forgotten the basics of polite society? Are there examples of where sometimes actions are considered common practice when they really shouldn’t be?

How about this for an example: would you sit at your desk and poke somebody in the eye? I would imagine the answer is “probably not”. That’s because it isn’t seen as socially acceptable. But if you put an umbrella in somebodies hand, then see them walk down the street with it held low nearly poking people’s eyes as they walk, it becomes a common occurrence that we see in every street across the land. Why?

How about that very well-known of irritants – road rage. Everybody gets it, there are times when you want to scream at others in other vehicles but having the virtue of patience is very valuable and although there are a small minority of people who are deliberately antagonistic, in 98% of instances the people who have genuinely made a mistake have done just that.

What if we all accepted the fact that people make mistakes in all aspects of our lives? I am not a better driver just because I’ve been driving for a long time (I’ll not show my age and tell you how long I’ve been driving though!) but because I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made. If we translate this in to a work context it can be frustrating if a work colleague makes a mistake, if they have a typo in a presentation, or if they forget to do a task that affects a client and causes a client to get annoyed. If we reacted in the same way to mistakes as we do when the red mist descends whilst driving then the working environment would look very differently. In management we encourage people to learn through making mistakes. We should in theory adopt the same basics of polite society we have in the workplace that we have in the rest of our lives (especially driving!).

Imagine how different the world would be if we were able to adopt the practices in the working world in to our own personal lives? Imagine if you were able to stop, take a breath, then acknowledge that people made mistakes whilst you were sat in your car? The world would certainly be a more positive place. People would react to challenges in a more composed manner. Just look at the recent horrifying situations we’ve been having here in the UK and the way our emergency services have reacted. The response of the public in the support, gratitude and sense of pride in the work they do has been overwhelming. People have been donating food, clothes, water to those affected and it really shows the power of human spirit and endeavour when you see people coming together to support each other.

Imagine a world that could permanently live by the standards of how we react when we as humans face adversity? Imagine if those principles that we have seen of late could be applied all of the time, in every aspect of life? As human beings we are generally good people who have the ability to demonstrate acts of kindness and thoughtfulness but perhaps we just need to show it a little more.

It is easy to adopt simple practices that seem insignificant but make a real positive impact. If I go back to a simple work-related example such as answering a colleagues telephone. For some people it isn’t their most favourite task but if they stop to take the time and acknowledge what is going on around them and picked up that phone they can have a big impact. That incoming call could be very time sensitive and by answering it that person could be helping a colleague to provide better customer service, make a client or candidate feel happier and impact a number of people’s days positively. If it is a challenging call, then taking action and apologising instantly if there is an issue, can have a massive impact even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Some of you reading this will be old enough to remember the sketch by Ben Elton about “gotta get a double seat” (on a train) on the TV programme Saturday Night Live. It’s a little old school now but very funny at the time. How many times have you got on a train and it’s busy if not packed and you see somebody with their bag across seats that could be taken by somebody else? And how irritating is that? It’s the same with people who sit next to you and believe the middle arm rest is theirs, playing elbow games with you, to which you want so desperately to react. But why? What will it achieve? Are they deliberately doing it? Have they had a bad day and are simply using this small pocket of time in which to vent some passive-aggressive behaviour? Now imagine you talk to that person, find out about them, get to know them and find out what kind of personality they are. You understand what their issues are and perhaps by talking to them you have been able to improve the atmosphere, maybe their mood, and you can both go about your lives in a better frame of mind.

Sometimes accepting that somebodies reaction to something you say or do can have a great impact on their lives can help to turn a situation in to a positive. If somebody makes a mistake how do you know that this person doesn’t have issues away from work that is affecting them? There are so many people who have unrelated difficulties away from work – some are carers for example. Perhaps they are having problems with personal relationships, or grieving, which is causing them to have problems that are translating in to their work lives. Understanding that they are human beings with a life outside of work and showing empathy and understanding as well as support can make a big difference. That level of commitment to a person shows how much they are valued and will also positively impact the way they perform in your business.

One good deed deserves another. I’m not exactly your ‘karma’ kind of person but why not apply this simple philosophy, if someone does something nice for you, just repeat it to someone else. I’ve asked the question as to whether we’ve forgotten the basics of polite society in two blogs now but I believe that there are ways in which we can all be reminded that we can all play our part in making the answer to that question a resounding ‘no’.