Sarah Roberts

Getting the break: how I got started in regulatory affairs

Sarah RobertsSarah Roberts discusses how she got her break when she chose regulatory affairs as a profession.

Following on from my PhD, I started working as a post-doc in the USA at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston prior to working for Cancer Research UK. Whilst I really enjoyed my time in academic research, I had concerns about my future. At the time, the sad truth as I saw it was that for me working in such a competitive environment was going to ultimately be career limiting. Very few women were visible in the top jobs and it was almost a given that it was very difficult to have a reasonable work life balance whilst continuing on in academic research.

Several of my friends from my masters course were already working in the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to understand what options there were and they were pretty candid in their responses! However, after hearing about regulatory affairs and expressing an interest they were kind enough to put me in touch with someone who could help give me a better understanding of what the role entails. However, it was frustrating that a lot of the opportunities required experience (at least 1 year) and I had none!

A graduate opportunity

My first break was finding an advert in New Scientist for a position in regulatory affairs aimed at graduates. The team were looking for someone with transferable skills to develop. It was a fantastic opportunity and I got the job! I was working in a medium sized contract research organization (CRO) and within months I was working on numerous different projects in different areas of regulatory affairs (from clinical trials to marketing authorisations).

I am eternally grateful for the team there for giving me that break that allowed me to become a Regulatory Affairs Professional. During that time I joined TOPRA and the editorial panel of Regulatory Rapporteur, where I got to meet with other regulatory professionals and interview some key thought leaders in the field. Since then I have gone on to complete an MBA to give me greater insight into the management and the ‘business’ behind our profession and have also been the President of TOPRA which was a great honour.

Career success

Fourteen years later, I am in the very fortunate position of leading a team of over 250 regulatory professionals as head of the Global Regulatory Affairs Team within a large CRO. Since I joined my current company we have been able to open up many job opportunities for graduates in a variety of locations around the globe.

I hope in future we are able to continue to bring on more talented individuals to our fantastic profession.

Sarah is Vice President of Global Regulatory Affairs for PRA Health Sciences and Past President of TOPRA