“I’ve made up my mind, I will go to England”: interview of an expatriate CRA.

I’ve made up my mind, I will go to England: interview of an expatriate CRA.

You are CRA and you want a change of scenery, a change of life, you want to make new friends, or improve your English and empower your resume.

The pharmaceutical industry and clinical research are internationally oriented. Being a multicultural environment often requires a good command of the English master, why not leave and go abroad for English? This will also enhance your resume. I interviewed my friend Mylène who has lived in England for seven years and has worked as a Clinical Research Associate. She gives some tips …

Why not the United Kingdom !

Why not the United Kingdom !

Mylène, I am really greatfull to you for this interview and for the assistance you will bring to our CRA readres. We wish you the best career in the clinical search domain. 

Hi, Can you introduce yourself in few words, what is the course of your professional career? How long have you worked in England?

Hi, I’m Mylene; I started working in the clinical research after Sup Santé (Health School) training. I have a scientific background: a Masters in the field of chemistry. After 2 years of work as a CRA in France, I decided to settle in England, at first for 2 years. But now I am in England for 7 years, the environment, the professional behavior, the motivation of investigator centers pleased me much more as well as the system is rather different from that of France. These encouraged me to stay longer.

Why did you decide to work in England?

England is just nearby France, so if something turns wrong, I’m not far from the family in France! I also did a summer job in the food industry in England in the past, I know the country, and I had kept in touch with friends. The experience was very rewarding, and I wanted this time to have an experience in my field: clinical research!

How did you find a job in England?

Through recruitment agency. I also had my resume online on Pharmiweb and TotalJob UK. Agencies have got my CV via these websites.

What are your missions, what do they consist of? Are there differences in the practice of the profession in England?

I started as a CRA; then I became project management. I currently am independent and clinical research specialist for CRO services, labs etc.

Practice the profession of CRA remains the same. However, bids are not exactly the same. There is no equivalent of CNOM (French National Medical Council) and CNIL (National Commission for Data Protection and Liberties). After a study was approved by the CEC, it must be reviewed and approved by the R & D department of every center. The Regulatory in UK, it is MHRA (equivalent of ANSM in France »). In the UK, one must use the model contract of the ABPI equivalent of LEEM in France. There is a model for each region (England, Scotland, and Wales). There is also a network which facilitates the set-up of studies in England (UK-CRN). This network provides tools to facilitate the  the budget negotiation, helps to identify investigator centers, and is in contact with the center during the study to make sure that the planned number of patients is reached.

How are the English, is it easy to integrate?

English people are open minded and very polite. I was surprised to see how car drivers let me cross the road easily. The English people are really keen on their Friday night aperitif.

In England, there are a lot of associations for a cause, if you like to support a cause, you can easily socialize and build relationship with English in this side.

There are also a lot of brainy games. Often companies organize afternoon thematic quiz (sometimes nothing to do with clinical research), it is another opportunity to socialize.

Do you have tips for CRAs who wish to settle in England?

Food and housing are more expensive than in France (especially in London), better come up with some savings.

The standard of life is different, forget conversion sterling / Euro.

You have to be motivated and determined as you might seem a little lost the first three months. English learned in school is different from daily spoken English. Accents are different in different regions: the Scots and Welsh accents are more difficult to understand in the beggining; but you get used to it.

Never hesitate to confirm professional conversations by email, if you have a doubt.

If you are maniac, I do not advise colocation, although it is quite convenient for the price.

Have some savings for the first month, as the food is expensive. But after, you do not realize because the wages follows, so we lose very quickly that side to do all the time the conversion euro / sterling. Moreover, you must not seek to make the conversion. The standard of living is different.

You have to be brave and be strong in the head and patient. You may seem a bit lost the first 3 months. English learned in school is different from spoken English daily. Also the accents are different according to regions. The Wales and Scotland accent could be harder to understand at first. Do not hesitate to confirm by email!

What salary can I expect when going in England?

32 to 36.000 GBP (40-46000 Gross Euros per year) for someone having 1 to 3 years experiences.

They give you a little more than 6000 Euros/year to rent a car. The UK is smaller than France and it is better to make journeys by car. Generally a trip that takes 2 hours by train, also take 2 hours by car. And it is more convenient to take his car to avoid trains delays or cancellation.

As far as I am concerned, the salary seems higher to me compared to that of France referring to the years of experiences.

However, the standard of living is also higher, so to be meditated 🙂

What are your future projects?

My future plans are to re-settle in France and to pass my international expertise in the clinical research to France customers. And also I am feeling homesick.

Is clinical research a sector that recruits in England?

The CRAs are very requested in France, both as permanent employees as Freelance, junior or senior. However, increasingly, companies are looking for people who have already had a field experience in England. However, there are still probabilities to find a job in England.

What experience should I ideally have before working in England? What level of English should I ideally have?

The ideal would be to have at least 1 or 2 years of experiences in the clinical research. If you did not speak English for over 5 years, I advise you to pratique this language before leaving to feel more at ease. But I do not think you need to be perfect before leaving, because it will come by itself after 3 or 4 months in the country, depending also on how you integrate yourself (afterwork with English people, etc.)

How did you prepare your departure?

I left within 2 months, very little preparation. After an interview on site, and a positive response, I went back to visit accommodations. I’ve chosen a home. On my installation day, the owner picked me up at the train station. The next day I was to see a bank in the pedestrian street, not far from my home. With my passport and courier hiring specifying salary, I opened an account. Then the same day, I went to buy a phone. There you go!

Subsequently, the company has helped me do the paperwork for taxes which are also taken from the salary. I also enrolled with a GP (General Practitioner, Doctor)

The 3 things you love in England?

  • Easy to settle: bank account opening, accommodations
  • The GP are free: no need to give money
  • The taxes on income are taken directly from the salary

The 3 things you hate in England?

  • No TGV: railway transport are very slow
  • The road conditions are not great (and there is no toll, so that must be the reason)
  • The Food

The 3 things that you miss with France?

  • The family
  • Food
  • The cleanliness of the houses for rent

The 3 things that you’ll absolutely not miss in France?

  • The shouting people
  • The car horns
  • The system of taxes on income

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Vanessa Montanari

Je suis Vanessa Montanari, attachée de recherche clinique, chef de projet et dirigeante, depuis 6 ans, de Pharmaspecific, ma propre société de prestation de services, en recherche clinique. www.pharmaspecific.fr

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