Spotlight on Leadership: Interview with Dietmar Eglhofer – VIARES

Having worked in the clinical research industry since 2007, Dietmar Eglhofer has taken the experience from his career to found VIARES at the start of the year. Dietmar has seen the industry mature and become more well managed, and as such is now starting to push new developments that help patients faster. This is why VIARES is working to address the ever-increasing demand for CRAs by providing professional graduates – when and where they are needed. Currently focused on laying the foundation with his team, VIARES is set to launch into the clinical research sphere directly addressing European clinical research talent demand by a scalable, cost-effective and IAOCR-accredited top graduate program.

How did you get into the clinical research and industry and what career path did you take?

I started in Human Resources in the CEE Region for Quintiles in 2007 and was lucky to experience a number of different roles, including Head of HR for the EMEA region where I was responsible for over 11,000 employees across more than 30 countries. During this time I’ve been appointed to the Regional Management Board by the CEO and led the development of a CRA Academy to mitigate the CRA resource shortage. My final role with Quintiles saw me responsible for the HR Strategy and Program Management, mainly working on the merger with IMS Health. I left Quintiles to set up VIARES.

What do you most enjoy about working at VIARES so far?

The idea of training young talent from the top universities in Europe to take on CRA roles that are so much in need, seems to inspire everyone involved in building our program. Whether it’s our partners SEC, IAOCR, or our trainers and scientific advisors from universities around Europe, everybody is embracing the idea and helping getting it off the ground, including early-adopting customers.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role at the moment?

Managing the energy of our growing group of VIARES individuals and channeling it to be ready to deliver once our customers need it.

How do you think the industry has changed from when you first started out a decade ago?

When I first started, Quintiles had grown 30-40% in the CEE Region, and to address this all we did was hire strong university talent and train them to become CRAs. Generally speaking the requirements for CRAs started to change and become more complex, from monitoring to project management elements of the study – this impacted how we typically ran this process.

What has changed for the worse if anything, in terms of how the industry has evolved over this timeframe?

I think the role requirements changed, in particular for the CRAs. Organizations increasingly took to off-shoring and cutting back on Clinical Trial Assistant roles. Other decisions also made the CRA role more complex and demanding, but the talent taking on these roles has not been supported to live up to these expectations, which is a real concern.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in their clinical research career?

If you are ready to learn and eager to grow, go for an entry level role in this industry. Career progression, technological development and new roles emerging will be a part of your business life.

Describe yourself in five words

Passionate about bringing VIARES to life – ok, that is six.

What do you think the industry should be doing to attract, train, qualify and retain talent?

Actually, the industry has everything at hand to be attractive to talent. The key is the investment into people and making them part of the journey the industry is on. They need to keep their talent relevant, which means competent to do their job.

How well do you think the industry is taking on board the competence philosophy and mentality rather than the old paradigm of length of service?

I see it is changing, just check out the job ads. The more progressive and experienced companies truly understand that the fight for “2-years of experience” has led to a shortage of CRAs which is painful in terms of salary battles and turnover numbers. They need to get out of this situation as it hurts their business operations and customer loyalty.

How do you think IAOCR are helping to address the talent crisis?

IAOCR are pushing the right idea – competence instead of tenure. One of my best friends and colleagues always said you overpay for below average performance, why? IAOCR is defining new standards, standards the industry can rely on.

What do you think the top three challenges are for our industry in the next few years as you would see it?

As technology will drive many changes, it will be important not to lose sight of the people. The pharma industry is data driven, but it is nothing without the people. No drug gets developed to help extend and enhance the life of data; only for people. Like the CRA, who is a crucial role in generating patient data, the relationship with the investigator is a key part of the role.

What development did you receive in preparation for the transition into an organizational Leadership role? 

I had different formal trainings on leadership and strategy throughout my career. But also, some technical training such as Project Management, Consulting, Strategy or General Management.

What other development do you feel you would have benefited from to ease that transition? 

I’d say that, like in my case in Human Resources, every function leader should rotate through the main business units to truly understand the whole organism. Working with customers directly early on was a great experience to aid my overall understanding.

What is your key piece of advice for anyone transitioning into a leadership role?

Make sure to have a solid baseline of competence in how to run a business – take all sorts of training. Secondly, learn from great leaders by working with them or reading about them. And finally, don’t work with people you cannot learn from – not on your team, not as your leaders. As one of the best leaders I have worked for said, “When it hurts, you grow.” Don’t stay in your comfort zone, the world around you is moving on and staying still means, becoming obsolete.