Spotlight on Leadership: Interview with Sam Kerr – Allergan

Welcome to the first of our regular blogspot “Spotlight on Leadership”! We’re delighted that Dr Sam Kerr, VP Head of Drug Development Operations, EMEA & Asia Pacific at Allergan and member of the IAOCR Executive Advisory Council has agreed to take part in the first spotlight interview.

Thanks Sam for telling us about your clinical research career, your views on the biggest challenges for our industry and your thoughts on the hot topic of “War on Talent”…

Describe yourself in five words.

Passionate. Outgoing. Positive. Adaptable. Scientific.

How long have you worked in the clinical research industry and what career path did you take?

I have worked within the clinical research industry for around 20 yrs.  Having completed my BSc Hons in Biochemistry & Immunology at the University of Strathcylde, I started a PhD in Biochemical Parasitology at the University of Glasgow.  My PhD was sponsored by Pfizer Central Research and an area of my research focused on the in vitro screening of several drug candidates.  During my research and in my interactions with Pfizer colleagues I learnt about clinical trials.  The idea of researching and developing new drugs to help patients was an area that very much appealed to me and I applied for my first industry position – a Medical Writer at a Phase 1 clinical research unit in London.  Having interviewed me and studied my skill set they offered me a role as a Clinical Scientist, running and leading the clinical trials.

What do you most enjoy about working at Allergan?

I really enjoy the people and the products.  We have a fantastic, talented team working here at Allergan and one of the best pipelines in the industry. We work on many products to help the lives of many patients.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

The people and the products! The people because I wish I had more hours in the day to spend developing my team. The products because Allergan tends to develop first-in-class compounds/therapies so we are always pushing new boundaries.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

The people and the products! The people, as seeing my team develop and progress within their roles is the best reward a manager can have. The products, to be involved in developing new innovative therapies for our patients and physicians.

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

This is a difficult question to answer because all of us come from a different background, with different qualifications and starting points. From my own experience I would say work hard and be open to new opportunities. Things may come along that you weren’t expecting but actually work out for the best in the long run. Getting your first job in the industry is the hardest part (or at least it was for me). You may have to start somewhere you least expected but it’s a start!

What is your take on the “War on Talent”?

There is an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees and competition between companies is increasing.  Recruiting the right people initially and then ensuring you offer them development and progression is key to hiring and retaining staff.

How is Allergan addressing this industry-wide issue?

Allergan is very aware of the war on talent. Firstly, we recruit the right people for Allergan. Recruiting the right people in the first place is key, ensuring that we know that they are qualified, capable and trained to the right level.

Subsequently we try to retain the talent we have by developing them. We have Individual Development Plans (IDP), which are live documents discussed with each individual on a regular basis. Our IDPs look at both therapeutic area training, external courses and also include on the job training.  Allergan promotes a positive development culture with a real focus on people progression.

Continual process improvement and innovation go hand in hand with talent development.

How do you think the IAOCR accreditation and certification can address this industry issue?

I think IAOCR accreditation is really valuable as it means we are all talking the same language when it comes to hiring, developing and describing talent. Currently how we hire and develop people varies widely across the industry. With the accreditation process we know that each individual is qualified and competent and the whole industry will have the same benchmark. Also, we can work with each individual team member to develop them.

Why did you get involved with the IAOCR Executive Advisory Council?

I strongly believe talent development in the pharmaceutical industry is a responsibility for all of us and I am delighted to support and promote a program that facilitates this.

What do you think will be the biggest challenges for the clinical research industry in the next 5 years?

I think the biggest challenges will be two fold, the ever changing regulations within the pharmaceutical industry and ensuring that our teams are suitably trained and qualified on those regulations to ensure compliance and quality.

Many thanks to Sam for taking the time out to speak with us. If you would like to know more about IAOCR accreditations and workforce quality solutions please email us or telephone  +44 1628 784906 (International)  01628 784906 (UK)  +1 855 407 6679 (US Toll Free).


By Sophie Comas, Marketing Director – IAOCR

2018-03-21T13:30:45+00:00 April 25th, 2016|Clinical Research Careers, Spotlight On Leadership|

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