Interview with cgx course convener, donnamarie donalds

Donnamarie Donalds is one of our course conveners at CGX Training. Like so many Clinical Trials Professionals, when Donnamarie left university, she wasn’t aware of the rewarding work the Clinical Trials industry had to offer. She explored the many different roles and responsibilities across the industry, with additional training and qualifications along the way.
On her journey to becoming a CTA, she also discovered her passion for training. When Founder & Director Lia Hunter approached her with the offer to become a course convener, she knew she had found a perfect fit with CGX Training. Donnamarie is dedicated to helping delegates advance their clinical practice and take the initial steps to landing their first job – she’s hugely popular with our delegates and a great asset to CGX.

How did you come to work in the Clinical Trials industry?

I studied for a BSc in Physiology at the University of Westminster originally, but when I completed my course, I knew nothing about the Clinical Trials industry; there weren’t a whole lot of options. Initially I wanted to work in pharmaceutical sales but found it was particularly difficult to enter. However, I did a got job selling medical and scientific equipment to universities, hospitals and GPs.
This gave me the opportunity to travel and I discovered how much I enjoyed that aspect of the job. When I continued to explore the pharma industry, I came across Clinical Research Associate (CRA) and Clinical Trials Administrators (CTA) roles, and found the responsibilities really aligned with my values and interests; particularly having the opportunity to travel and being able to apply my undergraduate degree more practically. I took an Introduction to the Pharmaceutical Industry course and landed my first job as a CTA covering maternity leave; I really hyped up my admin experience to land the role as I had no prior experience.
That meant I was in a position where I could draw on my sales, administrative, degree, CRA and pharmaceutical experience and training, so I was finally in a position where recruiters were taking my CV seriously. I was able to go from strength to strength and work with a variety of pharmaceutical and clinical research companies such as Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson and Covance, and would go on to become a senior CRA, research consultant and now I work in a freelance capacity as well as a convener with CGX.

How did you meet Lia and come to join CGX?

I met Lia through a friend who organised a get together for CRAs of colour. As a CRA, your work is very independent, so it was great getting to meet a number of other professionals. We chatted at this function and kept in contact with one another. One day she called me out of the blue and asked if I’d be interested in training and a potential new business venture…at this point CGX wasn’t even a thing!
Training had always been something I had thought about pursuing, and I had collected a lot of materials and information during my own journey to becoming a CRA I could draw inspiration from. Lia really sold the vision of CGX to me and her mission to train the future personnel of CTPS. I knew it was an opportunity I had to take.

How does CGX help develop the skills CTPs need for a career in clinical trials?

We never want to sell someone a course we don’t think is right for them or won’t help in their career progression. That’s why CGX offers free consultations before you sign up for a course so we can mutually agree what route would be best for you depending on your skills, experience and whether you have a science degree or not.
In my courses, I always like to get to know the delegates and understand their backgrounds, careers, education and the ambitions they have. The Clinical Trials Administrator Beginners course is designed for people starting from scratch, even myself and Lia had to complete them before we could become accredited CTPs.
The CTA Beginners course provides you with the foundations to understand the Clinical Research industry; its history, the ethics involved, the different roles and responsibilities in a Clinical Trials setting. No matter what course you take, we always take a hands-on approach to learning, and you’ll get the opportunity to apply practice and theory with scenarios and tasks.
Since you get to learn from CTPs working in the industry as well, we like to have an open forum in all the training sessions, where you can ask as many questions as you like and we can facilitate open discussions about the Clinical Trials industry.
We’re also keen to provide internships and students the opportunity to come on-site and shadow us; recently we had a fantastic group of students from St George’s University come to join us for 6 weeks.

What would you say sets CGX apart from other training providers?

I believe we offer an unbeatable interactive experience. Whether you’re learning online or on-site, your given tasks and scenarios that you’d be expected to complete in an actual Clinical Research job. This means that when you come to interview, you’re able to discuss certain roles and tasks with an interview panel, using terminology and jargon.
We have a vested interest in our delegates and want to know how they’re progressing, if they need any help with applying for jobs or if we think there’s a role they could be suitable for. We want them to feel as if they’re a part of the development of CGX as a company and they’re joining a thriving alumni network.

What would you say to anyone who might be interested in taking a CGX course?

If you’re interested in our one of courses but you’re not sure you have the experience, talk to us and we can see what options could work for you. We’ve trained delegates with backgrounds in sales and marketing, IT and science, there’s no one clear pathway to becoming a CTP. We’ve had delegates express an interest in the CRA course, but we’ve explained they’d be much better suited to the CTA Beginners course, and as a result they’ve had a much stronger foundation to pursue further clinical training.

Finally, what advice would you give to your younger self at the beginning of your career?

I don’t think I’d tell them to do anything differently to be honest. When I left university I explored a lot of different options, worked some jobs I didn’t enjoy but discovered what mattered to me in my career moving forward and I kept my options open.
I’d say for anyone fresh out of university, know that there is a pharma job and a job in Clinical Trials out there for you somewhere. Be patient and take the necessary channels to get into the industry. The first job is always the most difficult, but once your foot is in the door, there’s a lot of opportunities for career progression.
Donnamarie Donalds and the CGX team are passionate about and committed to training the next generation of clinical trial practitioners. Whether you’re graduating from school or university, you’ve been in the field for years, you’re considering changing careers, or you just want to find out more about clinical trial career pathways, we’re ready to help you on your journey.
Contact us  today to find out more about our in-person and online courses, training solutions and consultation services.