In Conversation with Erin Bongolan, A Clinical Trial Assistant Placed by Meet

9-10 Minutes

Meet Erin! Erin recently partnered with Meet to look for her next career opportunity, pivot...

By Emily Davies

Senior Content Writer

Meet Erin!

Erin recently partnered with Meet to look for her next career opportunity, pivoting from Healthcare to Life Sciences.

After studying Biology at university, Erin spent five significant years working as a Medical Assistant in a direct care facility. The time came when Erin felt ready to take on a new challenge but still remain doing what she loves most – helping patients. And that’s how her relationship with Meet began.

Since spending some time with Reagan Holmes discussing her wants, needs, and dreams, Erin is now settled into her exciting new role as Clinical Trial Assistant. We caught up with her to see how she’s getting on in the Clinical Research sector, if she has any insight to offer others who are in a similar position to where she was, and how she feels about the time she spent with Meet during her job search.

Hi Erin! Let’s dive straight in… What inspired you to begin your job search in Clinical Research?

My best friend is a CRA, so she was the person who first introduced me to this industry. What drew me in was that although different, it’s closely related to the Healthcare industry, and that meant I’d still be able to do a job that benefits patients. Clinical Research, in particular, is the side of healthcare that I really wanted the opportunity to explore more.

My new role isn’t direct patient care like I’d been doing for such a long time, but it’s a job that’s goal is to help patients. That’s what’s really important to me and what I love to do. Ultimately, that and the opportunity to experience something different, learn new skills, and understand what happens on the other side of healthcare is what really attracted me to the Life Sciences space.

What’s your journey been like getting into the Life Sciences industry?

There’s been a lot of ups and downs, but definitely more ups!

It’s been such a long time since I’ve gone through the interview process. I looked at so many job postings and sent out so many applications that sometimes you can’t help but feel a little discouraged when you don’t hear anything back.

I understand because I didn’t have any experience in the industry, and a large majority of roles say you need X years of Clinical Research experience, which I didn’t have. But as soon as I got in touch with Reagan, everything started to fall into place, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

People sometimes forget that recruiters have market knowledge and a ton of connections, so once you’re in contact with a consultant, they can make the interviewing process much more streamlined. Have you ever worked with a recruitment agency before?

No, I haven’t. Reagan actually got in touch with me through a friend of mine who’d also been placed at her job through Meet.

I did end up with other recruitment agencies reaching out to me about other job opportunities, but I didn’t proceed with any of them. It was just Reagan that I was talking to, and I’m glad that it was her and there wasn’t anyone else.

As you said, she just made everything so streamlined, and there’s nothing more I could have possibly wanted out of that experience – I got the job I wanted for myself.

Based on the fact you had other recruitment companies contacting you, what was it about Meet that made you want to work with us?

I’d already had a couple of phone calls with Reagan by the time these other agencies were reaching out, and looking back, the other agencies were just not very personable at all.

The first time I spoke to Reagan, we just chatted, and it felt personal to me. I liked that I actually got to speak with her rather than by email. Being able to talk to someone just made the job search less stressful, and from that first conversation with Reagan, she made it clear to me that she wanted to help me. I felt incredibly supported by her from the get-go.

Overall, I’d say it was the relationship that I built with Reagan that made me want to continue my job search with Meet.

That relationship is a really important part of the recruitment process. How did Reagan’s technical expertise help you land your first Life Sciences role?

When I first started interviewing, Reagan would call me right before the interview to check in and make sure I was prepared. She really helped me understand how the flow of the interview would go. Not necessarily what they would ask me, but she’d let me know what the company was looking for, so I knew to highlight those qualities.

She’d always call me right after the interviews too. I think Reagan’s excellent follow-up, before and after, helped me feel much more prepared. It took a lot of the stress away. I felt at ease going into each interview, which helped me perform better, I think.

It’s really lovely to hear about your relationship with Reagan, and it’s such a testament to her as a recruiter. From your role as Medical Assistant, what skills lend themselves to what you’re doing now as a CTA?

The main thing that turned out to be really valuable was that I learned how to juggle multiple tasks and do them very well, which is what I think made me a good fit for this role.

In my last position, I did a lot of things outside of my Medical Assistant role. My manager entrusted me with a lot of outside projects and allowed me to cross-train in other areas, so I wore a lot of different hats in that department. I would train people, work with doctors, track feedback to improve processes, and do prior authorization.

I think that experience helped me be the right match for this new role because they were looking for someone to do the same thing, someone who can take on multiple roles and different assignments.

I know you’ve only been in your new role for a short time, but can you give us some insight into what a typical day looks like for a CTA?

At the moment, because I’m still in the training phase, I have a lot of documents I need to read, such as standard operating procedures and the different protocols.

Usually, I’ll dedicate two-three hours of my day to my training, then I’ll work on some other ongoing projects that have been passed over from our Senior CTAs. There’s a lot of document management and tracking for our investigational product that I’m doing right now.

Since I’m still in the beginning process, I would say that sums up my average day, but I’m told it’s going to get much busier, and I can’t wait! I feel like I’m definitely ready to take on more as long as I get the appropriate training.

Has anything surprised you in your new role?

This is the first job that I’ve experienced working from home, so what did come as a nice surprise was the work-life balance I suddenly now have.

In my previous job, I would work 10-hour days with just one day off in the middle of the week. I would come home emotionally and physically exhausted. Now I feel like there’s much more of a balance, and I get to actually enjoy my day because I’m not spending so much of it at work or exhausted from work.

That really was the biggest surprise to me, the change in schedule and flexibility. I really love it, it’s great!

Out of curiosity, what sort of therapy areas are you working on at the moment?

We’re currently developing a drug for a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS), which primarily affects children and has no cure.

It’s a really sad condition, and one of the main symptoms is this uncontrollable need to eat. It can get to the point where families have to lock up their pantries and refrigerators because children suffering from PWS will just eat and eat and eat. It can get as bad as patients’ stomachs rupturing because they just don’t know when to stop, or they go foraging for food in the trashcan and things like that. It’s really heartbreaking.

Our VP of Clinical Operations has told me stories about the patients that we’re helping and the impact the drug has had so far. I think it’s such a great mission that the company is dedicated to developing a treatment for this symptom of PWS, which is often reported as the worst symptom.

It’s a really great, fulfilling thing to be working on. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about the condition because you can’t not be affected when you hear these devastating stories.

That’s a really great cause, and I can’t wait to see how the therapy area expands. Do you have any advice for anyone following in your footsteps, hoping to make a similar move into Clinical Research?

I would say try your best to remain positive and persistent.

It can definitely be discouraging when you’re looking for something new and you feel like you’ve reached your full potential in your current role, but you have to be confident in your own qualities and what you can bring to the table. I looked at the qualities that helped me succeed in my previous role and thought of all the ways those qualities can help me excel in another position.

It’s also really important to have a strong support system. I was lucky to have great support from my previous manager, which helped my transition and made it a lot easier for me. It can be difficult leaving a job, especially when you’ve been there for an extended amount of time. Having a supportive manager allowed me to leave knowing I’d left my mark and helped make the beginning of my new venture so positive.

There were a lot of things I learned from this job search, but ultimately it came down to persistence and positivity, which is what I think got me this new role. There can be a lot of rejection with job searching, but you’ve just got to keep going until you get to where you want to be. Fortunately, that’s how it happened for me, and I ended up finding a company where I can see myself working long-term. It’s a great place to be.

Was there anything that surprised you about working with Meet that you didn’t expect?

I was pleasantly surprised by how personal it was. I didn’t expect it to be like that. I thought it would be more email correspondence, but Reagan walked me through the whole process, and it felt like she was dedicated to helping me find a job.

I don’t know if I ever would have found this role if it wasn’t for Reagan. My friend gave her my contact details, but when I first spoke to her, she was recruiting for more senior roles and said she’d keep me in mind if she saw any entry-level positions come up.

It was only a few days later that she reached back out, and I’m so grateful Reagan followed through with what she said. I really appreciate her for helping me out. I’m sure there are a lot of people interviewing for roles right now, so I know I’m probably one of many, but I really do appreciate her for sticking with me and following up with me throughout the whole process.

Can you describe your experience with Meet in three words?

I would say accessible, supportive, and comfortable.

And lastly, what do you think the future has in store for you in Life Sciences?

Oh, so many things!

Working with the Clinical Operations team is very inspiring, just seeing how knowledgeable they are. I want to be knowledgeable as them, I want to be active in our team meetings, and I want to take on lots of projects and execute them very well.

I’ve seen how busy our CRAs are and how helpful our Senior CTAs can be. I can see myself being at this company long-term, taking on a lot of projects and becoming an expert in my role. Like I said before, I hope to move up to a Senior CTA position, and I hope that one day if we do hire more CTAs, I’ll be one of those people helping train them. I have a lot of experience training others, and I really love it. I think having a good trainer to start you out in a job sets you up for success, and I love being that person for others.

There’s a lot I want to do at this company, but most of all, I just want to continue learning and become really good at what I do. That’s why it’s kind of hard for me to be the new person – I don’t like the feeling of not being as useful as I know I can be, but in time, it’ll happen.

I can definitely relate to that feeling! And I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next for you. It’d be lovely to stay in touch so we can see how you progress in your Life Sciences career, and as always, we’ll be rooting for you, Erin!

If you’re looking for your next opportunity in Life Sciences and want Meet’s expertise to guide you in the right direction, you can reach out to us directly or head to our latest job postings.

Book in a call with one of the team about your hiring needs.

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