I’m a newcomer to the bio-pharmaceutical industry. I joined Veramed at the end of 2020 as a Marketing Executive, having just completed an apprenticeship in Content Production in the heritage sector. Moving to an industry that’s at the forefront of medical innovation keeps me on my toes. At Veramed especially, there’s always something new happening, whether that’s a new service offering, an industry conference, or even a social event – it constantly challenges me to hone my skills. Getting to grips with the technical lingo has been perplexing at times. When I first started my role, I thought that a CRO was a misspelling of ‘CEO’, and that a ‘blockbuster’ was just a successful movie!

I’ve been at Veramed for over a year now, and this week I got to sit down with someone who’s been in the industry for almost 15. Emma Jones, our Executive Vice President of Statistics and the co-founder of Veramed, has had an impressive career so far, starting off as a Statistician in 2007 and working her way up before co-founding Veramed in 2012 with her husband, Matt Jones. Today, she provides strategic leadership to the Operations team at one of the fastest growing CROs in the industry – you can bet I had a lot of questions!

Was statistics something that you always wanted to do? What motivated you to enter the industry?

Emma: When I was younger I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. At school, I had a natural aptitude for mathematics and it was a subject I enjoyed, so I decided to study it at university. While at university, I discovered there were many different branches of mathematics – pure, mechanics, statistics…The one that made sense and that I enjoyed the most was statistics, and particularly the application to clinical trials. I spoke to a tutor, and he advised that if I wanted to pursue statistics then I should consider a Masters, which I went on to do. During my masters I became even more convinced that I wanted to work within the pharmaceutical industry – I could see how something I was good at and enjoyed could be used as a force for good in the development of new medicines.

What challenges did you face, both as a young Statistician and as you began to take on more senior roles?

Emma: I have been fortunate and haven’t faced many real challenges – I went to a good school, studied hard, went to a top university and then was able to enter an industry where there is a shortage of qualified people doing what I do! My challenge back then was that I didn’t understand the breadth of the word “Statistician” and that it actually encompasses a plethora of skills, not just being able to do technical statistics. When I speak to graduates now, or even to more experienced individuals, I’m always keen to understand specifically what type of role they enjoy as a Statistician and help explain that there are many ways to develop and progress as a Statistician in the pharmaceutical industry. It’s something I wish someone had asked me when I first started.

Have you seen any changes in the industry when it comes to diversity and women in leadership since you started?

Emma: There have been so many changes and innovations since I began working as a Statistician, from developments in technology, statistical methods and study designs. Most recently during the pandemic, the industry showed just how quickly it could move in order to get new medicines and vaccines to patients in need compared to conventional timelines. There has also been a huge growth in the use of social media by individuals and by companies over the last decade such that I think there is certainly far more awareness about the importance of diversity. There are now social media campaigns, blogs and training to promote diversity awareness and I see this as an area that our industry will continue to work towards improving. Similarly, I believe there have always been women in leadership roles in the pharmaceutical industry which may have been hidden previously. Now they are much more visible, vocal and celebrated, so I too can have role models to aspire to.

How do you think Veramed is different in an industry that can be challenging for women?

Emma: This is a hard one to answer, as I can’t speak to how other companies are structured and operate. At Veramed, our policy from the start has always been to hire the best person for the job and to be flexible in order to make it work. Since the very beginning we’ve had a fairly even gender ratio within our senior leadership team. This means that our most junior female team members have multiple senior female role models to look up to. Culture is also important to us and we have worked hard to build a reputation as a company that is recognised not only for quality but for being a nice place to work. Our strong focus on creating a culture where people feel supported and valued may be one reason for this.

What word of advice would you give to young people, and young women in particular, who are entering the industry?

Emma: Be choosy about who you work for. Find out as much as you can about your potential employer – there is so much information out there now. Work for a company whose values line up with your own, who will care about your development and value you and the work that you do. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Think big, the world is your oyster.

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