What’s it like to join HRW’s Graduate Academy as a trainee Research Executive? Francesca Cooper and Caitlin Reddiex (part of our 2018 intake) joined us for a chat about their experiences after nine months in our company – what they’ve learned, what surprised them, and how they are feeling now they are an established and valuable part of our team…

Good afternoon, ladies! Let’s find out more about you. Give us a little introduction and tell us where you were before HRW.

Francesca: I moved down to London in October after studying chemistry with medicinal chemistry in St Andrews: I’m originally from Aberdeen.

Caitlin: I’m from Yorkshire, and I also made the move down to the Big Smoke in October. I studied psychology at Liverpool university.

How did you stumble upon HRW?

Caitlin: I saw an advert on the Prospects website. From the description, it sounded like it played into my skills from studying psychology. I thought it would fit with the research component of my degree- plus the aspects of psychology that are biological or neurological… Then I read about HRW Shift [our in-house team of behavioural science experts] on the website which was really interesting!

Fran: I was looking for London jobs, and didn’t know anything about this industry- until I stumbled across an ad on a recruitment website, and the spec sounded interesting! I wanted a job I could learn from, and where I’d get to work with people (I wasn’t keen to work in a lab). I’d learned a lot about the pharma industry from my degree, so it felt like something that would give me what I was looking for with some ties to my background.

Caitlin: I didn’t know this industry existed either! And now I know there’s all these companies and jobs, from recruiters to Central Location venues, working to support it.

What were your expectations about the role before you started?

Fran: It’s hard to say… you can read a job spec, but you never really know what is involved. I looked into the project flow, and understood you’d manage a research project from start to finish- but I didn’t know much about the day-to-day reality.

Caitlin: I completely agree…. But I was just really excited!

Fran: I knew there’d be a lot to learn, but it’s great to be somewhere you know you’re going to develop. The people-facing part was what I was looking for, and the role certainly lived up to that.

What were your impressions during the interview process?

Fran: I loved the day! It really consolidated everything for me, in terms of wanting the job.

Caitlin: I agree. It was my first assessment day, and I’d heard they weren’t meant to be fun, but this one was. It was quite inspiring to hear how the team spoke about HRW and made me really want to work here.

Fran: The exercises were challenging, but it didn’t feel like they were trying to catch you out or anything. But you needed to manage your time and be rational, which can be hard when under pressure. Also, there were some really good candidates there on the day! If you see good people around you, it makes you think they care about hiring good people and want to help you develop.

What surprised you when you started working here?

Caitlin: It was quite intense. But it’s a really fun office (definitely more fun than where a lot of my friends work), which made it a lot easier. It makes it easy to ask questions and it makes you feel a lot more comfortable. Team spirit is important!

Fran: I realised how much I didn’t know…. But I was also surprised by how nice everyone was- it really is fine to ask lots of questions, and people are here to help you. You think you’ll be a burden, but everyone was so kind.

Caitlin: These days, I’m looking after one of our brand-new trainee Research Executives (Emma Jackson) in a Buddy role, and that’s been great- and it’s had me reflecting on all the things that were tricky for us in the early days. Such as knowing how to handle meeting bookings, admin tasks, and finances- the little things where you need help.

Fran: Also, a big surprise after a few weeks was the importance of good time management, and you have to really get used to juggling lots of tasks. The work comes thick and fast!

Tell me about the training you received…

Fran: There was a lot of it, which was good. The trainers discussed the reasoning behind each topic, so you understand where it fits- which gives you a good foundation and consolidates all that you’re picking up on-the-job. Some of it goes over your head during the sessions, but as soon as you get round to attempting the task in question, it makes sense.

Caitlin: What I found most useful was a day-long session on project management- led by two experienced Senior Research Managers. It was a really comprehensive flow- talking through a hypothetical project from start to finish, giving an overview of what each study will be like.

What do you now enjoy most about your role?

Caitlin: I like getting to the final debrief for each project. You get to present it, and you get the satisfaction of a client being really happy with what you’ve done. It feels like you’ve really accomplished something, and that you were an important part of that achievement.

Fran: Your voice is heard, and you definitely make a difference to the business. You may not get the same luxury in a bigger or more corporate environment. I also enjoy the analysis process- taking what you have uncovered over weeks or months… discussing what you’ve learned and learning from other people to feed into the final report.

Who do you enjoy working with at HRW?

Fran: Everyone! It’s not a very hierarchical company, and we get to work with directors, our line managers, and people in different roles and teams, in quite an open and free-flowing way.

Caitlin: There’s no-one I don’t enjoy working with, which is great! I’ve worked a lot with Lisa Logan (VP of US Research) who sits with our Manhattan office. We’re obviously working across time zones which can be tricky, but she’s so good at her job, has really interesting and clever ways of thinking, and is so good at pushing me.

Fran: Faye Holmes (Senior Research Manager) is a machine… she’s so on it and gets things done so efficiently- meaning she can handle really challenging projects.

What’s your favourite project to date?

Caitlin: I love working on patient journey research. My psychology background fits with it well, and you feel like you’re doing something really worthwhile. I recently completed a study on blood disorders, involving patient ethnography. We got to capture and analyse patient videos recounting their experiences, and it was really raw and emotional.

Fran: I enjoyed a market understanding piece in rheumatology. It was the first project where I had a really strong steer on the process and took more of a leading role. It included moderation of interviews, which meant I learned a lot about the detail of what doctors say versus just the notes from analysis. I also presented a lot of it at the debrief and felt really confident in discussions with the client as I had been so involved in the interviews.

What would you like to focus on more in the future/learn more about?

Fran: I’m enjoying the variety of different areas, so don’t really want to specialise in anything just yet. I’m looking forward to projects with more diverse methodologies such as online bulletin boards, or more advanced techniques in quant research to develop skills further.

Caitlin: I’m looking forward to focusing more on the behavioural science side of our work, through my membership in HRW Shift. I’m starting to get more involved as a project consultant on this type of study, and I’m finding it adds so much for our clients. Even with something as simple as questionnaire design, you can “think Shift” to make it work even better, and I love that!

What are your interests/passions beyond MR?

Fran: Is it too simple to say snacks… and dogs? I’m pretty sociable and a big animal lover!

Caitlin: I’m just loving London life at the moment and feeling really content with everything! Fran and I also go to a personal trainer together in HRW’s office gym, which is great.

What advice would you have for new starters in our business?

Caitlin: Ask lots of questions in your first few weeks!

Fran: I’d say the job advert is 100% true in terms of the benefits and the responsibilities. The role challenges you, but in a good way. There’s lots to learn, but it will give you loads of skills. The company isn’t that big, so you can get stuck into loads of stuff.

To find out more about our Graduate Academy, click here.

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