Working Abroad in Clinical Research

Ms Shantini Chelliah
Project Manager at Novo Nordisk,
New Jersey, US

Ms Shantini Chelliah shared her experience with CRM in her previous role as a Clinical Operations Manager at Novo Nordisk Malaysia and her current role as Project Manager in Princeton, New Jersey, US.

How did you start off in the clinical research industry?
I started off as a CRA in GlaxoSmithKline and then moved to a Clinical Team Lead role in Quintiles before assuming my position as Clinical Research Manager and then Clinical Operations Manager at Novo Nordisk Malaysia. I am now a Project Manager within Clinical Trial Management in Novo Nordisk Inc. in the US.

What does a Clinical Operations Manager do?
Clinical Operations Manager (COM) is responsible for the operations and deliverable of trials and is the main contact for any general queries and issues with regards to change of regulations governing clinical trial conduct in Malaysia. As a COM, I was also responsible in overseeing the trials selection process, that would ultimately be allocated to Malaysia, ensuring that they can be done in Malaysia, coordinating feedback from various stakeholders in Malaysia, and our HQ. I was also responsible for approving the sites that were selected for our trials and providing accurate data on utilization of resources for Clinical Trials in Malaysia. I was responsible along with my manager and our HR in the hiring process for clinical team members in Malaysia.

How long have you been in Novo Nordisk before moving to the US to take up the position as Project Manager?
6 years

When told about this offer to move to the US, how did you react?
I was very excited about this opportunity. I had never been to the US before and I have never worked outside of Malaysia, so this was a chance for me to build my career and experience living abroad. As Clinical Trials in the US are managed differently being a much bigger country, I was happy to be able to learn new processes especially in terms of resource management.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love being hands on with my projects. I enjoy listing out risks and opportunities and meeting new site staff whenever I have the opportunity. I love to be one step ahead of whatever challenge I may receive! I love travelling as well.

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And the most challenging part about your job?
For now, my challenge is to understand and integrate the different roles and how they work together here as we were leaner in Malaysia. Tasks are handled quite differently here than what I am used to.  I am learning new things every day, but having a good core understanding of trial management helps. As a former line of business manager, I am trying hard to ease my manager’s burden by learning quickly so I can be more independent! My manager and colleagues have been a source of true support in helping me do my best.

What would be your advice to those who are looking at developing their career in the clinical research industry?
Make the most of every opportunity to learn something new. You just never know where it may lead you.