Monitorské rozhovory #10

Lucia Kresse, MBA

Director, Global Clinical Operations at Syneos Health


Lucia Kresse is an international leader with a focus on change management,  strong analytical skills and customer focus.

She brings more than 21 years of industry experience and 12 years of experience working in Clinical Research Organizations (CRO) in various roles including, Global Program (PM) lead role, Senior Manager of Clinical Operations, Senior Team Leader, CRA and Manager, Site Contracts, Global Contracts Lead and Regulatory Affairs Associate across all phases of research.

Lucia also has more than 4 years in leadership and over 10 years experience in managerial positions.

Responsibilities have included driving Client relationships, implementing changes in partnerships, KPIs, participating at bid defense meetings, delivering on national, regional and global projects, meeting and exceeding client deliverables; leading, developing and growing regional teams of CRAs, CTAs, PMs, Clinical Liaisons and their managers as well as driving process improvement initiatives.

Lucia has also served in pharma Sales and Marketing roles.


Your career is impressive and very diverse. Can you please describe your journey to director of a big corporate company?

I started as an English language consultant to Product Managers and  the Marketing Manager at a major pharmaceutical company, as well as supported CRAs at a CRO during my first year at university. This was when I decided to become a CRA.

It was not easy because I did not have a scientific degree, however, I was fortunate to have worked with marketing and sales in the pharma field, received a lot of medical training in those positions, and later became a CRA with exposure to submissions and contract negotiations.

I was then driven to work with contracts,  starting as a Contract Specialist, Contracts Manager and later a team leader, leading two global project teams in 47 countries as a Global Contracts Lead. Eventually, I became a Manager. I enjoyed developing people and applied for  the role of Manager, Clinical Operations.

From there, I  grew my career across  different business units, managed almost all European countries, as well as Latin America, the Middle East and South Africa at different times.

After a few years I was given a chance to lead Line Managers as an Associate Director and later Director and also became responsible for two dermatology partnerships in FSP. Many times I feared failure yet my curiosity always won over and helped to drive my success.

I wanted to do the best possible job in every position, worked on extra initiatives and networked with colleagues and other departments to learn and help each other.


You have experience with local and global positions.

How does a manager’s role differ at these individual levels?

In a local role you need significant indepth knowledge of all the local aspects, legislation, strong market knowledge, contact with KOLs. Your  approach is very detailed on the given country.

In a global role, you are able to build on the knowledge from the local roles yet you need to take a more holistic view and rely on your country experts for expertise. Holding a global role offers the opportunity to provide overall guidance and direction.


What are your main responsibilities in the role of the Director, Clinical Operations?

I am responsible for FSP team performance for Syneos Health in four countries, directly supervising five Line Managers in those countries and also a dedicated Global Clinical Operations Partnership Lead for partnerships with two pharma companies.

I am a strategic eye-level partner for the customer‘s executive team, the point of contact for clinical operations escalations and the link between the operational teams and other departments to deliver the best services.


Would you describe a bid defense meeting?

What kind of preparation precedes it? How important is it to the business?

A bid defense meeting is a crucial step in partner selection where operations, finance, change management and strategy are presented and discussed with the biopharma customer.

It is an opportunity for Syneos Health to build a stronger relationship with the customer, offering value and demonstrating superiority in the industry while building on former success case studies.

There is robust preparation across many different departments, including business development, clinical operations, study start up, consulting, pricing and others, if needed. In an ideal case, the teams meet in person, although  most preparation is done online, and the meeting itself is face to face with the customer.

It is very important to the business as it is technically one of the last steps of the selection process for a new or extended partnership.


Strong negotiation skills are required for this meeting.

Do you think they can be learned or do you have to have a natural disposition?

These skills can and should be learned. Having an open personality helps, yet anyone with dedication to learn can learn negotiation skills and even become better than the person who does not invest the time into learning negotiation skills.


You have a Master Business Administration degree from the University of Seattle.


Did this study help you in building your career?

Would you recommend it to women aspiring to high management positions in pharmaceutical companies?

My MBA has helped in two ways – first of all to meet the job description requirement and, of course, with the practical aspects of management, communication and operations.

The environment has changed since I graduated and we are seeing a lot more diversity in high management positions, especially at Syneos Health where we have a strong focus on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

There is much more focus is on the right mindset and diversity of thought, rather than the field of study. A lot of my colleagues who graduated with a science degree have taken some management classes or even completed business education as a second degree.


Do you think it’s more difficult for women to get into leadership positions?

What would you recommend to them?

I have not perceived this to be more difficult. Syneos Health has a very diverse and inclusive culture and about 50% of our Director positions and above are women.

I would recommend to every woman to concentrate on having the best possible skills and choose to work for a company that evaluates skills and hires top talent.


What qualities must a woman have in a high position?

It helps to look at things from a distance and more holistically, possess strong analytical skills and do everything with compassion, integrity. You also need to be reliable, accountable for what you do, consistent and not to take yourself too seriously.


How can you effectively protect yourself from stress in such a position?

Always do your best at work so you do not have to think about it on weekend and in the evenings. Even if working from home, always set office hours for yourself. Find a colleague at work to network with and remember to treat everything as a professional decision, not personal.

Find a system that best works for you on how to plan your day and to leave room in your calendar for emergencies every day as it is easy to get caught in an 8-hour meeting day.

I have a sticker on my desk – a statement I heard in an interview with Evy Pompouras. It reads,  “This is your emergency, not mine!“ If others pressure you to do something immediately, remember, it is due to their poor planning, not yours.

I do my best to help colleagues but do not stress about their situation. I tend to turn every challenge into an opportunity to do better and learn something instead of concentrating on the difficulty of the situation.


How can a manager help his subordinates in career growth?

Every manager’s success is measured by their team’s success. The manager needs to get to know their subordinates well, establish an open relationship in order to discuss the person’s strengths and weaknesses, help them build their skills, coach them, recommend proper training and keep track of progress.

Frequent discussions are needed to make sure the person is on track and receiving constant feedback. At Syneos Health, each employee is encouraged to drive their own Individual Development Plan and each line manager is held accountable to coach, mentor and support their staff.


How would you define a leader?

Being a leader is an attitude, not necessarily an official role. As a leader you need to identify what is required in the given moment, be able to adapt, be trustworthy, authentic, consistent and caring at all times considering the overall situation. You propose a vision and empower people to execute the vision.


Where the monitor could move in his career in the CRO and what is the best approach?

First, the monitor should become the best version of a monitor that is possible by upskilling themselves through mentoring junior monitors, seek opportunities to present to a wider audience, and make themselves visible so that once an opportunity arises they will be thought of.

Everyone is responsible to drive their own career, seek help and not expect to be entitled to a promotion just because they are in role for x amount of years.

Often, less senior colleagues in terms of years with the company can have the drive, have dedicated time to upskill themselves and have the right attitude. The next logical step is many times a Clinical Operation Lead on the way to Project Management or Clinical Operations Manager.

A good Manager should support growth in their team, yet each individual owns their development plan and if your Manager is not driving it, the individual always should.


What are the necessary qualities of a monitor and a trial manager’s?

A monitor should be attentive to detail, constantly vigilant and reliable.

A trial manager should be very resilient and able to filter information from the client to the team, foster a positive working attitude while driving deliverables.


Do you think that continuous education is core for career growth?

Absolutely yes. Continuous education is a mindset that enables you to grow in all aspects of life. We are all responsible to be the best version of ourselves each day.


Do you think that publishing valuable content on LinkedIn can help to boost career?

It is a valuable tool and I have enjoyed your inspiring posts on LinkedIn. Thank you Veronika for inspiring and coaching young professionals in Clinical Research.

I see LinkedIn as an opportunity to connect with professionals from all over the world and it is no longer a tool to only boost your career, but also to pay back a little to the community and share knowledge, celebrate your Client’s and  peer’s success.


What was your biggest work challenge recently?

Last year, I had to attend a bid defense meeting completely online due to Covid-19 restrictions. Needing to overcome the physical barrier, many small icons on a screen instead of any eye contact and direct feedback.


Who inspired you the most in your life?

My father showed me from very a young age that one can achieve anything they set their mind to and to always look for a solution rather than complain.

I was fortunate that my first manager was a remarkable lady. She was in a leadership position of a major pharmaceutical company, always acting with integrity, keen to learn, open to discussion and had a fantastic sense of humor and she taught me one of the most used sentences in negotiation.


What leisure activities do you like?

I enjoy biking, weight lifting, tai chi, hiking and generally spending time in nature. If I need to relax also physically, I enjoy watching documentaries on nature and astronomy.


Thank you for the interview!


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