The Auditor Dossiers - Profile 3: The Quality Assurance Professional
Profile 3: Quality Assurance professional, in industry
Name: Jane McGee
Employer: Several organisations serving national and global markets
Audit is essentially a career in service. Often it directly provides a public service; sometimes it serves a more immediate group of stakeholders, but ultimately, in some shape or form, it delivers a whole suite of benefits and assurance to the widest imaginable users. My next audit profile provides a timely reminder of this public service remit. Jane McGee has risen through the ranks of several organisations to her current position as a Quality Assurance Officer, and her whole career ‘raison d’etre’ is now centred around ‘making a difference’. Whether its safeguarding, complying with regulations, monitoring ethics or enhancing systems and processes, Jane is inspired on a daily basis by how her individual activities really count in contributing to a safer, more ethical and commercial enterprise.
Jane’s story provides a valuable case study for identifying personal motivators, finding a passion and then carving out a career in a service that she really cares about. So, let’s find out how she has gone about it…
“I didn’t set out to build a career in audit” she laughs, “I trained as a beautician and spent the first part of my career in beauty therapy and retail”. More precisely, she is actually a very highly trained beauty consultant who has fourteen years’ experience as an account manager for prestigious brands like Christian Dior, Guerlain and Chanel. In fact, she can trace much of the transferable skill base which provides the core of her Quality Assurance expertise, right back to that highly competitive, commercial, customer-led environment. “Customer service, attention to detail, strong organisational skills and the ability to work under pressure to meet tight deadlines, are all as important for me in Quality Assurance as they were in my first career”, she explains.
“I’ve always been strong in these areas and I was looking for an opportunity to take my development to the next level, as well as finding a role that offered more flexibility around child-care. That’s what gave me the incentive to make a sideways move onto a completely different career pathway”. Jane took a job as pharmacy support in a large forensic medical services company, dispensing product, controlling stocks and upholding compliance protocols. Her attention to detail, natural methodical bent and honed organisation skills really came to the fore in this environment, and so, she almost stumbled on to the Quality Assurance career pathway!
Her current role is with a large consumer healthcare testing organisation which provides reliable data to support safety and efficacy claims for multinational developers and manufacturers of cosmetics, medicines and medical devices. As Quality Assurance Officer she is a member of the Research Quality Association and is responsible for ensuring that clinical research is carried out to the highest ethical and regulatory standards. To fulfil this role, her tasks and activities comprise a range of audit, assurance and compliance duties. On the audit side, she does critical trial audits, checking and testing research studies, as well as systems audits to provide ‘fit for purpose’ assurance and operational process improvements. She has a key role on the Ethics Committee and is now an expert on ethical requirements for regulatory and non-regulatory research projects; she manages submissions and reporting, as well as auditing documents and databases. A recent career highlight was the highly successful external audit of her company’s Quality Management Systems by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. “As a relatively small clinical research organisation, these audits are highly satisfying as really validating all our ongoing hard work, as well as our constant striving for quality and continuous attention to detail,” she is delighted to report.
Jane is quick to point out that these accolades are earned by team work and she is keen to emphasise that interpersonal and communication skills are an essential prerequisite to move forwards in audit. Written and verbal communication skills are fundamental. The written side probably goes without saying, but face to face interactions are also a big part of the job. She describes the need to be brave and bold “don’t be afraid to say what you see. You must be willing to make constructive criticism when necessary but also be forthcoming with praise as it is due”.
Who should not venture into a career in Quality Assurance, I asked her. “That’s easy”, she quips. “Attention to detail is key – if that’s not your nature – don’t bother!”
But the other side of the coin is the ‘service’ aspect, truly being able to play a part in ‘making a difference’ and seeing that difference flowing through to the quality standards and commercial results of the organisation. Jane’s parting words truly convey her career passion and offer a challenge to any would be Quality Assurance professionals: “This career is a natural niche for me. It fits my inherent values and strengths so well. Why don’t you go find out if you’re a secret Sherlock Holmes!”