Erica Manning: From One Trial to Another

by William McEwen

This year, the Imperial Clinical Research Services blog is featuring professional insights from some of the women leaders in our company. I sat down for a discussion with Erica Manning, who is the manager of Imperial’s translation services team, to learn about her role at Imperial, facets of leadership, and the professional route she took to become part of the clinical trials industry.

What does a week in the professional life of Erica look like?  

No two days are alike. My days are filled with finding solutions to new challenges our clients are faced with. The real trick is to look beyond a solution for today’s challenge to find one that will work over time and across all clients so that our level of services can remain consistent, reliable, and enduring.

You have an interesting background story. Tell us a bit about your education and experience before joining Imperial and how that prepared you for work in clinical trials.

I had gone off to law school watching, arguably, too many episodes of the television show Judging Amy. After graduating and passing the state bar exam, I had little interest in pursuing a legal career. A family friend asked if I was interested in running their company’s interpreting program since I had an undergraduate degree in business. I was happy to discover I really enjoyed the interpretation/translation industry. Coming to Imperial, I was able to expand into writing and design, where I discovered writers and translators have so much in common. Falling into clinical research through translation, I would not have been able to predict my law school education would help as it does in the heavily regulated world of clinical research.

What challenges or successes played a role in developing you as a leader?

Managers at any company will find it is easy to blame people when they are exhibiting poor breakout behaviors. However, if there is more than a single individual exhibiting the same behavior, I have learned that I must assume 100 percent responsibility. I have hired willing and capable people, so there is something in the environment driving them to exhibit this shared behavior. It is my responsibility to find out what is happening and mitigate or resolve it.  Anything less, and I’m not really doing my part as a leader.

Are there any memorable “a-ha” moments of your career in clinical trials? 

When I was first exposed to clinical research, I was frustrated at the variety of requests I was fielding that directly sabotaged the client’s project objectives. In other industries where I’ve worked, this only happens occasionally. In clinical research, it was a daily challenge. When I learned how isolated departments at the sponsor level are, I realized the project contacts I was interfacing with had no visibility to the rest of the moving parts of the study. Each opportunity I had to bridge that gap between teams was a chance to prevent rework or duplicate work down the line. The cost savings I can give my clients when they are willing to take the time up front to align their teams before launching a project can feel very rewarding.

If a young person asked for career advice and you only had a few minutes to give your best tip, what would it be?

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Know yours. That knowledge will help you adapt to the inevitable, unexpected challenges you will face and will give you insight into how to capitalize on your strengths and the strengths of others.

Erica is part of the team that spearheads Imperial’s growth, and she is passionate about never falling into complacency. Her energy seems unlimited. I have always found that no matter how busy the day is or how challenging the tasks get, Erica approaches everything with a smile and a contagious attitude that nothing is impossible.

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