Pathways: Gabriella Wojewodka
Can you tell us a little about your career and the path you took to your present role at FoDOCS?
I completed my PhD in Human Genetics in 2014 at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. I stayed on as a post-doc with my PhD supervisor to help with a clinical trial. This was my introduction to the clinical trial world and finally felt that I found what I wanted to be when I grew up: a trial manager.
When the trial ended, I began applying for various jobs in the UK. I joined King’s in July 2015 as a research associate in the Department of Basic & Clinical Neuroscience at IoPPN, and progressed to the trial manager after three months. When I started, I was quickly given trial management duties and was encouraged to apply for the trial manager role on the study as it was still vacant.
Once the trial completed, I stayed on with the same PI carrying out different research projects. At this time, I was approached for another trial manager role within the IoPPN in Psychosis Research. I split my time between the two teams for about 2.5 years. Finally in 2020, my contract with the BCN came to a definitive end, so went down to part-time for a few months.
End of 2020, I was approached about the OCRU Research Portfolio Manager role in FoDOCS. This was a professional services role. Surprisingly this step away from research was something that I debated about more than I would have thought. No longer being officially a “researcher” on paper felt strange after so long. However, there were advantages to this role, such as an expansion in duties beyond trial management, more stability, and being involved in multiple trials.
I started in this role part-time, to finish the trial I was managing at the IoPPN, and eventually transitioned to full-time.
What, if any, challenges did you encounter along the way, and how did you navigate them?
Finding a non-lab job after my PhD was challenging as I was advised I wouldn’t have enough experience to be a trial manager just yet. I was also looking to move thus applying for jobs in a country where I had very few contacts.
Dealing with fixed-term contracts was difficult as some of these were renewed for anywhere between 3 to 12 months at a time. To extend these, I agreed to run various projects not related to clinical trials. One in particular involved the analysis of a large dataset which was a struggle but is also one I’m most proud of having come out on the other side.
If you could, what advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career?
I struggled a lot with what I wanted to do as a career. I went to countless career workshops, heard people say, ‘I just fell into this career’ (which is sort of what happened to me), and took tests to find my most compatible job (it was researcher every single time). I’m not sure whether there is anything that I could tell myself which would have changed this, except to stop trying to fight myself out of being a researcher, and just go with it.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Embrace Equity’. What does equity mean to you, and how can everyone (regardless of gender) embrace it?
For me it means going beyond offering equal opportunities by recognising that everyone’s journey to those opportunities will be different. Some people may need more support and resources than others, and we should think about how to be more proactive about this.