My Path to Regulatory Affairs
The pathway to a Regulatory Affairs career is not always straight-forward. Unless you were lucky enough to have a mentor that opened your eyes to the area, it may not be a role you have dreamt of entering, like say a doctor or astronaut.
The Regulatory Affairs sector may sound prescriptive, something involving rules which cannot be broken, hours spent in an office, reading, researching through mountains of data and laws. It may not appeal to everyone but it can be a fulfilling and fun career.
I feel it is appropriate to clarify right from the start that I consider myself a Food Regulatory Professional with knowledge in Cosmetics and Homeopathic Drugs who can dip in and out of Pharmaceuticals should the situation require. Sounds like a handful but the willingness to have flexibility is a skill in itself.
I graduated from University with a degree in Environmental Engineering and looking at where I am today, this it may seem unrelated. I wasn’t naturally talented in Engineering, so my focus was on the chemistry element of the programme.
If you had asked me on my graduation day what I wanted to do, the answer would have involved a lab coat and some exciting experiments. The thing I found with precise ideas is that you might miss something which is perfect for you, so keeping an open mind (for me) was essential.
During my career I have had a fair share of jobs and worked with different companies. My first job was in Bioequivalence Studies, back in my homeland, which was an exciting opportunity. That was also when I first saw my co-workers with great scientific knowledge, who spent their time in an office all day. It seemed a bit confusing as no University explained there were worlds beyond the Erlenmeyer flask.
I struck gold when a Natural Healthcare company offered me a job to work in their laboratory. I was always passionate about anything and everything involving plants, so this seemed like I was finally where I belonged in my career. This was happening in London, the land of limitless opportunity to grow and develop. They had a great internal programme for employees to express where they would like their careers to go, learn from other departments and supporting career/role opportunities.
At this time, I was still unaware that ‘Regulatory Affairs’ existed in association to a job title. But, after two years of working in their laboratory and another two in Quality Assurance, there was a suggestion that I had the skills to join the Regulatory Affairs team. After doing a bit of research, I realised that this job might just be what I was looking for without knowing what it was called. It had all the elements I enjoyed; scientific and technical knowledge, ability to think from a marketing and commercial point of view, and insight into product development. I will always be grateful to my first Regulatory Manager who set me on course to do what I want for the rest of my career, and this is also an example that some things just happen out of good fortune.
Should this have been a course in University, maybe my path to the role would have been shorter. But working across different roles and embracing new opportunities, helped me find the career path that was right for me.
My current role involves diversity, unlike the preconception that Regulatory Affairs is a very strict role, defined by straight lines. My particular field involves lots of curves and a complex framework which you have to navigate with confidence. Since joining JensonR+, the diversity of my role has grown tenfold. I get to see lots of product ideas, with new things constantly crossing my desk; types of formulations, product claims to review or new ingredients being proposed. As well as time spent on registrations and product notifications, I also spend a lot of time on research, establishing positions to justify my decisions, advising on messages a product can carry and reviewing scientific data to support an innovative idea. Which is only part of the role.
In Food and Cosmetic Law, there are precise regulations to follow and advise on, as consumer safety is key and the purpose is to ensure products are compliant. But, along this strictness, I also get to work with creative individuals, which brings so much fun into the job and encourages me to approach things with a ‘beginners mindset’ and keep my mind open to all possibilities.
In hindsight, I wish there was more knowledge of these career path opportunities, and Universities would encourage them more. But one thing you can be sure of, this opportunity exists, even if your first step is in a different role. Should anyone else be aiming to work in Food or Cosmetics Regulatory Affairs, all I can say is that I consider it a good choice. You get to use your scientific knowledge, influence ideas and have a diverse work pattern.
My role at JensonR+ took something that I liked already and multiplied my enjoyment, as opportunity is limitless.
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