When our Delta recruiting team speaks to new candidates, they are often asked, “What is the difference between a Validation Consultant and a Validation Engineer/Specialist at my current biopharma company?” This is an important question to ponder because consulting is not for everyone. The importance of having the self awareness to know whether or not consulting work is the right fit for you cannot be overlooked.
There are three key differentiators to consider:
1. Do I Have the Technical Skills?
Never forget that as a consultant you (and your firm) are being paid to bring skills and expertise that the client organization does not possess. This position requires a strong technical background to “sell” to the prospective client and add value to their project. Relevant skills include commissioning and qualification experience, protocol development and timely execution, temperature mapping studies, cleaning validation, data integrity risk assessments, technical writing, validation planning, and so on. Your purpose is to provide expertise and knowledge, and the client doesn’t allocate resources to providing training on the basic fundamentals. You must identify and refine your core capabilities and bring those to your clients’ projects.
Understand that your success as a consultant requires the ability to roll up your sleeves and help the client however you can – and in that, you can find ample opportunity to learn new skills and round out your technical expertise. You may be at a client site as a technical writer developing validation protocols, but the client is shorthanded one day and needs help performing executions associated with a protocol you authored. This would present you with an excellent opportunity to gain some hands-on experience and also show the client you can play multiple roles within their project team.
Note: A willingness to help out in other areas can lead to expanded skills and success; but this needs to be approached carefully. Don’t take on additional tasks until you’ve completed all of your assignments in your current scope of work. Your client should approve this support in advance. It may be nice that you helped with an unassigned task, but you’ll have a very unhappy sponsor if that unassigned task delayed the critical tasks within your scope of work.
Ultimately the more diverse your skill set and expertise, the more likely you will be to land higher visibility projects. For more information, read Adrienn Prezenszki’s excellent article on technical skill sets for Validation work.
2. Do I Have the Soft Skills?
Key soft skills that will allow you to thrive as a consultant include learning agility and intellectual curiosity (are you constantly learning new skills and asking questions?), personal integrity (adhere to the cGMPs so that you can assess if a request or activity represents a possible violation), a value-centered mindset (the client is paying a lot of money for your time, so every billable hour should clearly bring value to the client), flexibility (different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong so be open to new approaches where they make sense), and PMA – positive mental attitude.
Establishing trust with the client is one of the most important factors to be considered, as it can be very difficult to re-establish a good report with your coworkers if that relationship is compromised. It is also important to note that your behavior, attitude, and willingness to take on additional responsibilities above and beyond your assigned day-to-day tasks is often considered to be a direct reflection of the company you represent.
3. What’s My Preferred Lifestyle?
One person’s stability and predictability is another person’s stifling boredom. In-house employment with the client can often lead to greater certainty, but the flip side of this may mean being siloed in a singular function with limited opportunities for growth and fewer project-related roles to diversify your skills. There’s no right or wrong choice, but you must understand and recognize what is important to you, your career, and the lifestyle you choose to pursue.
Consulting can be exciting and rewarding, as you can travel to different parts of the world and learn an incredible amount in a short period of time. You mustn't overlook the realities of long periods away from home and perpetually feeling like a “visitor” at your client’s work site, however; consulting with the right employer can lead to fast career advancement and put you in greater control of your professional development.
At Delta Project Management, we pride ourselves on the quality of our service to our clients, the professional excellence of our staff, and our reputation for consistently delivering project success. We empower our consultants with challenging projects, and allow them to identify specific skills they would like to strengthen and develop and also travel to new geographies they would like to experience. As you consider a career in consulting, keep in mind that your thoughts will change depending on where you are in your professional and personal life.
If Validation Consulting is still attractive to you after giving some serious thought to the points listed above, feel free to apply to our current openings or reach out directly to us. We are always looking for talented and driven people with the right mix of expertise and personality, as we're expanding our diverse portfolio of clients where you can grow your career.