Fast Forward at 50

Clare Dalbeck

Clare Dalbeck

Clare Dalbeck is Head of Quality at a pharmaceutical company, a role which has allowed her to work in India, Sweden, America, Canada and most European countries.

Clare is highly regarded in the industry, experienced, well-paid, over 50 and in describing her current role showed a great deal of passion and enthusiasm for her job….so why change now?

Anne Casey went to talk to Clare about taking on a new challenge at 50.
I went to Glasgow to meet up with Clare, a successful career woman who, at the age of 50 something, has decided that she needs a fresh challenge!

We met in a friendly little bistro in the east side of the city to talk about why she had decided to make the move from a very senior, very well-paid job with a pharmaceutical company, to setting up her own consultancy business.

Currently, Clare is Head of Quality at a pharmaceutical company which has grown steadily in the past few years. In the time that she has been there, just over seven years, the company has become a virtual company; with pretty much all the functions required by the company, from R&D through to pharmaceutical production, being outsourced to companies all over the world. This has led to Clare spending time in India, Sweden, America, Canada and most European countries. Her role is to check on the quality of these outsourced operations to ensure that the standards stipulated in the drug license or a manufacturing procedure are being adhered to. In describing her current role there was a great deal of passion and enthusiasm for the job….so why change now?

Clare’s immediate response was “I need change, I get bored otherwise”.

She explained that although she works for a virtual company, she is required to be at her desk five days a week. In theory working from home should be an option but in practice her days are filled with problem solving, needing an immediate response from her which is much easier to do if someone can just pop their head around an office door and get an immediate answer. Clare admitted though that there are some days at the office when she never gets near her ‘to do’ list with all of these impromptu meetings. In fact she said that while she has an open door policy just occasionally the door is closed, to signal that she needs just a little time to herself. As I’m sure we have all experienced from time to time, the signal is not always observed and the day can disappear! The globe-trotting, which she enjoyed, carrying out quality checks on contractors world-wide, is now delegated to more junior members of her staff as the company grows.

In addition to her desire for change, over the past year, she has found the commute to her office some 50 miles from her home, more and more difficult. This was a factor in her decision making. She has had enough of driving in the dark and, this being Scotland also in the rain, so set a leaving date for the end of October, before the weather and dark nights became too bad.

The final piece of the puzzle of why she would want to make a change to her life was that she has always enjoyed doing rather than managing. She was refreshingly candid about the fact that she would prefer not to have the responsibility for managing staff. She accepts the need for motivating staff and supporting their training needs, however she believes that her strengths lie elsewhere and she wants to get back to what she thinks that she does best, which is being “hands on”.

I asked her what she felt would be the challenges in starting as a consultant in quality-control and quality-assurance for the pharmaceutical industry. Frankly, from her easy going, self-assured manner it was hard to believe that she would find anything to be truly challenging. She was frank about how well she understood the business that she has been in for over 21 years, but admitted to being “concerned about the business development aspects” of stepping out on her own. She explained that she would find cold calling potential clients difficult. When she had first put in her notice she described feeling as though she was about to “step of a cliff” a feeling made worse by the fact that, in the credit crunch, there isn’t that much work about.

She needn’t have worried! As soon as the word went out that she was leaving her current employment, her fears were put to rest. She has already been approached by a recruitment agency who has a client who, having failed to persuade Clare to work for hem full-time, is interested in using her services as a consultant. Additionally a supplier that she has contracted with in the past is now very interested in working with her. He is well established as a consultant to the industry, with a good reputation for delivery, and he believes that she can complement the work that he does. She has had other approaches too, so is beginning to feel a lot more comfortable that she will have sufficient work for the foreseeable future. She knows too that she is in a very good position to bid for work because she has wide range of experience and expertise in employing consultants herself. She knows what companies are looking for and, crucially, how much they are willing to pay.

Another challenge is networking, as ‘word of mouth’ recommendations are hugely important in her industry. It is a relatively ‘small world’ and personal recommendations are the most likely way that Clare will get new business.

It is important to have good people around you when you strike out alone, to get good support and good advice. This might not be too much of a problem for Clare. After receiving her degree from Glasgow University, she stayed on to do research work and began her family while she was in her early 20’s. She now has a daughter who is a tax expert, a son who, like Clare, is a scientist and another son who is an accountant. There’s something to be said for having children early in life! She told me ruefully that her daughter is coming home for the weekend of her 30th birthday and her ‘baby boy’ is now 26. I hope she does not refer to him as such while getting accountancy advice from him!

Most of us wait until there is a huge change in our personal circumstances, a divorce, redundancy or the like, before we take our careers in a different direction. Clare is one of the rare breed who is actively seeking change from a position of comfort. Most people in Clare’s position would settle into a desk role, be grateful for not having to head all over the world and look forward to a nice big pension. Not so Clare. The passion for the work she does, her knowledge of the industry and her desire to learn new skills and reach new goals will, I am sure, guarantee her success and I wish her well!

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