Women in Science: 'I take pride in my role as a mother and it makes me a stronger, more compassionate employee'

By Isabel Cameron

- Last updated on GMT

© Clario
© Clario

Related tags Women in Science Life sciences Consulting biotech

Kelly Dumais, director of eCOA Science and consulting at Clario, has over 10 years of behavioral and life sciences research experience.

We discussed what drew her to the field, her career up to this point, and what she’s excited to see for the next generation of women looking to join the field.

BPR: Could you give us an overview of your work?

I am the director of eCOA Science at Clario, a leading healthcare research and technology company that generates the richest clinical evidence in the industry for our pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device partners.  

Our team specializes in clinical outcome assessment strategy, and provides industry-leading scientific, experience and thought leadership, to deliver on our client promise: to generate the high-quality data that their study needs​. We tailor studies to the specifics of the patient and condition, reducing the patient burden and improving patient engagement. We recommend optimal data capture methodologies for clinical trials, ensuring that technology and data meet the most stringent quality, regulatory and safety standards.

One of the remarkable aspects of my work is that I interact with many different stakeholders in the clinical trial industry. From collaborating with pharmaceutical and biotech companies sponsoring drug development programs to the CROs (clinical research organizations) overseeing clinical trials, connecting with sites, physicians, and occasionally patients, my work involves dynamic interactions with various players in the field.

BPR: When did you realize you were interested in science (as a young child/teen/older)?

I’ll be honest. A career in science did not seem like a calling to me at a young age. I enjoyed (almost) every subject in school. I dabbled in research as an undergraduate student and ended up pursuing a graduate degree in neuroscience – that’s where my love for science took off. I think it’s important to understand that you don’t necessarily need to have that 'calling' to a science career. But that an interest in science can grow into a passion. Fortunately, this industry is full of opportunities, and is never boring. That’s why I love it so much – I’m still learning something new almost every day.

BPR: Could you describe your personal journey bringing us to where you are now?

I started my career as a basic research scientist. Learning how the brain worked at a molecular level became my passion. However, I slowly came to understand that my passion wasn’t just for learning about neuronal activity but for learning itself. I therefore sought job opportunities in various specialties where I could continue to learn. This also meant that I found myself in jobs where at first, I may have felt like a 'fish out of water'. Learning a new field or topic is something I love to do, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with challenges.

My oldest son recently started karate lessons. As a rule, when each student enters the room for their lesson, they bow and say, 'Do my best'. When they are finished, each needs to bow and say 'Did my best' as they exit. It is a simple yet extremely powerful mantra that nicely summarizes how I’ve approached my career journey. It is not about being the best, it is about being my best. I still have a lot to learn, and I may make mistakes, but what will get me through is my desire to keep learning, and my dedication to always 'do my best'.

BPR: What challenges did you face (as a woman or otherwise) along the way and what is the most valuable lesson you have learned?

It is not uncommon that when you are trying to establish yourself in your career, you are also going through some of life’s biggest personal journeys. For me, it was having two beautiful boys simultaneously to starting my industry career. I’ve experienced the typical challenges of balancing your two worlds – career and family. Fortunately, I’ve had extremely supportive managers and mentors along the way that have helped me in achieving (some sort of!) balance.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is to not shy away from who you are, in either role – mother or employee. I love to talk about my kids, and I’ve learned not to shy away from that at work. I take pride in my role as a mother, and I think it makes me a stronger, more compassionate employee. Likewise, I show my pride for my career to my kids. I don’t shy away from telling them I’ll be gone next week for a work trip. As it is important for my colleagues to see me as a person outside of my job, it is equally as important for my kids to see their mother as dedicated to her career.

BPR: What ignites your passion in your current role?

To me, passion is contagious. When I see another person’s passion come out, those are my most rewarding days. Whether it is interacting with a teammate, with a colleague from another department, or when speaking with a client, when their passion shines through, that is what energizes me.  

BPR: What is your current work ethos/style?

Moving out of academia and into an industry position was quite a change. The overall culture is different, with positive attributes in both sectors. In my current position, I’ve tried to bring with me the positives from academia. The biggest being the mentorship approach to management that is the cornerstone of academia. When you’re a graduate student or a post-doctoral fellow, your boss is your advisor, your mentor. Yes, they manage your work, but their biggest role is to help guide you through your career journey, to offer professional development guidance, to coach you through problems, not solve them for you. I strive to take that same approach today both as a team member and director. Some colleagues may be more receptive than others to this approach, and that’s okay. It’s about being flexible, adaptive, and providing support to your colleagues when they want it.

BPR: Could you share some advice for young women starting to develop an interest in science or wanting to pursue a career like yours?

If you know exactly what career you want, that’s great. Speak to people in those positions and you’ll get some great advice. If you don’t know exactly what career you want, that is also great! You don’t need to. Just keep doing what you love, and there will be many career paths that lay ahead of you. If you were to tell my college self that I would have the job I have today, I probably wouldn’t believe you. I’ve learned that there is no one way to get somewhere. The scientists on my team have such a variety of backgrounds, and that’s what makes us a good team. If we all had the same background, we wouldn’t be as creative, as forward-thinking. Every degree, job, experience, makes you a stronger individual. If you don’t know your end goal yet, that’s okay. Enjoy the ride, and you may surprise yourself at where you end up.

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