October 2001
Life in the UK in Data Management
Can Ozkan is 38 years old and was born in K.Maras, Turkey. He qualified as a doctor in 1985 and worked as a general practitioner in the Turkish Army for 11 years. During this time, his main duties included first and second level health care, medical training and education, planning medical operations, management and budget control. He also contributed to United Nations peace operations and went to Somalia in 1993 as part of 'Operation Continue Hope'. He retired from the army in 1996 and moved to Edinburgh to study. In 1998 he started work as a Clinical Data Co-ordinator for Quintiles. He is now Coding Group Leader in Data Management. He lives in Edinburgh with his wife and two children.
When I first came to the UK, I felt very nervous at the thought of starting work - I initially worked as an interpreter, which was good because I was able to choose my assignments. The first real job I had was interpreting at a chicken-breeding factory!
I started work at Quintiles in March 1998 and at first it did seem difficult but as time went on my IT skills and medical background helped me and I learned a lot of clinical data management procedures and systems. With the training provided by Quintiles I eventually became experienced but Data Management never stands still and we are always learning.
I wasn't sure about working in the private sector at first because I thought it would be very competitive and involve long hours, but compared to working in medicine, it is very fair and well rewarded. Working for a large organization gave me a good start to my career in the UK and I never experienced any difficulties there over my standard of English.
Working in Data Management and coding has been a good experience as it has allowed me to use and update my medical knowledge and to see another side of the health care industry, which I didn't know existed.
It was a first for me to be based in an office, I had always previously been in hospitals or military environments. It was also my experience of being the only non-British person there. The world of work in Britain is very different to Turkey. People here are so serious about their jobs.
"In Turkey jobs are a way of earning money to enjoy life and look after your family, but here people seem to get very emotionally involved with work and sometimes do not seem to have anything else in their lives".
I also find that in the UK people tend to be under-qualified. In Turkey you have a very distinct career ladder and everybody progresses upwards after they have completed the appropriate steps. Here you can't understand who will be successful as often people who work hard are ignored and people who push get what they want.
There is a more relaxed attitude to work in Turkey, people there are never aggressive or competitive with each other at work yet this seems what you have to do in the UK to get ahead. I also find it strange that companies here spend so much on training their staff and then they let them go.
The pace of Data Management in the UK makes it appear like managers do not seem to have time for the people they manage.
I didn't find any real language barriers in my work, in fact I found it was often to my advantage to be a non-native speaker of English as I often speak on the telephone to people from overseas and they seem to find me easier to understand.
I found the main topics of office conversation were, cars, houses, holidays and football and the weather is also popular. I find people have some strange ideas about me and where I come from. If they have been to Turkey, they think the entire country is like the place they have seen on holiday whereas it is very different. If they haven't been to Turkey they often have strange ideas about the culture. For example they think Turkey is part of the Middle East and the language is written in Arabic!
I noticed here that people don't seem to be able to relax and enjoy life without drinking too much whereas people in Mediterranean countries drink little and take every opportunity to enjoy themselves but here they don't even seem to enjoy themselves as it all makes them feel very bad the next day.
Overall I would say that I have found the experience of working in Data Management a positive one. It has been good to progress my career and I feel I have achieved a lot on equal terms with my colleagues. I have also made a lot of good friends and will be pleased to add all this to my CV.
The most common question I was asked was "Have you been to Japan before" and this was usually followed by a shocked look when I said I had not. It was apparent the Japanese have a real love for their country and it was made clear to us that it is important to build in time to see some sights when out on business.
Can Ozkan
Quintiles, Scotland Ltd