Autumn 2007
Progress Through the Ranks
Harshad Sodha
Board member
Omnicare Clinical Research
Where to start?... I guess the beginning is the best place...
My family originates from India, I was born in Tanzania, did a significant proportion of my schooling in South Wales and went to University in London. OK, so that covers the first 21 years of my life; let’s concentrate on the rest.
After finishing my degree in Microbiology, I went on to become a Lecturer in Biological Sciences at a college of further education. How then, I hear you ask, did I end up in Clinical Data Management? I belong to that rare breed of people who actually came to CDM intentionally rather than falling into it by accident. After 2 years of lecturing, I decided that I needed to broaden my horizons and find a career that was going to give me scope to develop and progress through the ranks. In order to add another string to my bow, I enrolled on a part time Software Engineering course (computers had been invented by then – I’m not that old!) and worked hard for 2 years, trying to juggle this with the demands of teaching and a pretty hectic social life (those were the days!!).
My aim was to find a job that enabled me to combine the life science background with my new-found skills in computing, and the back pages of the New Scientist revealed the ideal profession – data management. So in 1989, I joined SmithKline and French, which became SmithKline Beecham about a month later.

It was here that I experienced my first taste of what data management is about and I haven’t looked back since. After a couple of years, the 40+ mile commute around the M25 was taking its toll, so a change was needed in order to preserve my sanity (some would say it was already too late...). In 1991, I moved to Novartis (although in those days it was still Ciba Geigy) in Horsham and relocated to a leafy West Sussex village where I have lived ever since.

It was around this time that I first became actively involved in the ACDM. I joined what was then called the Academic Committee, and helped to set up the Postgraduate programme in CDM at Kingston University.
“I belong to that rare breed of people who actually came to CDM intentionally rather than falling into it by accident”
At Novartis, I had the opportunity of gaining training and experience in SAS, as well as the opportunity to manage people. Although SAS was interesting, I found I really enjoyed the people management aspect, and so moved to a small pharma company (Scotia Pharmaceuticals) in Guildford to develop and grow the CDM function. Three years later, when Scotia decided to move to Scotland, I felt it was time for another change.
After 7 years in pharma, the next logical step was to take a leap into the CRO world. In 1996 I joined Til Occam, a small UK based CRO that was part of a pan-European alliance called Verum, as Manager of the Biometrics group (CDM and Stats). The learning curve was very steep – terms like budgets, revenue, margins, operating income, etc. became much more meaningful.

In early 1998, Til Occam was acquired by PAREXEL, resulting in the merging of the CDM and Biometrics group and, of course, a significant culture change.

1999 heralded the next significant career change as I threw myself headlong into the fast-paced world of business development. Yet another steep learning curve...
After a few years, I realised that I really missed data management (sad, but true), and wanted very much to get back to a role with operational responsibility. So in 2005 (did I really spend 6 years in BD?) I took on the role of VP, CDM International at Omnicare Clinical Research with responsibility for all CDM operations outside North America. One of the highlights of the last 2 years has been to set up a CDM operation in India with the opportunity to visit regularly and work with some amazing people, and the added bonus of strengthening my family ties. In the last 12 months, my remit has evolved to cover global CDM Operations (i.e. data processing activity across all offices).
In amongst all this, I managed to get married and become the proud father of two wonderful girls (now 11 and 14) – I can’t even begin to express the joy they bring. Living in a house dominated by women (even the dog is female) has its challenges, but frankly I love it!!

And what about my spare time? Well, to be honest, there isn’t much of it. I love to take the dog on long walks and try to do a few lengths in the pool whenever I can. And I make a mean curry!!

If you have managed to reach this far without falling asleep, thank you for persevering!! It’s great to be involved in the ACDM again, I look forward to seeing you at one of the future ACDM events.