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Katrina Rice’s advice – be unapologetic for who you are and hold on to your passion for science

Katrina Rice is an accomplished leader with over 25 years’ experience in clinical data services, technology adoption, and process optimization.

As chief delivery officer, biometrics services at eClinical Solutions, Katrina is driving clinical data transformation, and building a thriving services organization equipped to address growing trial complexity and accelerate cycle times through end-to-end data strategies and practical innovation.

Could you give us an overview of your work?

As eClinical Solutions’ Chief Delivery Officer, Biometrics Services, I lead our teams in optimizing and delivering scalable, global clinical data services. We empower our clients in clinical research with access to the high-quality data that is core to their operations, decision-making, and trial and program success so they can reduce cycle times and bring medicines to patients faster. I use my 25 years of industry experience, and technical background, to partner with business unit leaders and corporate executives in the life sciences to implement strategic data initiatives that support their companies’ continued growth and help them develop tomorrow’s research breakthroughs.    

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

When I was attending Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical (A&M) University a Historically Black College & University (HBCU), I initially enrolled as a marketing major; however, it was not as fulfilling as I would hope it would be for me. In conversations with my advisor, I pivoted my academic pursuits towards a more technical path, which aligns with who I am as a person. After pursuing a few engineering and computer programming courses, a fire lit up inside me and I never turned back.

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

I grew up in a traditional southern family and I had a personal drive to ensure I was not dependent on another individual to take care of me, so I decided to attend college. While I was not the first person in my family to pursue college, my parents did not attend, so I wanted to chart a different path for myself. Choosing to attend Alabama A&M suited me for a few reasons: there were a few personal challenges I endured during high school, so staying closer to home was more convenient; additionally, I saw many successful men and women who looked like me attend this school.

Following college graduation, I was blessed to have a few jobs offers. I was not opposed to being a programmer, but I was passionate about the science behind it as well—seeking ways to understand why things worked the way they do and how you apply that to your field and the things we do now. So, I started my career at the Department of Energy doing programming and modeling for a group of PhD chemical engineers, which is one of the most difficult engineering fields. Afterwards, I found myself in various technical roles at Lockheed Martin Energy Group and Bayer, before landing at eClinical Solutions a little over 16 years ago.

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

In my college classes, there were only two or three other women besides myself–an experience that can be isolating and incredibly challenging. Post-graduation, I transitioned into an industry where my peers did not resemble me in the way they did when I was attending Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical (A&M) University.

Combating questions of credibility was something I regularly faced–wondering if I knew what I was doing, if my college education was prestigious enough–the odds were always against me, and I was continuously having to prove myself as a Black woman in STEM. In my first role post-college, it was a continuous challenge to prove I am more than just a programmer and could contribute further, exploring the science behind the matter.

The adversity I faced, from receiving my college degree to navigating a male-dominated industry, taught me to be unapologetic for who I am and where I came from. My advice for others is to be proud of your accomplishments and allow this to propel you to where you want to go. Most importantly, do not be afraid to fail, just get back up and do it again.

What ignites your passion in your current role? 

I love this industry and the possibility that we have in life sciences. At the end of the day, I cannot see myself elsewhere because I can do two things: do what I love to do, and give back, even if it is just a little bit, to make the world a little better. If one company gets a lifesaving drug to market that I was a part of, it is important to me.

At eClinical, the opportunity to be involved in developing life-saving treatments and supporting companies in their mission to improve healthcare is indeed inspiring! Additionally, the satisfaction of building teams of like-minded individuals who share my passion adds another layer of fulfillment to my role. I can see my dedication to making a difference, no matter how small, is admirable and undoubtedly contributes to my continued enthusiasm and drive.

What is your current work ethos/style? 

I describe my leadership style as complex: it encompasses being a servant, aggressive, challenging, and fun leader. As a servant leader I try to prioritize the growth, development, and well-being of my team members, leading by example, demonstrating empathy, humility, and a willingness to listen and collaborate. As an aggressive leader I am not afraid to take calculated risks, push boundaries, and drive change. I try to demonstrate a sense of urgency and determination in my team to achieve ambitious objectives. I challenge conventional thinking, encourage innovation, and promote continuous improvement. I try to encourage growth and excellence by setting ambitious standards and pushing my team members out of their comfort zones. Finally, I try to keep it fun and entertaining; I strive to infuse fun into my approach and cultivate a sense of camaraderie, creativity, and enthusiasm among my team members. I also attempt to celebrate achievements, recognize contributions, and encourage a healthy work-life balance.

In summary, my leadership style is, again, complex, and one might think having someone with these qualities can be overwhelming, however – this is Katrina! I am proud of the successes I have seen, the failures which have made me stronger, and the future ahead of me as a woman in STEM and a leader who is still growing each day.

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

Never stop telling your story. Sharing experiences and lessons learned can empower others to believe. If I was able to overcome obstacles and pursue my dreams in science, they can too. It is about fostering a supportive community where everyone feels emboldened to follow their passions and strive for success. Embrace failure to understand that setbacks and failures are a natural part of the learning process. Instead of being discouraged, view them as opportunities for growth and learning. Resilience is key to success in any field, especially STEM. Advocate for yourself and do not be afraid to speak up for your ideas, needs, and ambitions. Your voice matters and advocating for yourself is an essential skill in any career, including science. Stay curious. Science is all about asking questions and seeking answers. Cultivate your curiosity by exploring different fields within science, and do not be afraid to pursue topics that fascinate you. Remember, your journey in STEM is unique to you, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Stay true to yourself, keep learning and growing, and never hesitate to reach for your dreams.

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