Why professional associations matter

The following remarks were delivered to the Temple University QA/RA program during their 2015 career night. I'm providing here the prepared remarks, which differ slightly from what was actually presented.

I’m Dale Cooke, the president of PhillyCooke Consulting, which is an FDA regulatory consulting firm that helps pharmaceutical companies and technology platforms make information about FDA-regulated products available via new and emerging technologies.

I also serve as the co-chair of the local Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society (RAPS) chapter, and it’s in that capacity that I’ve been asked to speak to you.

Specifically, I’ve been asked to speak about the importance of professional society involvement in your ongoing career development.

So, here it is: It’s really important to be involved in professional societies.

Seriously.

What’s in it for you?

Well, first, you get to meet other people outside of your specific company. The value of having those contacts is very high. I like to say that when you hire someone you’re also hiring their Rolodex.

For those of you who have never heard of a Rolodex, it’s a mid-20th century technology, kind of like an offline LinkedIn.

And the reason you want to hire someone’s Rolodex is that no matter how talented you are, there’s always something you don’t know. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just a fact of life, and when you’re facing that area where your own knowledge is lacking, it’s important to be able to reach out to other people who can help. Not to mention that at some point, you hope your company will be expanding, and when you do so, the first place you turn is your (and your team’s) Rolodex to look for more talent.

So, professional societies are an important means of extending your brain to tap into the larger community of professionals who also work in your field.

Second, professional societies keep their membership up to date on the latest developments. If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’re certainly aware that Congress has been completely gridlocked and absolutely nothing is going on in Washington…except for FDA.

In the past few years, there have been several landmark pieces of legislation passed to address issues such as the supply chain, compounding pharmacies, and generic drug development, just to point out a few items that are near and dear to my heart.

Two days ago, new draft legislation that would drastically overhaul the FDA was released. I don’t know whether it’s going to pass, but if it does, I’ll be turning to RAPS, the Drug Information Association, and Food & Drug Law Institute (I’m an active member of all three) to find out how it affects me, my job, and my clients.

For example, next week, the local RAPS chapter is hosting an event with Jay Crowley, the godfather of UDI, about how the Unique Device Identification system is being implemented. This is a massive challenge for medical device manufacturers (i.e., some of the people you might be working for).

So, perhaps there’s some value for you in learning about it. Maybe?

By the way, if you want more information about the event, stop by our table to pick up a flier.

Finally, actively participating in professional societies enables you to demonstrate to your current and future employers your commitment to your career. It looks good on your resume.

If on a Thursday night, you choose to go the Maggiano’s in King of Prussia to hear Jay Crowley speak about UDI, instead of playing Quizzo at a local watering hole, then you’re showing how highly you value staying at the top of your game in your chosen career.

And serving actively in your local chapters is a further demonstration of that commitment. I always say that if you have two hours a month to volunteer with RAPS, then I’ll find a way to have you help the chapter in those two hours. If you have 10 hours, we’ll give you an award.

In addition, actively participating is fun. If I weren’t involved with RAPS, I’d never have met Linda Bowen [Editor's Note: Linda was in the audience], and Linda’s a hoot.

So, my advice to you is to get involved with at least one (and preferably several) professional societies. They’ll help you expand your network, stay on top of the latest developments, and demonstrate your commitment to current and potential employers, all while having some fun.

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