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People Story

Willette Jones Whitmore

Senior Director, Quality Assurance and Compliance, New York

The autonomy and trust to create

What drew me to the field? That’s a funny story because no one usually signs up to work in quality assurance from Day One.

I was pre-med—but then I learned all that would actually entail, from year-round schooling to malpractice insurance. So, when I graduated college, I got into medical technology in a clinical hematology lab. I worked in one of the biggest hospitals in the Midwest (where I grew up), and essentially started off as a bench technician, processing samples. I found I liked research. It’s all still medical, it’s all still helping patients. It’s all still understanding what drugs do to the body. I then moved to a research laboratory, and from there got into clinical trials. I became a CRA (clinical research associate), was recruited by a contract research organization (CRO)—and was discovered by their quality group, which was piloting a new program for something called a project quality lead.

People tend to perceive the “quality” team as the clean-up folks; we are the ones that come along and help people bail themselves out of messes before the FDA discovers them, or even sometimes after. But the CRO that hired me back then thought that, instead, they could interject quality throughout the entire product development life cycle. It was an innovation, and I was one of four pioneer project quality leads, ultimately becoming a portfolio quality lead at the highest level.

After many years in Quality, I decided it was time for me step up to a director-level role. Working in industry (on the sponsor side), you often have to put several of your skills on the shelf, whereas in our work as consultants, you get to draw on all your skills. As I considered my next move, I saw that at Premier Consulting I would have the opportunity to exercise the autonomy to take everything I learned across the 20-plus years of my career and use that to develop a quality management system into a more robust infrastructure to support the consulting business at Premier. I also get to do this for our clients. Having leadership trust me to build something that will advance the business—that’s priceless to me. It was really a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I seized it. That was 2020.

When I first joined, I had some concerns. I thought, ‘Someone’s going to be looking to me as the expert, do I have enough years?’ But what I found is a warm family of professionals who are not in competition with one another. Working here has really allowed me to shine in my areas of expertise, and it’s a safe space to learn new things—or learn more about those areas where I know just enough to be dangerous. I can actually reach out to colleagues who are very patient and kind, and willing to teach the best of what they know, to share the knowledge that they’ve gained throughout their own diverse career paths.

Premier Consulting really invests in employees. They care that we’re happy, they care what we’re doing, and they care to spotlight our successes. Those are the kinds of things that make you want to get up and go to work every day. They make you love what you do and feel fulfilled. They fully support a remote working environment. And that’s something that I can sign up for all day, every day, and twice on Sunday.