Meet the Team – Q&A with our Director, Andrew Waddell
With over forty years in the industry, including almost twenty as Director at Tower Mains, Andrew Waddell talks us through his career highlights and lowlights, tips on how to succeed in QA, and what makes him tick outside of Tower Mains.
What has been your biggest career highlight? And what have you found most challenging?
The greatest highlight has been establishing Tower Mains as a “one-stop shop” for research quality management audit, training, and consultancy and watching it grow to reach its 20th anniversary (which is in October). Along the way, I’ve had the privilege of employing some great colleagues, some of whom are still with us, and others have gone on to senior positions elsewhere. The greatest challenge has been managing our success. That might sound daft but managing failure is easy – you have few choices. Managing success, however, involves continuously improving our services, identifying, and developing great colleagues, and responding flexibly to changing environments and challenges. The rate of change in the last eighteen months has exceeded anything I have ever experienced before, and I think we have risen – successfully – to all the challenges.
What initially attracted you to a career in QA?
I was asked! I was a lecturer in Pathology at the University Medical School, and it was the time of massive cutbacks which made academic medicine an unattractive career. Just when I couldn’t see a way forward, I was asked by a Scottish Contract Research Organisation to set up their QA programme. The fact I know nothing about QA didn’t matter because it was a completely new concept in the industry – and within six months I was an “international expert” working with the group that produced the OECD Principles of Good Laboratory Practice.
Would you have any advice for yourself if you could go back twenty years in your career?
That was when I stopped being an employee and set up my own company. That’s not for everyone but my advice would still be to follow your dreams. I understand why people may be risk averse and I justified being an employee because it paid the mortgage but sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and go for it. I wouldn’t change anything from the last twenty years.
Do you have any tips for those wishing to progress in QA?
First, anyone in QA has huge career opportunities. There is a scarcity of good QA professionals and there are more vacancies than candidates. Second, quality is an intellectual process, not a habit. Always ask why something is required and if you can’t convince yourself don’t even begin trying to convince others. Third, keep it simple. I see so many situations where systems are too complex and we should be looking for simple, direct answers rather than adding to the complexity.
What makes you tick outside of Tower Mains?
Family – Fiona and I celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary shortly and we have five fabulous grandchildren. I also had the privilege of reaching the top international level as a football referee and I still help with our local club (Edinburgh University).