An interview with Data Compliance and Protection Manager, Hilary Lemass, by Eimear Doyle.
It’s all hands on deck as we negotiate perilous waters – from genetics to oncology to mushrooms to giant African frogs…to wine coolers and dark chocolate…
Tell me a bit about your background?
I have a degree in genetics and a PhD in oncology, colon cancer. I stayed in academia post doc’ing for a while, working on projects from breast cancer to finding a biological controls for the mushroom industry. But the last project with giant African frogs got the better of me and I moved out into Pharma industry.
I’ve worked in a variety of roles in Pharma: regulations, compliance, marketing and business development. I had an opportunity of voluntary redundancy in 2013, and I jumped at it to step away from Pharma and see what I could translate my skills into. I worked for myself on numerous projects and one with Dan Crowley in the NDRC in 2013. Then Dan approached me in 2015 and asked me would I like to get involved in a really exciting start up project he was looking at. I jumped at the opportunity of a new challenge, not quite sure what I was signing up for!
Why did you decide to make the move to work in GMI?
Commercial genomics is new to Ireland, so everything about GMI is new to me! It has pushed me outside my comfort zone into career areas I didn’t even think of exploring before, so I am continuously learning here.
What would you say are the main differences are between GMI and other environments you have worked in?
In the initial days of GMI, it was a small team with a large project. So much needed to be done and it was all hands-on deck. Genomics is advancing and changing so much. It’s so interesting to be part of a fast-paced environment.
Tell us a bit about your typical day to day (if there is one!)?
It always starts with coffee. I have a rolling to do list. I’m lucky to get through one thing on it per day. Data protection is at the heart of what we do in GMI, so I make sure I’m involved in anything that’s new or changing that could impact someone signing up to our studies. As a result, every day is different and brings new challenges and surprises. I need to stay up to date with what’s happening in the legislation so I try and factor in some time for reading “continuous professional development”!
What do you enjoy most?
The newness of genomics, the learning curve of data protection — I arrived into the world of Data Protection before we move over to EU regulations, so it is new for everyone. Continuing education is required in the world of data and it crosses over into all departments.
What are the challenges facing GMI in terms of data protection and compliance?
Because of the nature of the material we collect and hold, we have to be way out ahead of the legal and compliance regulations. For anyone to get involved in our studies, they need to have trust in who we are and what measures we have in place to protect their data. There is no blueprint for what we do so we are navigating in slightly unchartered territories.
What would you have been in another life if your weren’t in science?
A furniture designer! I have a shed full of drills, saws, polishers & nail guns. I love making and breaking things. Unfortunately, I also have two young kids, so I don’t get to do much designing these days.
How would you describe the culture of GMI?
There’s a great eclectic mix in GMI from multiple backgrounds. Nothing is set in stone and everyone is up for a challenge, to give things a try. If it doesn’t work we try another avenue!
Desert Island – what would you bring and why?
Books, books and more books! A wine cooler and supplies to fill it and a good supply of dark chocolate…I think the why is self-explanatory!
Nail guns, drills , saws….Never a dull moment in the life of a data protection expert.