A directors journey

Relocating to NY, a Director’s journey

Rachael Parker, Director, East Coast, talks about why she choose to relocate to New York to further establish Skills Alliance in the US and gives top tips on how to successfully make an international transfer.

Can you tell us about yourself and your journey so far here at Skills Alliance?

Sure, I’m a Director for East Coast at Skills Alliance and have been working in the Pharmaceutical Recruitment industry for 12 years now.  Born in Newcastle, I moved to London with my first recruitment company where I specialised in placing full time Medical Communications professionals, specifically within Medical Education.  I joined Skills Alliance at Principal level in 2016 which feels like an age ago now, to build a new Med Comms desk from scratch.

What was initially incredibly challenging became a successful and rewarding desk which amongst other things, led to a new contract opportunity internally. Working alongside our Director of Contract, Chris Cook, I was able to quickly build a profitable runner book, whilst managing a team of up to 12 incredible consultants across multiple Pharmaceutical/ Biotech and Med Comms verticals.  Focussing on the UK, EU and USA markets, the team included our very own, home- grown, contract and staffing top biller and enabled me to develop from Team Lead to Director in 4 years.

What made you want to relocate to NYC with the business?

Initially I didn’t.  I was very happy with my current job, working with an amazing team and the career path was clear – Contract Director would be my next role or in the foreseeable future, if targets were met.  However, Skills Alliance had advertised internal opportunities overseas, that started to make me think about whether it could be the right time for a relocation.

It was our CEO, Carl Marotta who approached me, where we spoke about the Director, East Coast position and long term opportunities, both as a business and individually for me.  I was very attracted to the idea of managing not just a contract team but using my experience to oversee multiple experienced consultants and managers across contract and perm. I would undoubtedly experience a steep learning curve and develop skills I otherwise may not learn.  That combined with the fact that Carl had made a similar move in his career before joining Skills Alliance as CEO were major factors into why I decided to relocate. The fact that the role is based in New York – the City that I can now confirm genuinely never sleeps – is just a bonus!

You have now been in NYC for a month, how have you found it and what have been some of your key learnings?

I visited NY on both business and vacation a few times over a 10- year period, but it changes every time I’ve visited.  In all honesty, there are many similarities to London.  It’s busy, bustling, inundated with restaurants and pop-ups serving every cuisine.  The subway looks confusing to begin with but makes sense very quickly.  I already feel as though I could write a “how to” guide on finding an apartmentIf anyone is making a similar move, feel free to LinkedIn message me and I can impart some of my very recent learnings.

It’s been a whirlwind, things I thought would be difficult, were very easy, such as bank accounts and a social security number (SSN) etc.  Other things I didn’t worry about, I should have.  Firstly, temporary accommodation is expensive with a 1 month minimum and if renting, it’s best to move into full-time accommodation outside of summer as rent dramatically increases over the summer months (doubles in some cases).  There’s always something social to do, meetups for almost any hobby, and people in general are far more open to a random conversation with a stranger than they would ever be in London (unsurprisingly).  A rooftop is the place to be, so is Williamsburg, but you’re paying for it, and walking is quicker than cabbing.

How does your recruitment experience in the UK translate to the New York City life science market? What similarities and differences have you seen so far?

The only thing that really changed for the team is their location.  Everyone has been successfully working in the US/ East Coast market for years, so the connections were already built and the business was already established and making money. One of the biggest benefits has been working on the same timeline as our clients.  We can get so much more from each working day, and things move so much quicker- it really gives us an advantage.

How have you found your clients reaction to being closer to them and moving to the USA already having worked the US market from the UK?

So far, it’s been positive.  We have already met a good chunk of our NY/ NJ and PA based clients.  Meeting in person with someone we have worked with for years has helped our working relationships develop to the next stage.  From some clients, I’ve understood that, if we are willing to relocate countries to work a particular market well, or better, then it is easier to trust that we have every intention of doing the best job we possibly can, and that we take what we do very seriously.  It’s a reassuring sign that the consultant is also good, as its unlikely a company assists relocation if this isn’t the case.

What is your vision for the NYC office and the East Coast business?

Currently made up of experienced Principal recruiters across contract and perm markets, niched in their own verticals, with me taking responsibility for the business, the priority over the next 6 and 12 months is on hiring experienced 360 recruiters and building teams around those individuals who will have the whole market to build out into. As those teams grow, there will be a need to secure a head of contracts and a head of perm to lead these business units from the front.   We already have sights on office locations across the East Coast, and as we look to expand over the next 24 months, future career opportunities not just in the NY office but across the East Coast will open as we look for people to take responsibility for each office location.

Why should someone join our NYC office and what could Skills Alliance offer them?

As the above suggests, career opportunity is at the top of that list.  We are an established, niche recruitment company who have been operating for 20 years in the pharmaceutical space with over 130 employee’s across 6 offices internationally. We received PE Investment in H2 of 2022 with a goal of expanding our international operations and doubling headcount within the next 3-4 years.  As we are a business who strongly believes in promoting from within wherever possible, anyone who joins the New York office will have a huge opportunity to grow into leadership positions in the NY office, and for those more senior hires, across the East Coast. It’s like joining a 20-year-old start- up with a fully operational infrastructure and investment.

What advice or tips would you give someone making an international transfer to NYC or the USA?

I would imagine it all depends on your reasons for moving.  I’d suggest making sure that there’s more to the move other than the idea of ‘living in NY’ as it might not pan out how you imagined it to be, which could lead to disappointment. A few other things are:

  • Even with your company supporting your move financially, it will be expensive
  • It takes 3 months of having a SSN to get a credit card- make sure to get both at your earliest convenience
  • If you can, relocate in Spring
  • Speak to as many people as possible who have made the move themselves
  • Friends of friends are now your friends, socialise with them
  • Find a routine, this will help you feel grounded
  • Have an office presence and book events in the calendar with your colleagues
  • You will undoubtedly be in a position to do a better job
  • Your friends will visit, everyone’s happy to do a mini trip to NY
  • Sublets are easier to get than leases, and do not go through a broker


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