Mark Baillet

Managing Director – S-cubed Biometrics Ltd

Setting up S-cubed Biometrics

We set up S-cubed Biometrics (which is just one part of S-cubed) nearly 8 years ago now and from day one it’s been great working with the group we’ve built in Oxford. At a personal level, I think setting up the company has to be one of my most enjoyable and best professional achievements, and making it the success it is, but doing it in a fair and fun way, has made that even better.

A Varied Career

Prior to working at S-cubed, I had pretty much worked in every type of pharma/biotech organisation you can think of, from big Pharma, small biotech, mid-size CRO, freelancing and now setting up and establishing a new business. It’s been a varied career to say the least, but also had its challenges. I really hadn’t considered the pharma industry prior to getting my first job out of university at Pfizer, but loved it from the start. I was placed into a central programming and statistical team, and I developed an in-house system to standardise the way Pfizer UK reported its clinical trials. From there I went to an early-stage biotech company where I eventually headed up Biometrics. After that I worked for a CRO setting up their Biometrics department from scratch, which then went through many acquisitions (and name changes!), with me eventually heading up global Biometrics operations in the UK and US. Finally, after some statistical freelancing, I was approached and set up S-cubed Biometrics. I knew a number of the staff at S-cubed from previous companies (including one of my founding Directors), and so it was great to be working with them again.

Work Life Balance

From the start, I wanted to make S-cubed Biometrics an enjoyable and fulfilling place to work. So, I left behind all the things I didn’t like about previous companies and kept all the good bits. I wanted to make it feel like a “breath of fresh air”, and I believe we’ve achieved that. I wanted the staff to be technical at heart, wanting to get their hands dirty with data, but bring their considerable experience to help advise and guide our clients through some of the tough decisions they need to make.  It’s not all plain sailing of course and one of the biggest challenges is to maintain the balance between serving our busy clients and maintaining a good work-life balance for all our staff (including me!). The key is to set the business up such that the balance can happen by-and-large naturally. Whether it’s staffing up intelligently, or taking on the right projects and establishing good client relations, or structuring the business with the right people with the right skills and in the right positions, or empowering staff to own and take responsibility for their clients and projects, it all helps to ensure the best possible balance can occur. I truly believe we have achieved that.

The advice I’d give to people coming into the industry now, first of all I’d say, you’ve made the right decision! It is such a multifaceted and multidimensional environment, that it can truly allow you to flourish in multiple ways, whether it be technical, managerial or most other ways you want. Plus of course you’re helping discover new medicines in this world. Just pick a path, and with a bit of luck, being in the right place at the right time, and some hard work, you can carve out a career in pretty much anyway you want.

Outside of the office

In terms of life outside work, and besides enjoying life with the family of course, my most enjoyable pastime is fly-fishing. I’ve fished for over 45 years and have been lucky enough to qualify and fish for the England team, which was one of my proudest (and nerve-racking!) moments. I know it sounds weird, but the pressure was incredible! For example, the team manager gave us a team talk the night before one international competition, where he told us we weren’t allowed to eat our lunchtime sandwiches, because if we were eating then we weren’t fishing, which meant we weren’t catching fish! Anyway, we managed to come away with the gold medal.

Maths and Statistics

Before going off to University to study Mathematical Science and entering the pharmaceutical industry I did work in few other jobs. When I started out, I wanted to be a weather forecaster and present the weather. That dream soon got shattered when I applied for an apprenticeship at the Met Office and didn’t get in! My first paid job was a labourer working for my Dad’s building company, followed by a Sunday job on the tills at a garden centre – in those days not many people had credit cards, so the tills were always straining under the number of notes I had to cram in the till tray! Luckily, not many people asked me questions on gardening, as I wouldn’t have had a clue! I have to say, I am much more comfortable in my S-cubed environment… For me personally, I’m never happier than when I’m working with numbers. As a statistician and mathematician, I’m in my element.

In the future, I just simply want to keep doing what I’m doing, that is carrying out great high-quality work for our clients, and establishing and nurturing good client relationships. Oh, and I’d love to go fly-fishing in the Bahamas for bonefish… it’s on my bucket list!

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