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‘Build a Field and They Will Come…’ Why Top Talent Is Finding its Way to OmniComm Systems

Posted by Sharon Rosenberg on Aug 8, 2018 2:22:44 PM

Moving boxes surrounded Kim Rejndrup in his new Florida home shortly after he joined OmniComm Systems, Inc. as senior vice president of Product Development. It was a 1,470-mile career move from Boston, where he had spent nearly 20 years at Oracle Corporation as vice president of Development for many of Oracle’s clinical research applications, including systems for electronic data capture (EDC), clinical trial management, data management, medical coding and data warehousing.

On LinkedIn, he posted a short item about his new position at OmniComm. The understated announcement drew more than 120 congratulatory notes from industry peers in a short three-day period, after which Mr. Rejndrup stopped counting.

During his first day at OmniComm, his footsteps mingled with other prominent eClinical professionals who also had joined the 21-year-old company from other top companies in the life sciences industry.  Thanks to their combined global experience with EDC solutions, the company has become a leading strategic software solutions provider to the life sciences industry, with record sales and revenue.

“It’s exciting to go to work in the morning,” Mr. Rejndrup said. “When I tell my kids what I’m working on, I tell them I’m making software that helps save lives. This industry is one of the few, where you are improving the future of people’s lives. The software we are developing speeds up the process of developing life-saving drugs and products.”

New Home, Familiar Faces

At his new professional home, Mr. Rejndrup recognized several familiar faces in OmniComm’s executive suite — all former Oracle staffers: Stephen Johnson, chief executive officer and president; Keith Howells, chief technology officer; Kuno van der Post, Ph.D. chief commercial officer; Ken Light, executive vice president of Corporate Strategy, and Rich Davies, executive director, Business Solutions. What’s more, OmniComm’s corporate directory included other thought leaders who had jumped to OmniComm from a variety of companies in the industry.

“OmniComm staffers include a lot of people I’ve worked with in the past. It’s typical of the pharmaceutical industry, where a lot of people at Pfizer were previously at Merck. It is the same in software,” Mr. Rejndrup said. “I like joining a smaller company where there is really a focus on making the product better and successful. TrialMaster® is the core of the company, and the product is the key to conducting clinical trials that can get products quickly to market safely and improve lives.”

Connecting at DIA

edited dia photo 2017 USE

Caption: OmniComm's Keith Howells, CTO (2nd from left), and Stephen Johnson, CEO and president (center), with Kim Rejndrup  (right) at DIA 2017. 

When OmniComm leaders and staffers gather to share “how-we-met” stories, the narratives often feature the same meeting place: the annual DIA gathering, an event that attracts thousands of pharmaceutical, life science innovators and service providers from all over the globe.

For example, at the DIA 2003 meeting in Washington, D.C., Stephen Johnson first met Cornelis (Cees) Wit, who had just been named CEO of OmniComm.

“He was looking for good people, and he approached me about joining OmniComm. I was not interested,” said Mr. Johnson, who was managing business development for the Oracle Clinical Applications Group for the East Coast at that time. “We stayed friends, and every year at DIA, we would chat.”

Intrigued by the opportunity and the outlook at OmniComm, Mr. Johnson ultimately joined the company as senior vice president of Business Development in September 2006. He served as president and chief operating officer from June 2010 through June 2017, and was promoted to CEO in 2017, when Mr. Wit handed off the CEO baton and became the company’s executive chairman.

Autonomy, a nimble decision-making process and the authority to expand OmniComm’s product line, services and geographic footprint sparked Mr. Johnson’s decision to join OmniComm. Empowered to make the company his own, he took extra pride in creating OmniComm’s Executive Sponsor Program.

“That’s something at the heart of our customer service program. Every single customer has an executive sponsor from the vice president level or higher,” Mr. Johnson explained. “The client has direct access to a decision maker to get quick change and mobilize a prompt response as needed. All-access means that a client has the executive sponsor’s home phone, cell phone and direct office numbers. The client can call any time, including nights if needed.”

In addition to growing the company through acquisitions, Mr. Johnson recruited other industry contacts, including Ken Light, who has held several positions in the life sciences industry. During his career, Mr. Light served as practice director-Life Sciences Consulting for Oracle, where he oversaw clinical software implementation activities for major pharmaceutical and life science organizations.

“I was at an industry conference, and I ran into Steve Johnson, with whom I had worked closely while at Oracle. He asked his staff to demonstrate the latest version of TrialMaster and TrialBuilder, and I was impressed with how easy it was to build a clinical trial study in TrialBuilder and move objects from one trial to another. Steve explained to me that he needed someone to establish the same sort of implementation practice that had worked so well for us at Oracle. We talked on and off for about six months, before Steve and Cees Wit talked me into taking a leap of faith and joining OmniComm,” said Mr. Light, who joined OmniComm in 2007.

Networking in Europe

It was the same year that Yvonne Rollinger, Ph.D. and managing director of OmniComm Europe GmbH, also joined the company. Dr. Rollinger has more than 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, and before joining OmniComm, she was director of Clinical Services and senior consultant at DATATRAK. In July of 2007, OmniComm Systems had just opened an office in Bonn, Germany in order to expand its European presence. The first two employees in the new Bonn office were from DATATRAK and were former colleagues of Dr. Rollinger.

“I was hired as employee number three at OmniComm Europe. It was exciting to build up the European presence of OmniComm from the very beginning,” Dr. Rollinger said. "We expanded our services very quickly and hired a great team of which the majority is still with the company - for more than 10 years now. The team’s customer dedication is outstanding, and our European clients appreciate having such an experienced and committed operational team in the same time zone.”

The OmniComm Culture

Back in the U.S., industry gatherings continued to provide OmniComm with additional opportunities to showcase its EDC expertise and attract new talent.

“I met Steve at the DIA event in Washington during 2010. We just got to chatting. I found him inspirational,” said Dr. van der Post, who was leading the Partners Program for Oracle Health Sciences Global Business Unit in Europe, when he first met Mr. Johnson.

Dr. van der Post enjoyed his position at Oracle, but was looking for new professional challenges, including the opportunity to contribute to a new company in the eClinical niche. Therefore, one day while visiting Miami, he accepted Mr. Johnson’s longstanding invitation to tour OmniComm’s headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“I really loved the innovative and collegial environment at OmniComm. I thought it was a great value proposition, and I decided I wanted to be part of what they were doing. It was a culture in which I could thrive, contribute and really make a difference,” Dr. van der Post said.

Additionally, he was intrigued by the presence of another former Oracle (and Medidata) colleague at OmniComm: Keith Howells, an Oxford-educated physicist, software developer and respected thought leader in the EDC market. “I knew Keith from Medidata, where he had made a big impression on me,” Dr. van der Post said.  “In fact, the first time we met he had just given his Product Development update in rhyming couplets without looking at his notes.”

Industry Innovations

Mr. Howells had served as vice president for the Oracle Pharmaceutical Applications group and led the development of one of the first and most successful clinical application suites in clinical research. After leaving Oracle, he was senior vice president of Development at Medidata, where he helped establish a strong market position for the company’s EDC technology — Rave, Medidata’s leading EDC and electronic clinical data management platform. Under his guidance, both Medidata and Oracle were able to achieve top market positions in the EDC industry.

“I have known Keith for almost 20 years; I have worked with him at several different companies. Impressed by his extensive portfolio of EDC innovations, I personally recruited him to join OmniComm Systems in 2011 because I know and value the impact he has had on our industry,” Mr. Johnson said.

Some of OmniComm’s new hires included former clients. For example, John Fontenault, OmniComm’s chief operating officer, first came into contact with OmniComm as a customer. At Kendle International, Mr. Fontenault was executive director and global head of Clinical Data Management and Technology, where he was responsible for a staff of 500 in 13 locations worldwide.

“At Kendle, we worked with several EDC solutions. We were looking for another solution that was a better fit technically and financially. We found TrialMaster and ultimately selected OmniComm as a vendor. So, this is where I first developed relationships with Steve Johnson, Ken Light, OmniComm Founder Randy Smith, Cees Wit and eventually Keith Howells,” Mr. Fontenault said. He joined OmniComm in 2014 as senior vice president of Operations and was named chief operating officer in 2017.

The presence of Keith Howells at OmniComm also attracted Mr. Rejndrup, who was looking for a new opportunity in the EDC market after his children had grown up, and he was no longer tied to the Boston area.

Customer Service, Customer-Driven

“At Oracle, I got to know Ken, Steve, Keith, Rohit Mistry, Andy Gaeng and a lot of OmniComm people.  As vice president of Oracle’s Health Sciences Global Business Unit (HSGBU), I liked working with Keith. We stayed in touch over the years,” Mr. Rejndrup said. “Steve and Keith are very passionate about how we’ll grow as a company. I really want to support that.”

The commitment to grow drives the company to develop new innovation in EDC solutions and data analytics, while remaining firmly committed to customer service.

“It’s a very customer-focused company, with long-term agreements and long-term engagement,” said Rohit Mistry, another former Oracle staffer, who is now vice president of Business Development, and located in OmniComm’s Barcelona office. “The word on the street is that OmniComm is a good company for clients and employees. We’re flexible and willing to work out mutually beneficial solutions.”

Mr. Johnson, the recently installed CEO, agrees.

“The corporate culture at OmniComm is one which fosters new ideas and innovation and one that welcomes the participation and feedback from everyone across the company, across all levels,” said Steve Johnson.  “Everyone’s opinion matters.  And everyone has a chance to make an impact, not only on the company, but on the lives of millions of people across the globe.  What more can you ask for in a career?”


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