myGwork spoke to Ben Davidson, senior regulatory affairs consultant at Parexel, about his journey into the industry, how he’s grown a music career alongside this and how his workplace shows up for LGBTQ+ families.
“I had an accident when I was 10, and I was on life support and in a coma. This is a big part of why I’ve always been interested in pharmaceuticals,” Ben opens with. This meant that medical advancements saved his life, and he’s now on antibiotics every day, so with pharmaceuticals keeping him alive, he’s always been curious as to how they work.
Despite this initial interest, he somewhat fell into the industry. After starting a boy band at 15 and touring with Westlife and Sugababes, reaching his twenties, he wasn’t sure what his next move would be. He lived in the seaside town of Margate, also home to Pfizer’s European headquarters. Ben had a few friends who worked there, and it looked like a good place to start a career, so he started applying for anything that came up. He interviewed for a document management specialist role, and although he knew he didn’t quite have the right experience, he told his interviewer: “You won’t find anyone that wants this as much as I do. I’ll learn everything.”
This approach worked – he got a call a few days later from the hiring manager: “There are other people that have the relevant experience, but you were so prepared.” Ben had the job on a three-month trial basis, and he ended up spending 11 years at the company. He’s now a senior regulatory affairs consultant at Parexel, among the world’s largest clinical research organizations (CROs), providing the full range of Phase I to IV clinical development services, where he’s been since 2015.
“I’m a product of hard work, determination and trust from companies to invest in young people”
“I’m a product of hard work, determination and trust from companies to invest in young people. Although I didn’t have the experience or education to come in at a high level, they took me in and let me work up from the ground up.”
Working with a global team, since joining Parexel, Ben’s been able to strengthen and develop his skills. He’s also working alongside Parexel’s diversity and inclusion group as he leads the LGBTQ+ network with two allies. Ben explains that the whole team really sees the value and importance of inclusion, which is why you see so much involvement from allies.
They’ve just moved to new offices where they have gender-neutral toilets, and a variety of Pride events taking place each year. There is also support in place for employees who are transitioning, and Ben’s seen any time someone has changed their name or pronouns they are met with warmth and acceptance. “It’s that inclusive, as soon as you come in, you feel safe.”
Having been out and visible in his identity since he was 19, he’s able to use this life experience to support his LGBTQ+ colleagues and push forward inclusion. Reflecting, Ben laughs, explaining when he first came out, he was “very colourful and very flamboyant,” but this wasn’t always appreciated by his workplace, and he experienced difficulties in previous companies. Parexel, on the other hand, is the complete opposite, he’s always felt supported and accepted.
“Parexel celebrates and embraces who you are”
“Parexel celebrates and embraces who you are,” Ben adds. “They actively encourage open conversations and want you to show up authentically.”
Growing up, Ben knew early that he was gay but didn’t feel the environment was right for him to come out, and when he did, his dad didn’t take it well, so he ended up moving out. On the other hand, his mum has always been his biggest supporter, also working in the pharmaceutical industry, she’s always there for him.
“School was tough, because I wasn’t out, but I was very identical to I am now which is very outspoken and confident. I sang and performed in the local theatres and shows. So, I always advocated for being yourself, even from a young age.”
Music and performing have always been a part of Ben’s life, having been a singer from a young age. At just 15, he became the lead singer of his band, Most Wanted, and toured the world. Then, alongside his professional career, he’s always performed and gigged, whether at the local pub or Pride events. In 2017, a video of him singing went viral; one thing led to another, and before he knew it, he was signed to a label with a debut album on the way.
“It’s real life, which is why people connect to it”
Since then, Ben’s been pouring his heart into his lyrics and releasing music non-stop, with his latest single, Wow, coming out earlier this year. His songs have charted the UK Top 40, and he’s been featured as a rising star in The Sun’s Bizarre column. He describes his lyrics as diary entries: “You can hear my heartaches in the words, you can see when things are good and when things are bad. It’s real life, which is why people connect to it.”
At first, there was a hesitation to use gendered pronouns in the song – but he realised there was importance in the queer representation his authenticity would give. So, when he wrote a song about his husband, he wanted his audience to know it was a love song about two men.
Ben’s family play such a central role in his life it just wouldn’t make sense to hide this within his music, and he’s hopeful that younger LGBTQ+ people will see the representation and it will resonate with them. Ben and his husband have two kids: Drew, who’s 10, and Logan, who’s six. They’re his biggest fans and Drew tells everyone that his dad is his favourite singer. “They’re the best thing I’ve ever done and ever will do,” Ben says fondly.
Having two young kids means the flexibility Ben is given at Parexel is invaluable. Juggling a professional career, family-life and a music career is made possible because of the support he receives and added flexibility. Knowing if the kids are unwell that he can be there to look after them, makes the world of difference.
“Family is so important, and Parexel understands this”
Parexel also offers an initiative from May to September, the summer holidays for England and Scotland, where you can condense your hours to four days to give you more time to spend with your family. “They’re very flexible to give you the opportunity to do your work within the hours that you need to and take time to spend with family and children. Family is so important, and Parexel understands this.”
There’s a particular vulnerability with performing on stage, Ben shares, that impacts all parts of his life – it makes him a better parent and a better colleague. His job at Parexel might be analytical, and although this is something he excels at, his biggest strength has always been how personable he is.
In that first job interview back in his late teens, Ben admits he wasn’t the obvious choice for the role. There were likely other people with more experience or education, but perhaps it was this vulnerability that connected with the person in front of him, convincing them to take a chance on him. His career proves that taking a chance on someone with a background different from everyone else you’ve hired can pay off – Ben’s career has spanned decades, and he’s worked hard to better his industry. Every industry can benefit from offering alternate routes into different careers, and a team from different walks of life will think differently, an asset that is not to be underestimated.
Check out Ben Davidson’s music here.