Meet Anine Ungerer, Associate Director, Human Resources, Based in South Africa

Anine Ungerer, Associate Director, Human Resources, began her career in law in 2014, after her graduation from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. She completed a six-week rotation at the deeds and local municipality offices to support drafting purchase agreements and transfer documents but quickly realized that the slow pace of the office was not for her.
“It was a risky move in a country with an unemployment rate of 24% at that time, but I still consider this one of the best career decisions I have ever made,” Ungerer said.
She joined a family law firm soon after. There, Ungerer worked closely with several divorce, domestic violence, maintenance, contact and care cases. She said, “The experience opened my eyes to see a different world in comparison to the stable and loving one I grew up in. I helped a father gain contact rights with his children. I supported a woman, my own age, to divorce after being married for less than two years and saw that a mother isn’t always the best caregiver for a child.”
Developing an arsenal of skills
From her time at the firm, Ungerer was also able to develop skills she hadn’t applied to her professional life yet.
“From the experience, I learned of empathy’s vital role not just in everyday life but also in the workplace. It is important to be able to take a step back, observe, listen, hear and understand the needs of others, their thoughts and their challenges. By doing this, you can achieve more mutually satisfactory outcomes,” she said.
In March 2015, Ungerer joined a boutique law firm that introduced her to Triclinium Clinical Development (TCD). She gained several key lessons in leadership from her time there.
“The partners at this law firm introduced me to the corporate world and international trade, and they taught me how to navigate the politics between internal and external stakeholders, the duties of a director and the company’s best interest. I will always remain thankful for the opportunity to work for them,” she said.
In November 2015, Ungerer was admitted as an Attorney of the High Court of South Africa and began working for TCD as an external legal advisor. Two years later, when the HR Manager at TCD retired, Ungerer took over the role part-time.
“By the end of 2020, I became a non-practicing attorney and joined TCD permanently as HR and Legal Manager,” said Ungerer.
A legal perspective in the clinical research industry
Ungerer found herself working outside of areas pertinent to law and HR at TCD. “In 2016, I began working with the Business Development and Project Management departments of TCD to support them in negotiating service agreements with their clients,” she said.
The experience drove Ungerer to collaborate closely with current FHI Clinical leaders, such as Leonard Herbst, Global Head, Clinical Affairs; Marlie Smit, Senior Director, Clinical Operations; Sanchia Theron, Global Head, Medical Affairs; and Fiona Storer, Director, Clinical Operations.
She spoke highly of the lessons she learned from each leader: “They became my mentors and taught me how to navigate language barriers during global contract negotiations,” she said. “They taught me how to diplomatically defuse a bomb when project milestones or deliverables were delayed and contract extensions or revisions were needed.”
As Ungerer became more involved in the inner workings of TCD’s clinical trials, she learned how to best approach unfamiliar topics and tools.
“I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by complicated Excel sheets and figures on screens — there were so many sheets, and everything was linked!” she said. “That experience taught me not to be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes and to always ask people to share their screen if you do not understand! Just by watching them navigate through the document and seeing the formulas in the cells, I realized what I didn’t know and sought out opportunities to develop my skills.”
Ungerer became familiar with the regulatory nature of the clinical research industry and quickly built detail-oriented skills to learn how to approach clinical research guidelines and tools.
“None of the law firms where I worked previously had any form of standard operating procedure (SOP) whatsoever, and TCD had an SOP for everything! From working with Linda Duursema, Director, Quality Assurance, and her QA and Training Team, I better understood the clinical research industry, GCP compliance, data protection and requirements of auditors and inspectors. They taught me to work with tracked changes and mark-ups in documents and the meaning of paying attention to detail,” she said.
Overcoming challenges in human resources
While Ungerer was able to gain and hone multiple skills from her application of law to the clinical research industry, she also felt the loss that comes with a position in HR. Throughout 2019-2021, Ungerer led HR at TCD through several company-wide structural changes.
“The challenges I have faced as HR Manager have taught me as much as my mentors,” she said. “Facilitating changes, under the guidance of the shareholders and executive leadership, was the most strenuous part of my career on a personal and professional level, and I still regret the uncertainty, difficulties and anxiety our staff experienced as we and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted their job security and stability in life,” Ungerer said.
“I promised myself that, going forward in my career, I would strive towards building a sustainable business that offers stability and security, and I will try to improve my ways every day to achieve this,” she said.
TCD was acquired by FHI Clinical in February 2022, and Ungerer worked closely with team leaders to integrate the organizations.
“That initial transition phase required long days and fighting deadlines, but by focusing on the strengths of the two organizations and how we can support each other, we were able to foster strong working relationships across the globe,” she said. “Although the time zone differences remain constantly challenging, I enjoy being part of this global team, as I feel motivated by the start of every new day in the different time zones as it brings new energy to the virtual worktable.”
In July 2022, Ungerer was promoted to Associate Director, Human Resources. She now leads a team of nine in four countries who manage FHI Clinical’s 430 employees in 13 countries.
“I love it. Every day brings new challenges and new opportunities to learn and grow. It’s not always easy, but I remain motivated and thankful as I know exceptional mentors surround me and I can reach out to senior leadership on Teams for support and guidance,” she said.
Ungerer is currently completing her master’s in business administration, which she plans to use to expand upon her experience in both law and HR.

more team members

Meet Daniel Joffe, Senior Clinical Project Manager, Based in South Africa

Meet Daniel Joffe, Senior Clinical Project Manager at FHI Clinical. “It can be a tough job­ — but it’s the most amazing feeling when things come together, for example, when a site or study is initiated. You look back and see what we accomplished as a team. That’s the reward — when you know that all the hard work paid off. That’s what keeps me motivated.”

Read More »