By Kim Hacquoil, Exploristics Chief Data Scientific Officer
I’ve had a few conversations with different colleagues recently about what attracted them to working as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry. I was surprised at the similarity between people’s responses which was also analogous to my own experience. It’s a shame to say that most people seem to “fall into” this job. I don’t mean that to sound negative at all, but it seemed to be the common theme.
Finding my way
My own path into this industry was relatively conventional. I enjoyed maths at school, probably because I found it easy and was good at it, so it was joyful to sit there for hours doing my maths work. I remember my revision timetable for exams always had a bit of maths at the end of the day, I got all the other subjects out of the way first and maths revision was a bit of light relief. This enjoyment of maths continued into university and so I just continued to do what I liked without too much thought on where this might lead career-wise. It was when I was doing my masters in statistics that everyone on my course was applying for roles in the finance industry that I stopped and thought, “I don’t want to do that”. I didn’t know for sure what I did want to do, but I knew that finance wasn’t quite for me. It was by chance that I attended a lunchtime learning session on being a biostatistician which was delivered by PSI, and that was when I knew what I wanted to do – I wanted to be a biostatistician.
Sharing my skills
I wanted to use my technical training and expertise in maths and statistics to make a meaningful difference to people with healthcare needs by developing new therapies to help them. To this day (16 years on) I still have that same drive and ambition to develop medicines, but I have learnt that statisticians offer so much more to the industry beyond technical aspects like analysing the data.
Statisticians can lead, innovate, communicate, strategize, and influence in a way that I never appreciated before I started in the industry.
- I work in diverse teams to provide innovative solutions to real problems faced in running clinical trials
- I work strategically by considering different options for clinical development plans
- I influence by providing evidence for decision-making
- I communicate effectively to explain technical statistical concepts to non-statisticians, ensuring that key implications and risks are understood
- I support and develop other statisticians to help them advance in their career
Statisticians provide the gateway to the data and a quantitative way of thinking; they can provide the insights that really add value and drive effective decision-making. They are a pivotal part of the drug development process and not just because the regulators mandate that we are involved. We are key in making sure we are answering the right question not just the question that is asked of us.
This is why I no longer think of myself as only a statistician – I am a drug developer with a background in statistics. I can influence and impact all aspects of the drug development process, I’m proud to call myself a drug developer, and I love my job!