Plotting your career and preparing the terrain

Interview with Diana Stuart

For your career, have you ever thought about what mindset you should adapt to?
What do you think marks a “successful” career?
What will help you understand in which direction your career should go?

Diana Stuart, who is a Senior Manager in programming, shares with us her thoughts, lessons, and her vast experience in this field and what we can do to create a robust career with all the surrounding changes.

We also debate these important points:

  • Ways to work with your line manager
  • Embrace change
  • Great self-awareness about your strengths and limitations and about how they change over time (technical and non-technical skills)
  • Create networks to ensure being invited into opportunities: create exposure
  • Motivation (mastery, purpose, autonomy) is key for long-term success
  • Constantly invest in yourself and own your self-management

Diana Stuart

Senior Manager, Programming

Diana has been programming in SAS since 1996, moving from banking to the pharmaceutical industry in 1998. Her experience includes ten years as an independent contractor and involved working for a number of pharmaceutical companies with a significant global presence. She is an experienced line manager who has a passion for the professional development of programmers and statisticians.

Leveraging 20 years of programming expertise across the pharmaceutical sector, Diana is one of the critical success factors behind the Veramed Graduate Training Programme, which she set up and coordinates each year. Alongside this challenging role, Diana supports employee engagement activities, ensures consistency in approach and advises on line management styles to foster and encourage valued contributions across the company as a whole.

Diana has been actively involved with Pharmaceutical Users Software Exchange (PHUSE) since 2009, editing and contributing to the PHUSE quarterly newsletter and more recently contributing to the PHUSE blogs, as well as active participation in the EU conference across the Professional Development, Industry Starters, University Day and Poster streams. In 2018, Diana was honoured to be made a Lifetime Honorary Member of receive a Lifetime achievement for PHUSE for her significant contribution to the organisation over a number of years.

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Alexander: You are listening to the effective statistician podcast. The weekly podcast with Alexander Schacht and Benjamin Piske, designed to help you reach your potential Lead Great Science and serve patients without becoming overwhelmed by work. 

Today. We are talking about plotting your career and preparing the terrain, an interview with Diana Stewart. And this is a very special episode because we recorded this interview during a webinar. And so they are also listeners with questions today and now some music.

Now recently. We talked about a career outside of Statistics with the interview with Lucy. Today we are talking about the career inside Statistics and there’s a lot of similarities between having a great career, as a statistician, having a great career as a programmer and Diana has presented quite often about this topic. So watch out for a really nice interview with her. If you like this podcast, then please tell your colleagues about it. They may benefit from it as well and being a nice colleague means you are helping your colleagues. So tell your colleagues about it. Very simple. 

I’m producing this podcast in association with PSI, a community dedicated to Leading and promoting the use of Statistics within the healthcare industry for the benefit of patients. Join PSI today to further develop your statistical capabilities with access to the ever-growing video on demand Content Library, free registration to all PSI webinars and much much more. Visit the PSI website at PSI to learn more about PSI activities and become a PSI member today. 

Welcome to this live recording of a podcast episode. So really,nice opportunity because it’s a little bit of a different setup than usual for me. Usually, I’m sitting In this office and just having the other person on the other side that I see and maybe I don’t even see the other person’s that I’m speaking with or I’m sitting here just for myself and speaking and today it’s a different setting because we have listeners for this podcast episode directly in this setting with the webinar, which is quite nice for me to experience and with that I wanna thank Diana from Veramet, who’s with me on the call today. Where we want to speak about career planning and how to prepare for a good career. Hi Diana. How are you doing? 

Diana: Very Fine? Thank you, Alexander. Very well. How are you? 

Alexander: I’m fine as well. Funny, March, end of March and yeah, we are all in lockdown. So it’s a quite unique situation and lots of turbulent times. But I think in these turbulent times, we have any way in our industry. Also, with a lot of mergers and acquisitions that can go on, there’re pipeline failures that can have all different changes that can have an influence on your career and that is the topic for today. We want to talk about how you can prepare yourself having all these changes in mind in order to move forward with a robust career for yourself? But before we dive into this topic Diana, maybe you can give a little bit of an introduction to the audience in terms of what you have been up to. And why is this topic so much of interest for you personally. 

Diana: Thank you. Yeah, so this is me Diana Stewart? I’m a senior manager of programming at VeraMeds. I’ve been in the industry for quite a long time. I started when I moved over to the pharmaceutical industry in the late 90s. I have quite a variety of experience. I’ve worked for both big and small pharma companies, I’ve worked TRO’s, I’ve worked as a contractor, spent 10 years Contracting and I think along that path I’ve experienced lots of different line management styles. And I think whilst I was Contracting. I recognize how easy it was for your career to store. So to speak, my own career path has been somewhat convoluted. I didn’t just get to programming straight out of school. I actually have a customer service background and I started my life working, my working life anyway I gotta be careful spraying perfume on people. So it was, it was the early 90s. There was a recession in the UK. It was a different time. I moved into the banking industry, and eventually I discovered that I had this attitude and a liking for programming. I went back to school. I studied while still working in the banking industry and then moved over to the pharmaceutical industry. And then I suppose through all these various experiences I came to the conclusion that I had quite a passion for developing people, and for line management. And my management means different things to different people. For me. It’s about guiding people through their professional development paths and working out what engages them and helping to develop themselves. 

Alexander: Okay. Awesome. I think it’s that it’s more and more typical that we see people from all kinds of different backgrounds. Joining the pharma industry,  as a statistician or as a programmer. It’s not that you can or usually go to university and you have exactly set that in mind and then you start your career in a specific company. And there you work for 30 years or 40 years and then go through the ranks. Most careers, I think, are much more kind of the less straight and because people over the years, see what  are their strengths and what do they really love? And the new opportunities unfold and then it’s about seizing these opportunities. And thinking about that, when you speak to others about their career, what kind of mindset topics do you discuss about? 

Diana: I want to know about what motivates them as an individual where their Interest really is like, everybody is different. I think they need to recognize what their strengths are. Their individual strengths are what they’re good at, what they find challenging, and what they actually don’t like. Think it’s probably be quite honest with yourself about what they do and don’t like and I suppose in terms of mindset, what motivates them? So what will actually make them look at developing themselves further? 

Alexander: Yeah. I think that is really an important point in terms of if you want to have a successful career. It’s a basic form that is a very good understanding of yourself. And if you hear someone screaming in the background, it’s my little daughter. I think part of the lockdowns, all the kids are now at home. So that gives you a little bit of a live feeling here. But coming back to the mindset. Yeah, I think it’s really important to have a good understanding of yourself. To have a good understanding of what are your strengths and limitations and what motivates you? Yeah, I think from a motivation perspective. I’m always thinking about Dan Pinks and of three points is, Mastery, autonomy and purpose and purposes, what drives you forward? What gives you purpose? But the important thing here is the Mastery. What do you want to really develop? And how do you want to spend your time doing it? What skills do you want to perfect and bring to Mastery? What do you want to work on many days in your career? Because, I think for me it is a successful career if you can maximize your potential . For me a successful career is not necessarily that you become VP of Statistics somewhere. And I think most people actually don’t want to become a  VP of statistics. That’s a really big move to cross the needle and get successful. That you are doing. And that can have lots of thoughts of different aspects. In terms of other things about the mindset, what else do you think is important there? 

Diana: Yeah, I suppose. I mean you touched on it a bit there. I think it’s recognizing that our career isn’t our job title, you know, do people tend to get quite hung up on job titles or so really it’s actually recognizing what sort of range of skills makeup. Who we are and what we do. And what we want to be getting away from the whole job title thing is, it’s quite challenging actually, because we sort of attribute some of our self-worth to that, I would say so focusing on what we’re capable of and what potential we have setting ourselves, reasonable objectives, achievable objectives, and we talked quite lot about smart objectives daily and probably being open to new experiences and not being afraid to change our path. Not being able to, be afraid to say, actually, this path I’m on is not working out. Let me move my focus slightly. Let me look at what else is going on. What skills do I have that can be a match, So it would be a better direction for me. 

Alexander: Yeah, I think in terms of the job titles that’s a really important point because it speaks to the fact that we tend to compare ourselves to others. And a job title is one way of doing that and I am not sure that is a really healthy way of progressing your career that you always compare yourself to others. Because everybody has a different background, everybody has a different situation and I would say it’s much more interesting to look into yourself and see others as an inspiration and motivation but not trying to emulate someone else’s career or try to copy someone else’s career because everybody is different and everybody had a different time in their career. If you compare yourself with someone that is  20 years longer in the industry. Well, at the time. At your age, the industry is completely different. They were completely different challenges. Like now, so focus on yourself. I think this is the key thing here and don’t get hung up on job titles. 

Diana: Absolutely! I mean apart from the fact that they’re completely inconsistent across the industry anyway, so there’s no point in comparing at all. So as somebody who’s interviewed, quite a lot of people, I know that somebody coming from a company where they might be a principal program or any one company that might only be a senior and another company. So, we always look at what they have done? What skills did  they pick up? What behaviors are embedded, and it’s consistent, and of behaviors and experience. That’s what you’re looking for. And that’s what we should be looking for ourselves in our career. Our careers are not this  thick list that we go through and then say, oh, well, that’s it. I’ve got to the end of the list and therefore I’m out at this level. It’s about demonstrating certain types of behaviors and certain levels of skill, I think. And so and that makes up who we are and what we can do. And I think the other thing is that, as you mentioned, that somebody came into the industry 20 years after, I wish I have gotten off experience with what We recreate a lot of graduates and they come in I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and they are quite intimidating because that’s not, and an amazing and pick up things really quickly. And they’re being measured in a different way. I would say. So it’s not fair to compare it. You have to do the hard work of looking at everybody individually. And seeing where they had an individual or going to go where they are going to shine. And you can’t compare somebody who’s come in with a year’s experience. Even though they might be the most amazing programmer with somebody who’s got 10 years experience who’s also a good programmer, but all that other experience behind them. 

Alexander: Yeah. I think the other part that you talked about was not so much getting hung up on. What is the exact next move you want to make in your career? I think that’s a trap that you focus so much on. I want to go exactly to that position. Yeah, and you focus all your efforts all your bets on this one position and that may go away. Now someone else will take it. You may be sick during this time. It’s an open water. There can be all kinds of different things that are coming up. And so it’s important not to be so stuck in your thinking with your career that it’s the only next move, it’s more about what are your strengths? And how you can grow these different strengths in these next different positions and then have a feel for what could be all different positions that you go into. In terms of that, any advice you can give people on how to get a more broader view on these different opportunities that could come up. 

Diana: Yes. I suppose it is quite difficult, I just know, Because you are within companies your next step is usually a job title. So actually you need to look at what makes up that next step and different companies do it in different ways, but it’s much easier when you’re developing somebody and they can see that next step and know all the different components that might make up that next step because then you can take the view of right. Where do you need training? Where do you need support and which bits of this? Next step are the things where they’re really appealing and you really want to go to and the other bits, but maybe you don’t want to do. So, for example, I mean some companies put Line Management in that next step up, but everybody wants to be like management. And frankly not everybody can be line manager. They’re not necessarily built to be line managers because their skills lay elsewhere, but they might be excited about another part. And that’s the bits that you’re motivated to do and to stretch yourself and challenge yourself. There’re the bits to focus on.

Alexander: I completely agree with the terms of the next step in your career. I think there can be a promotion, you stay basically more or less in your job. But you get a higher salary  rate. A better job title and more responsibilities in your job. So, lots of companies have these technical career paths. For example, where you start as a Junior statistician, and you become a Senior statistician, Principal statistician, people get really creative with these kinds of things of course, and it’s kind of usually quite clear to understand. What are the requirements for the next level and to have well, that should hopefully be clear what are the requirements of the next level? And it should be clear to you and your supervisor in order to help you get into that. That’s what you’re talking about. Isn’t it? 

Diana: Yeah, in essence. I think it’s looking at what I supposed people heard to have that, the Priest Principle. There’s no point in promoting people into a position that they keep promoting until they fail. People need to move forward in a very natural way that the progression needs to be a consistent thing. It’s building on it as you say, the point of promotion is best when somebody is already there demonstrating that they are capable of doing that next job and that is the best kind of progression in my opinion. 

Alexander: Yeah, I completely agree, I think that’s a very commendable rule. You get promoted when you have already demonstrated that you can perform to the next level and you get these additional responsibilities and then it is of course important to work with your line manager. That he sees that he gives you the right tasks that you can show actually that you’re capable of doing this and that you also asked for it. I think that it is really important that the other mindset topic is the career is your responsibility. It’s not your line managers or the CEO’s. Whoever’s responsibility. It’s your responsibility and you need to leverage more than your line manager, HR, whoever your external network wherever to grow your career, but what centrally is, of course, the line manager first. 

Diana: Yes. Absolutely, I think building that relationship with your line manager is really important, being able to have those really open discussions because you need to be able to ask the manager and tell them what you want. If you’re not comfortable doing that and that line management relationship is not working very well. And so it is absolutely having those discussions about what is next and what an annex. If your line manager Isn’t there to fix you? You have a manager there to guide you, to help you recognize, maybe what resources and support that you might require along the way. The more that an individual has about where they want to go next and maybe what training they might require, these is sort of a discussion to have with your line manager, but that drive that motivation to get to the next step needs to come from the individual, but it’s not everybody is necessarily capable of thinking in that way initially. So it’s, the line manager needs to draw that out of the individual, Maybe by asking all sorts of questions. And as you mentioned, it’s about having the type of work. That’s where the line manager can help because then they can go to whoever is diving up the work if you like it. if your line manager doesn’t know that you’re not experiencing the type of work that you require the kind of not do anything about It, but if you don’t ask you don’t get, is that in essence. So your line manager quite often is that conduit to the next to the resourcing team or whoever to try and at least get you the right  type of experience, of course, making sure that you are actually prepared for that experience. So, there’s no point in nagging your line manager that you want to do something. Let’s say a leader studies. When you haven’t really thought about what that entails or that’s the next thing I want to do. I’m going to go and do it. So actually you could potentially be dropping yourself in it completely. I think that’s not helpful. So actually it’s talking about and planning these things and making sure that an individual is prepared. So if  they want to lead, then it’s making sure that they’ve got the right kind of coaching, or maybe a mentor or being asked the questions along the way that they’re getting direction when they need it, support when they need it. And then as they grow in confidence, slowly taking that away, and allowing them to move on themselves. 

Alexander: Yeah, if you think about growing your skills and being able to deliver at the next level. You can get formal training on things like that. You can have on the job training and then you have maybe all the usual things that you do anyway, in terms of the proportion of that from a time commitment perspective. What do you think is the ratio between these three different things? 

Diana: So it’s formal training. Probably the smallest amount. Actually, I think, in general, it’s quite nice to learn about something in a sort of short session to get the information, but if you don’t use it, and it’s quite easy to lose it, I would say. But sometimes it’s getting that training at the right time, that in itself can be quite difficult as well. But more valuable can be the specific coaching or having the right Mentor or having just somebody in the background that’s supporting that I would say, would be a greater percentage of the type of support and learning that one can get. And then there’s what an individual does for themselves, but they go away and learn about maybe in their own time as well, because that demonstrates quite an inclination towards Motivation for learning.

Alexander: Actually that’s a really important point. I do learn a lot on my own time. That’s not company time, or whatever that’s for me and investment in myself and investment in my kind of long term growth. And I would do that whether my company pays for it or not. I read books and am active in the community, all these different things. So, don’t expect that your company pays for everything that you want to do, if you want to read a book about a specific topic or things like that. Expect that you do that outside of your  usual work hours. If you want to become a better programmer, expect that you probably need to put in some hours outside of work to grow your skills. Not everything needs to be done within the work hours.  I listen to a lot of books while I’m actually running or things like that. So if you can combine these things also with having fun along the way, that’s it. So that’s formal training, that I think what’s really important is to challenge yourself on the day-to-day tasks that you have. There are so many things during the day that you can secure doing, where you can push yourself outside of your comfort zone, where you can push yourself to learn something, where you can push yourself to for example, apply a new technique to program more elegantly or to be a more effective Communicator. More effective presenter, more effective listener and more effective influencer at work. Yeah, Our  work provides us with lots of  different opportunities to grow. Each meeting we can see it as a laboratory of all different influencing and communication skills, and we can use each of these occasions to become better and grow all skills in there. What I think is needed there is that, you know what you need to look out for? So you need to have a little bit of a common understanding of what are, for example, good soft skills you need to develop so that you can actually get an abstract idea of what you’re seeing. Do you understand what good communication is? And what’s a good influence? What’s good listening? What does a good run meeting look like? these kinds of things. But, once you have these basic understanding you can use each and every meeting to improve your meeting skills. With every communication, you can improve your communication skills. Every presentation. You can improve your presentation skills. Every program that you set up new, you can try to improve your programming skills. So all these, I think is kind of a mindset on that part. It’s not just doing the work, But it’s growing by doing the work that I think is really important and that is the bulk of the time that we spend at work and that we spend in our life, we shouldn’t just turn the handle. It should also be something for us there. 

Diana: Yeah, I would agree and I think that probably has quite a big impact on how people feel about their work as well. If they are just turning off, then they’re probably not really enjoying their job, they’re not really enjoying what they do. But when you feel that drive to do something better to learn more about what you’re doing and to do it, that is you say to do it better and I think in particular with soft skills. That’s an area where I think probably training courses are actually quite effective because you can immediately take something away from them and start using them and they’re the sort of things that you do need to be practiced, especially for programmers, I think the program is pushing themselves out of their  comfort zone with some of the communication things that the influencing maybe leading meetings. They are more of a challenge and unfortunately, quite often to practice those we need to do things like role-playing, which I think we’re all uncomfortable with eventually. 

Alexander: Yeah, but I have used roleplay myself quite effectively. With my supervisor in the past where I knew I was going into an uncomfortable situation and got to do a role play beforehand to experience how that could be. And my former supervisor was really quite nice and said that she could be more mean. It gets more controversial than the other person and that could always set me up for success and also in terms of another role play that I really enjoyed was about the GBA hearing. So The GBA. the Pea board in Germany on the national level. If you want to get a new truck, Reimbursed through the National Insurance System, you need to go through that. And it’s quite intense hearing and the roleplay beforehand was really good to honing in on our communication skills, honing on our  executive presence in the meeting, honing on how we come across and as well as all the content that would be asked, but that will be the easiest piece. Communication and clearly communicating and getting the message across was far more important. Part of the soft skills and technical skills that are actually a really important part of the career planning. How do you see that these different skills develop over a career? 

Diana: Usually in the positive direction, I would say. Well other people are coming into this house. Now. I do, I think just as individuals get more experience of interacting with each other. And there’s that whole thing with the importance of feedback, having such an important thing to have in any working group is feedback. Honest feedback, constructive feedback. So that people can learn more about the way that they communicate and maybe understand how they have an impact on other people. So I think it does come down to experience, and it is one of those areas where I really think people do have to push themselves a little bit out of their comfort zone, maybe to carry on with those experiences. It would be easy for a programmer to come into the industry without the encouragement of the line manager and without some objectives that were set for them. They might never 

develop their soft skills, actually but buys on manages. Well, if that’s what your objectives are for. And so having objectives that are useful in a well-rounded way is very important, I think. And that’s why I’m always setting a soft skills objective for my long recourse. 

Alexander: Yeah. And, as I said, completely, the same is true for their decisions. I think, if you want to be more and more influential, this directly implies that you need to be honing in on your influencing skills and just because you’re technically a superstar doesn’t mean that you get that across and that people listen to you and act on what you’re thinking. So my experience is that the more you’re in terms of the career you get to more senior levels, and that doesn’t need to be necessarily. More line management responsibilities, but more senior levels. Also in purely technical tracks. It becomes more and more important to have good. What we call soft skills. Good people skills in interacting with people, influencing people, selling your ideas to others, that becomes more and more important. We will, in a few minutes, go to suggestions, by the way. So if you have any questions type these into the chat. I already see a couple of questions coming. So please continue to type them into the chat and we’ll get to it in a minute. There’s one last piece. I wanted to speak about in terms of career or maybe two pieces. One is Technical side of things and Technical knowledge that people should develop. Would you recommend people to have more of a general understanding of lots of different techniques or concentrate more on one single piece? Maybe, in becoming the best visualization programmer, I’ll become the best patient statistician, or whatsoever. What’s your opinion on that? 

Diana: Honestly. I think it probably does come down to the individual, but I think in general what you end up with is that most people start their career and they lay a fairly solid foundation, which gives them a broad range of skills. So I think in general, a statistician wouldn’t come out from doing their masters and just leap into the specialist area. Based on that they probably would want to lay down a fairly good range of exposure to different study Styles, different designs. Their role within a study would vary and that’s the same with programmers as well. You know, having that broad range of experience is important before specializing, and I think people just need to go into specialization with their eyes open, really? They need to realize that they need to be happy with it in times like, wherein at the moment where there’s a bit of uncertainty going on. You always want to be able to rely on other skills as well. Your specialist area may not be in demand at the time. So having those other skills to come back to is good. I know statisticians who program really well, because if they need to, they could go and get a programming contract if they wanted to do that instead. So, having a specialist area that really interests you and drives you is absolutely fine. But it’s just being aware that you shouldn’t, you need to have a back-up plan. I think. And also I think you need to be a bit careful that you don’t get pigeonholed because sometimes what happens is that people get really good at something. They’re actually no longer particularly interested in it and have been diverted off course, they get pigeonholed. they are somewhere that they don’t want to be so kind of got to pull out that somehow. 

Alexander: I completely see that there are basically two sides of a coin. You want to be known for something, you want have a brand to be an expert in that particular field, but the other side of the coin is that, you’re just seen through that lens, but I think it’s always good to have a personal brand and that being attached to boost your soft skills and leadership skills as well as to certain technical topics. Because, more senior people will remember 

you much more easily if they know. She is really good at visualization and he is really good at nonparametric statistics. And she is really good at statistics and so on, which helped a lot in terms of the last point that I would actually want to speak about is exposure. I think exposure is probably the number one driver for a successful career. And what I mean by exposure is that you are widely seen in terms of what you’re capable of, what are your strengths and where you are heading, and that is both within and outside of your company and that requires that you network with lots of different people. That you are visible to lots of different people. Because, only when you’re visible to these people, only then can they consider you to move you into a certain position. Yeah, being it a promotion to the next level or whether that is, considering you for an opening in a completely different area of the  business and different area of the department or maybe even different company. Yeah, only if you have that exposure. If people know about your profile, know about your brand in a positive way hopefully, only then you can get these opportunities. And I think that is really important. You need to basically Market yourself as a brand, that might sound pretty salesy, but it’s actually the truth. It’s maybe the truth that we don’t like to hear, maybe think of us what we talked about, what we produce and our performance speaks for itself. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. So you need to consciously market yourself all the time because you never know what kind of opportunities will come up. I was recently talking to Lucy Rawl, about the Chair of PSI and about quite interesting careers that also led her outside of statistics, and She was approached because she has this wide Network. She has built lots of different connections into the different units. And she also lets other people know that she’s interested in going into other directions. So these are the things that you can do to Market yourself. Any thoughts on that for you Diana. 

Diana: Yeah, I would absolutely agree with that. I quite often have an objective from my line reports, that they have to raise their profile. Usually, initially within the company, but then outside of the company. So, raising your profile within any group of people is important for your career. It’s about saying, I’m here. I’m not part of the wallpaper. I’m here. And this is what I can do and it’s self-marketing in effect. I think that everybody’s not the same and that everybody’s got these individual skills, and that’s what you want to be recognized for. And I think these industry organizations are really important for that as well because that’s part of the networking and getting involved, volunteering for those things. And again, we come back to the point where it’s investing in yourself because a lot of that stuff has to be done in your own time because it is for yourself. It’s for raising your profile it’s about building your personal brand and getting yourself known and that is why maybe, going to conferences and presenting in one day meetings in a single day events. Presenting webinars for your company. All of those types of things can really be important for raising your profile, but it doesn’t have to start there. It can start small, it can start with starting to present luncheon, and starting to present things that are in your team meetings,  knowledge sharing. It’s just starting somewhere and then building on it. 

Alexander: There are many more opportunities than going directly to the  Keynote speaker of the PSI conference. You can start by helping with the internal Communications in your company and help other people understand what you’re working on, what you have achieved, How you have developed and can help others to work more effectively. Present that internally and present that at conferences. Like you said, And I think PSI, for example, is a really great opportunity. It’s a community that lives by all the different volunteers and all these different volunteers of course, work very closely with each other and that is a really nice opportunity to grow your network to make connections outside of your company. And that helps you to have a much more robust plan for the future that you’re not just dependent on your line manager and nobody else knows about you. Yes, there’s lots of people within and outside of your company who know about what you’re capable of. And that you’re actually a nice person to work with because that is another really important thing. It’s not just about what you do, and how you do it. But also whether people love to work with you. Nobody wants to have someone in their team that is not likeable so to say. So that’s another really important thing to have in mind. Okay, very good. Now we talked a lot about the career, we talked about different mindsets in terms of different careers. What kind of motivational drivers do we have in our career? We talked also about this notion of what actually is a successful career that doesn’t need to be the VP of Statistics doesn’t need to be the kind of only career goal that you can have and what you can personally do in terms of yourself reflection in terms of your branding, in terms of your Exposure to have a robust career planning. So in the last couple of minutes, let’s go to the different questions and you can still type questions into the chat box and send will answer these. So, the first question is about what other pointers for mid-career learnings? Diana, what is your answer to that one? 

Diana: Mid-career learnings? This sounds like I’ve got stuck actually in a bit. Yes. Absolutely, I mean so for some people they’re actually, not everybody needs to keep going forward. That’s probably the first point to make, if everybody wants to keep going forward. People are motivated by different things, whether that’s interesting work or it’s actually just being able to have a flexible working environment and job and being able to balance that. Let’s say with a family life or whatever else is going on in the world for them. When you’ve kind of got to that mid-level and you are looking for what next it is really about exploring all the things that are in the world shall we say of this function So, you know, we talked bit about what mentioned PSI and there are other organizations where topics might be presented that piqued your interest. So I think it’s about continuing, If you feel like you are stalled and you need to find something else. It’s actually looking, it’s researching more and finding other things, but it’s not just that you are stalled because you’re not getting the type of experience and you need to talk to your line manager, more about, I need more challenge. I need more technical experience or I want more project management experience. It’s Finding the thing that you want to move forward and the thing that you’re driven to move forward. So, first of all, I would say identification. The thing that helps you move forward that you want to move 

forward. Having and coming up with a plan of how to get there? And I’m finding that training finding that it’s the resources, the support that you want to get. 

Alexander: I think one other point in terms of, if you’re at a mid-career level is very often. Is their decision. Do you want to become a more technical specialist? And do you want to grow in some more technical career and focus on that or do you want to go for the administrative career and get more hands-off in terms of statistics and programming and become more like an administrative leader? That I think is a very common question. Or maybe you want to become self-employed. Maybe you want to run your own company. That’s probably an exception. Yeah, but that’s another way to go and like Matt and Emma. 

Diana: Yeah. 

Alexander: They founded Verameds about ten years ago. So that’s maybe. Another way to think about it. Yeah, so says not everything needs to be in corporate ownership. It can be your own Corporation. 

Diana: Yeah, and I think you meant that about, you know, it could be that you’re coming out away from a technical area and I’ve spoken to people in the past.  Their progression, for them, has led them away from the thing that they love. And so whether that’s programming or statistics, so they’re doing more and more Administration, more and more projects oversight. And actually, that led them away from what they love. So progression for them is actually getting into a more balanced role where they get to do their technical thing and they get to maybe do a little bit of project management as well, or they get to do their technical thing and they get to do line management and it’s worth it. It’s identifying where it is you want to go? What makes up your ideal role? And if you can identify that, that helps you make a plan of where you want to go. 

Alexander: There’s another question here, that is really interesting. It’s about the problem that lots or at least one in the UK and has probably actually right across the world. Lot’s of Pharma companies are located in rather expensive areas. So if you can think about the East and West coasts in the U.S. The more expensive areas around London and Brussel is for sure all the smartest cheap cities. So, sometimes it can be challenging for more new statisticians or programmers to actually go to these locations, because you need to have a quite good salary to actually have a decent life there. One of the points in this question is about remote working opportunities. To be honest, I think. It becomes more the norm for remote workers, especially as Freelancers or contractors. Lots of these are remote workers. I myself, my first team that I had supervisory responsibilities for were located across four different locations, in four different countries in Europe. And so, of course, that includes remote working. However, if you’re very early in your career. Let’s say the first two to three years. I think you can benefit a lot from working in the office because you pick up so many things by just having someone next desk that you can talk to, you’re very often also not all the time 

In meetings and maybe this is one of the curse of having a more successful career that you have more meetings as a young kid. And then, it’s actually not so much of a problem where you’re located, unless you have a company that is very centralized and everybody is in the same spots and usually, quite difficult to be a remote person, but I think there’s lots of companies now that really help you to succeed in remote working. And to be honest. This whole covid crisis is probably a driver for much more remote work in the future because now all the companies are forced to have good capabilities in place if they don’t have it already. So what’s your take on that?

Diana: Yeah. I think I agree. I think that this crisis, it’s not, it’s definitely. Hopefully I was going to make us all better at remote working, but it’s definitely a big remote working experiment, isn’t it? Because we have to be remote but what it’s doing is making organizations think far more about how people stay connected and how people are supported whilst they are remote. I absolutely agree with you that junior members or staff have people come out of University and start their careers. The benefit of being in the office is infinite. So I think they get far more support. They pick up more ideas, just even between themselves. They support each other. They motivate each other, give each other ideas and they learn more from being in the office. That is the given. The challenge that we have at the moment with the covid-19 crisis is that, we have maybe less experienced individuals at home and it’s making sure that they are well supported and it’s making us think harder about how that is. How are we doing that? And maybe there’s a lot more communication from people generally, you know, the way that we work because you’re not just nudging the person next to you. You have to nudge somebody through instant messenger or maybe talk to them, one of the things that I think we’re doing much more is this video conferencing? We need to see faces. We need to see people and human contact. So it is a trend, remote working is definitely a trend. There are good things and bad things about it, as with a lot of working practices, but, I think we’re going to learn from this, quite a lot.

Alexander: We’re nearly at the top of the hour,  but I still would like to go through all the different questions. Is that okay with you?

Diana: Yeah. 

Alexander: Okay. There’s another question about what about the smaller organizations? So let’s say you’re working in an organization where you have just have five statisticians or 10 programmers and there’s lots of these organizations both in the academic setting as well as in pharma setting, because actually in a numbers perspective most of the organizations are not so GSK is the Novartis and and lilies and things like that. It’s usually much smaller entities. What do you think in terms of growth in these small organizations where there’s not hundreds of programmers and study institutions.

Diana:  I think it’s proportional, really, I think there’s lots of opportunities in these organizations because you’re potentially doing more different tasks because there is less of 

you,  so that you’re getting to see lots of different things, but I believe that there is still just as much opportunity to grow within these organizations. Our organization started really small with Matt and Emma and one statistician Abby. And, you know, and she had that benefit of having Matt’s experience, you know, to grow her. And then I think that if you’ve got five statisticians and 10 programmers, it’s a similar kind of thing. It’s more. It’s just that. I know it’s more personalized I suppose but it does depend obviously on your leaders, their experience. They need to be strong. They need to be good at supporting the people within their team and progressing them. 

Alexander: Yeah, there’s also really important about delegation and not everything needs to be driven by the head of Statistics in this small team. But since that everybody can kind of grow in the team, I think. And what may be different in these organizations is that you have only the option to report one line manager. And in bigger organizations You might easily move around. And if you’re just, let’s say, unlucky with your line manager you can easily switch to another one. But  if you have a really good one in these small organizations. Then you can have the opportunity to get a much  more behind-the-scenes look than in these really big organizations where you will just see a very small piece of the puzzle. 

Diana: Yeah. Absolutely. 

Alexander: Yeah. There’s a question about whether there’s different soft skills needed for CRO’S and a Pharma company. 

Diana: That’s quite interesting. Broadly. Probably not 

Alexander: That would be my answer as well. You know. Because it’s all people based, you need to have people, people, people.

Diana: Internal customers and external customers. It’s still soft skills, it’s still influencing. It’s still having difficult conversations, whether that’s with your client or your line report or the data management department. I mean, it’s it’s it’s I don’t think that really is that much difference. I think that Is possibly important to have strong soft skills in CRO’S because you are going to absolutely utilize them. And they will become very important to the way that you work. They should be equally important in a pharmaceutical company. It’s just that you may not realize it because of the person so you may not be guided towards how important those absolutely be. I would say, broadly speaking. 

Alexander: There’s another question by Ryan Finch about what skills do you feel programmers are missing or Likewise? What do statisticians feel that are missing and could benefit from. And to be honest, my answers. It is quite simple. Are these soft skills? Are these influencing skills? We are all trained by our universities and in terms of technical skills. We all love technical skills. And if you go to a conference, everybody goes to the technical topics, but, if you’ll find lots of very good technical statisticians, but if you really want to stand out, then be a good technical statistician and a good leader, good influencer, and you will really stand out from the crowd because that is in short supply. 

Diana: Yeah, I think that’s definitely the case. I must just say hello to Ryan, hello Ryan… so, yes soft skills. We look at, I think more and more, we look for more than that, sort of well-rounded experiences. So it’s not just somebody who can do something technically, they need to be able to work in a team. They need to be able to resolve conflicts. They might need to be good at anticipating risks and issues. They need to be able to do a whole host of other things. And so when people come out of University and they’ve got a first-class degree, we’re not just looking at that. We’re actually looking at all the other things that maybe they’ve exposed themselves in their life. It might not be enough that they just become academically amazing. These are the things that they’ve already started to expose themselves to because then they recognize that being a well-rounded individual is actually quite important in the world of work and will actually help with their success. 

Alexander: There’s another question about, if you want to grow in your role and you want to  make sure that the company invests in you. How do you best talk to your supervisor about that? And for me? I would say that’s quite easy. You want to tell your supervisor that you want to bring more value to the company. You want to help the company do better and that’s the primary goal here for the company and that’s why you want to have the right tasks and things like that. So it’s about having a good trusting relationship with your line manager so that they help you succeed. But for you to enter into this discussion you can just say. Let’s speak about how we can contribute to creating more value for the company. I would probably approach him that way. What do you think? 

Diana: Yeah. but that’s absolutely right. I think it’s a win-win, isn’t it, an individual advances. And the company gets more value from that individual as they advance and they take on more skills. And they value that. It is an important part of that. It shouldn’t be a difficult conversation. I’m really happy. I really feel like it shouldn’t be that relationship with your line manager. Hopefully, it is comfortable and honest so that you can go to them and have that conversation and they can help you with it. 

Alexander: Yeah, that point just asking for feedback, is there a way that I can do this better, cheaper, faster? Yeah, and get feedback on certain things. And make proposals for doing things better. Yes, and that is a development in itself. Sandra Tracksider is asking, is every experience a good experience or should we be more targeted and say? No. Sometimes if we pick up things that we feel are more relevant for our future. I think having a good discussion about what’s your strengths, and what your weaknesses are where you want to go, will help you to have that discussion with your supervisor and I agree. Not every experience is an experience that helps you grow and move forward. However, of course, on the other side, there’s always some jobs to be done that maybe nobody likes to be done soon. Yeah, maybe you can point to someone else. Who would be better equipped. Yeah. Over, who would be in a better situation or to do that. 

Diana: Yeah. Yeah, and I mean it’s so I feel like it should be a fairly common conversation. Not that we should always be saying no, of course. And as you say there’s always kind of boring tasks to be done. We can’t just cherry pick what we want to be active all day and go  and well, that’s it. That’s going to advance me. You have to, and we have balance in our roles. But if you are being asked to do something that you really are not suitable to do. So, if you don’t have the right personality to be line manager, it could be that you have that discussion with your line manager, where you say, well, why do you think I would be? I am going to be a line manager. It would be far more beneficial for the company to have somebody who has this skill set which I don’t or I don’t have that personality and likewise for things like, you know, I’d technical individual who is I want to take on these more technical challenges, but if they’re really not getting the basics, parts of the the technical work, then you need to build that Foundation First. So it’s yeah, there will be things that we want to say no to but it’s based on the arguments. It’s based at looking self analysis of what we’re 

good at.

Alexander:  Okay. Last question and that’s a really nice and interesting one. It’s about how you can get more technical help and support even though you’re expected to be at a senior level based on your years in the industry. And I think that’s a really good question and I can very much relate to that, if you’re 20 years in the industry. Maybe you’re just expected to know certain things and you don’t know. My best experience was a discussion. I was Walt Olphom quite some time ago. Walt Olphom is now retiring or has just retired from FE and added to his very long career at Lily where I worked as well. And when I first met him, he was already probably the most senior statistician from a technical level at Lily. And he was asking me all kinds of different things. Yeah. He had a very humble approach to his own knowledge. He knew a lot of things, but he was always very curious. And he was not afraid to ask stupid questions. Yeah, so I think that is probably something, of a mindset of an approach that we should retain in our career, that we stay humble, that we don’t fake knowledge, that we always are open to asking these stupid questions because the moment we stop asking questions. We stop learning, and we’ll start buying so to say.

Diana:  Yeah. I think that’s an important sort of company culture. Sort of aspects really, is that within companies? If you encourage questions, always no matter how stupid and that people understand that any question can be asked and it could be proven from somebody who is inexperienced, new to the company, new to the industry, or it could be somebody who has lots and lots of years of experience because In this industry, there is just this vast and growing skills that we could learn, not everybody knows everything. I mean out of the SAS programmer. I’ve probably learned less than 5% of all the things that SAS can do and I’ve been programming for 20 years, and I’m fairly okay, programmer, but it’s not, you’re never going to learn everything and everybody knows different things. So you have to have that company culture of being able to ask other people. And so if you’re a senior statistician or senior programmer, it’s accepting that other people know things. And actually, it could be that they’re straight out of University. And they’ve learned something at the University that you didn’t learn 

Alexander: Exactly. 

Diana: And they can tell you about it and rather than being. Oh, I’m really embarrassed about that. you should be more. I’m really interested in teaching me. 

Alexander: Yeah, and also if you have that problem and I can completely relate to it. Sometimes I also think like, I’ve been that long in the industry. I should actually know that but I don’t know. Then I think, well, roll over your ego and be open and embrace that you just don’t know it and find ways to learn and engage with your colleagues or go to conference courses, attend training and stay curious. Because I think staying curious throughout your career will make sure that you’re happy throughout your career and that will help you keep motivated because in the end that has really worked for me to make a successful career that you are always motivated throughout your career that you’re always growing. And when you finally retire on your last day. You think I learned something here today, that would be I think, for me, it is a really successful career. Okay, with that. Thanks so much Diana. Thanks so much Louis is the background for helping with the organization of the webinar, and then thanks so much for VeraMed for setting up this webinar for live recording of this podcast episode. 

Diana: Thank you. 

Alexander: Speak to you next week. Bye. 

This show was created in association with PSI. Thanks to Reine, who helps the show in the background and thank you for listening. And for this episode also. Thanks so much for the team at Veramed with helping to organize this live recording. It was a lot of fun. Please visit to find the show notes and learn more about this podcast to boost your career as a statistician in the health sector. And don’t forget to tell your colleagues about this podcast, so that more people can benefit from this content, like always, reach your potential, lead Great Science and serve patients, just be an effective statistician. 

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