Career Perspectives: Interview with Omar Sefiani, Principal Statistical Programmer

April 28, 2018

Cytel has industry-leading experts in Statistical Programming, our programmers have years of SAS® Programming expertise, combined with in-depth knowledge of the specific clinical subject matter, which allows for competent and on-time completion of tasks.

In this blog, we talk to Omar, who is based in Geneva to find out more about his career path, current role at Cytel and his interests outside of work.

Omar v2 Have you always been passionate about programming and did you know early on this would be your career choice? 

At quite a young age I discovered a passion for computing sciences, but I didn’t really know what programming was. It didn’t really resonate with me until I went to university to study for my bachelor’s degree and this is really when I began to understand programming. I do believe my profile is a perfect fit for this area, given my logic and my interest in making things automatic and generic.

What is your current role?

I am currently the Lead Programmer on a project at Cytel looking at Migraine disease, I’ve been assigned to manage this migraine project with challenging timelines. The statistical results of the two first phase 3 trials have been positive, the current focus is to complete those studies and submit the results to the FDA together with other trials. 

What has been your journey to your current role at Cytel? 

My career started on the sponsor side working on various aspects of clinical trials and adhering and developing company processes. During this time I have developed my skills and expertise, this has provided a great foundation for me with both my approach to clinical trials and statistical programming.

I have been at Cytel for 14 months and in this time I have worked on a wide range of projects, utilizing my knowledge on CDISC processes, some of the work has been challenging, but I have helped with multiple submission activities and this is very rewarding. 

How does the work compare from the sponsor environment in terms of variety and exposure to different techniques/projects?

Today, I am able to use my knowledge and expertise in many aspects of my daily job, including mentoring new people and participating in multiple trials. Being a CRO, we are more focused on providing deliverables with high quality, meeting budgets and satisfying clients, but it gives me an opportunity to handle multiple submission to authorities, where on the sponsor side, it is rare to handle more than one submission during a career. There is a large amount of diversity in the work we are doing, this increases our efficiency and skill. Even though a lot of standards are already in place, we are continually enhancing our processes.

Geneva Omar

What most inspires you about working within this field? 

When a trial has a positive result – you know patients will benefit from it. I am fortunate that all the trials I have led, have been significantly positive so far, I can only hope that this is not by chance and I have a good effect on them …

I think this is my inspiration and it makes me do my work and do the best job I can. I like doing robust and generic programming, in order to show how clever, but also how lazy a programmer can be once the programs are well designed.

What would be your three top tips for early career statistical programmers looking to develop in this field? 

  • Good programming practices - as you are developing your code, it is worth considering how this will be maintained and understood by another programmer.
  • Learn and respect the CDISC rules (STDM and ADaM) - you need to stick to the rules and always be compliant to CDISC, once the submission has been made to the FDA, it could get rejected if not compliant.
  • Good communication skills – being able to communicate is an important life skill.

What are your personal values?
Trust people, everyone is doing their best! Be mindful of the amount of work you are requesting, ensure the instructions are clear and believe nobody wants to do a bad job.

What are your main interests outside of work?

a5I like to explore the mountains and have a passion for nature. Each year I travel to a new country to discover new landscapes and embrace the local culture. I do have a love for German cars and I frequently change the model of my car to ensure I have tested them all!  



 Thank you for taking the time to talk to us and sharing your journey.  


Cytel programmers and biostatisticians are active and well regarded in industry associations and communities around the world. Would you like to join our talented team? We have roles for statistical programmers at all levels across our global locations. To find out more about rewarding careers with us click below.

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