Our strategic consulting team work on projects such as: Identifying the best clinical trial design, implementing adaptive designs, developing a regulatory strategy and interacting with regulators.
In this blog we talk to Ursula who is based in Germany, to find out more about her career path, achievements, current role at Cytel and her interests outside of work.
Have you always been passionate about Statistics and did you know early on this would be your career choice?
Absolutely, very early on I had passion for numbers and an inquisitive nature – if people made a statement about how things would be I was always wondering how I can find out whether or not that was really true. In Germany when students are around 17 and in higher education, they are all issued with a “Green Book” (it lists all the possible studies that are available in Germany). I spotted statistics straight off and this is the route I took.
What is your current role?
Associate Director of Strategic Consulting – this role entails doing surveillance for statistics run by another Contract Research Organization (CRO) and strategic consulting for drug development with multiple sponsors. I also present at conferences representing Cytel, my next visit to London will be in March for the Orphan Drugs and Rare Diseases Global Congress.
Who do you collaborate closely with? Why are these relationships important?
On a daily basis I interact with project teams that consist of strategic consultants, biostatisticians, statisticians, programmers and data managers. I work closely with fellow statisticians mainly for mutual consultancy and a second pair of eyes. We are usually working towards a set of objectives determined by the sponsor’s to support drug development. When exploratory strategic analysis is necessary to help aid planning and decision making I collaborate with programmers and data managers.
What has been your journey to your current role at Cytel?
My professional career started with Roche Diagnostics in Germany, in the development of multi-marker diagnostic tools and after seven years I moved to Unilever (a fast moving consumer goods company). The needs of both companies were very different towards their statisticians and so got to apply all the statistical methodologies I had learnt whilst studying statistics. Especially the differences between purely observational studies and randomized trials, and highly controlled experimentation in product (production) optimization are like different worlds – it is great when they come together!
What career achievements are you most proud of?
I have worked on several programs that run over years that consist of a series of experimentations and where the statisticians help with decision making and predication of future outcomes in the next experiment and the final validation of a newly proposed procedure “in the field”. Several times those final predications were spot on! Before I look at any data I am always nervous, but you make your predications – when they are confirmed by the data, it is a very gratifying moment.
What most inspires you about working within this field?
Finding out about how the world is made up. As a statistician I help other scientist to find out more about their domain, I am fortunate enough to then receive these insights as gratitude. I am driven by finding out the truth, however I don’t believe we will ever get there, by no means, but we can make good decisions along the way.
A famous German writer – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in his story about Faust, describes brilliantly the desire to “know it all”. “Daß ich erkenne, was die Welt im innersten zusammenhält”. Translated this means “That I recognize whatever holds the world together in its inmost folds”. Yet, there is some danger to it: Faust is a dissatisfied intellectual and does a treaty with the devil, so the end is of course a disaster...
What would be your three top tips for early career statistician looking to develop in this field?
Keep “fluent” with at least one statistical software to remain playing with data.
Invest time and effort to learn, understand and talk with subject matter experts from various fields and different levels of statistical knowledge on their problems.
Be kind and friendly, but never twist the truth to please someone
What are your personal values? I would want to live in a world where all beings are treated with respect for their dignity and autonomy. To have the world I would like, my contribution would be best if I was wise, acted honestly and was patient with myself and others… so I have some way to go!
What are your main interests outside of work?
I have a passion for reading - I enjoy criminal and philosophical books. I love hiking in the mountains with my husband and spending time with friends. I have strong desire to learn and my recent undertaking is "non-violent communication" – hopefully this will give me the patience I need going forward.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us and sharing your journey.
Cytel biostatisticians and programmers 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.