East is the industry standard platform for clinical trial design, simulation, and monitoring, improving scientific productivity during the critical planning stages of clinical development. In this blog, our Hrishikesh Kulkarni takes us on a tour of his life as a Cytel software trainer and answers some frequently asked questions about how East training sessions work in practice.
How many software training courses did you conduct in 2017?
2017 was a very busy year for all of us, not least for the software training team! We conducted more than twenty courses. Typically, we conduct half or full day training events at our clients’ sites as this helps to generate a direct interaction with our users. This format is effective and the clients also appreciate its importance. Only in some exceptional cases, when on-site training is not possible, do we go for an online training via WebEx.
How do you provide software access to training attendees? Do they all need individual licenses?
That’s a good question. Once the training date is finalized, will have a detailed call with our main client point of contact (usually a statistician) and the IT contact who manages the software licenses. In this call, we offer them various options to access East on the training day. Depending upon their IT policy, one of the options is chosen. Here are those options:
- Direct installation on attendee laptops Our Support team sends the entire package (the software setup files, installation instructions, and the training license). The attendees then install it on their laptops. Normally, their IT team helps them with the installation as it needs administrative privileges. However, this option totally depends upon the company policy. Our users work in a highly regulated environment and therefore installing software directly onto laptops can sometimes be a barrier.
- Sending Training License Only Often, East is already installed in the client’s network and the statisticians access it remotely via a client or Citrix. Their existing license on the server may or may not have all the modules. We prefer to give them access to all the modules for the training. This allows them to follow along with the workshop exercises we cover during the training and evaluate the modules they don't currently have for 30 days post-training. With this option, a temporary training license with all modules is sent to the client, and their IT team replaces the existing license with this one. After a month, they install their original license back while the management team evaluates the broader package.
- Creating a Test Server at Client side If the client doesn’t want to use their existing production server, the alternative is to set up a temporary training server. This kind of setup generally allows access to any number of users- not just those registered on the production server. We actually have some clients who keep dedicated training servers for use all year round.
- Host on the Cytel Citrix server If none of these options work for the client, we publish the software on our Citrix server and then provide access to all the attendees. For this, one only needs the Citrix Receiver utility and a good internet connection to be able access the software remotely.
Tell us about some of your personal highlights
We had some really successful training events in 2017. Some particular highlights include the ASA Boston Chapter meeting and our own East User Group Meeting (EUGM). Let’s talk about these briefly.
ASA often organizes 1-day events in different cities of the North America. For instance, ASA’s Chicago and Boston Chapters are very proactive and they regularly invite us to their events to showcase some of our recent developments in East and other products. Last year, we organized an event jointly with the ASA Boston Chapter, and a lot of statisticians from local industry attended. Charles Liu, Cyrus Mehta and I presented the newer East modules ESCALATE, MAMS and PREDICT.
The EUGM 2017 was a 2-day event. Day 2 was dedicated to East training. We conducted this training in one of the conference rooms at MIT with a beautiful view of Charles River! Charles Liu, Cyrus Mehta and Lingyun Liu were my fellow presenters.
From a personal point of view, to be a part of these events is very enriching and a good learning experience for me. I get the chance to interact with some of the smartest minds in the industry!
Who else is involved in software training?
The team consists of Cyrus Mehta, Charles Liu, and myself. We often seek help from other Cytel experts like Yannis Jemiai, Lingyun Liu and Sam, Hsiao as and when required. This team usually handles North America while Pantelis Vlachos conducts training for our European clients.
What additional benefits might trainees take away from a session?
There are so many new concepts and ideas being explored in the clinical research field. If a particular method or feature is not available in our toolkit, we often take it up as a consulting opportunity and develop a custom software for that client. This is a collaboration between the client and Cytel.
Any training is a two-way discussion where our users get to participate in our development process through their suggestions and feedback.
With the training package, each attendee gets access to the latest version of the software and also to the training material which is quite comprehensive in nature.
What are some common responses you hear from attendees?
We have received a very positive and honest feedback from the attendees so far. They are always so excited and involved throughout the training. The training team tries to make the day as interesting as possible by considering real case studies and demonstrating the real power of the software.
What have you learned from your work as a trainer?
One thing I have realized over time is that our clients don’t look at East as just another software product. It is considered as an industry standard for the design and monitoring of clinical trials. The same holds true for our other products. Our user manuals are considered as reference books for designing and analyzing clinical trials.
Participating in such events has helped me to look at our products from the user’s point of view to identify the areas for improvement. This helps me to contribute to the software development in a more informed and efficient manner!
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Hrishikesh Kulkarni is a Principal Statistician at Cytel Inc. based in Cambridge, MA. He is involved in the development, documentation and support of Cytel’s clinical trial design products. He has worked at Cytel for almost 11 years and earned his Master’s in Statistics from University of Pune, India.