Student Placement - IQVIA

Ethan McFadzean - IQVIA

Educational Background:

I am currently studying an Integrated Masters in Maths at the University of Bath and am lucky enough to be undergoing a placement year at IQVIA as a statistical programming technician. The placement is 12 months long, although I have agreed a contract extension for a further 3 weeks, meaning I get to prolong this amazing opportunity.


Why a placement year? And why pharmaceutical?

At Bath, industry placements are heavily encouraged – and for good reason! I particularly wanted to do a placement year to gain valuable experience in a working environment and get an insight into what sort of career I would like to pursue in the future, and I believe my placement year fulfilled my ambitions. More specifically, a placement in the pharmaceutical industry appealed to me due to how rewarding it is, knowing that the work you do every day is contributing to people’s lives across the globe. I was also interested in clinical trials and wanted to develop my knowledge of the process.

A typical day on placement

During my time at IQVIA so far, I have worked on around 6 different studies, therefore a typical day varies per study. However, the main tasks involved: dataset programming – manipulating raw data and deriving more structured datasets with variables that will be used for output programming, production programming – writing programs to produce statistical outputs such as tables, listings and figures and quality control – independently of the production programmer, writing programs to compare output datasets to spot any data issues or programming mistakes, as well as manually carrying out quality checks on the outputs to see if they meet client expectations. Being on multiple studies throughout the year meant I had the opportunity to work with programmers and statisticians from all around the globe, including offices in Finland, Estonia, India and Taiwan – as well as working with lots of people from the Reading office and building good relationships with them!

How have my skills developed? 

My placement year has helped me to develop some technical skills, most specifically in SAS programming. I started the role having not used SAS before, but due to the detailed and informative training process at IQVIA, I was able to quickly learn and implement the training into use on studies. In addition to programming, I have become much more confident using other useful applications such as outlook and excel in a work environment. Not only has my placement given me valuable technical skills, but I have also developed lots of soft skills. In particular, working with a range of different team members was crucial in enhancing communication skills and being responsible for certain deadlines and meetings allowed me to work on my organisational skills such as time management. Another major skill I feel I improved was independence – realising there is often a way to research the answer to your question without having to ask someone for help (although there are also plenty of employees willing to help if you are stuck). 

Would I recommend a placement? / My plans after my degree

I would highly recommend doing a placement year, especially in a similar role to mine. It gives you a unique chance to gain work experience before you’ve finished your degree – which many students don’t get! Plus, even if you don’t enjoy your placement year (which I’m sure is uncommon) it at least helps you shape your future, by knowing a certain career path may not be for you. My tip for students applying for placements is to just start looking early, you never know which placements are going to pop up and when! Finally, in terms of my own placement, it has definitely inspired me to pursue a career in biostatistics or statistical programming in the future!

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