Make yourself Standout
“Senior epidemiology programmers have the basic set of skills to carry out statistical analysis from the data perspective, but it really helps if you have a good set of soft skills,” says Nghi Ly, Senior Programmer, SimulStat.
To be effective as a programmer, you need to possess a range of technical skills. These include coding, programming, and being able to use a range of different technologies.
To stand out as a senior epidemiology programmer, you need to demonstrate excellence in some key soft skills. For example, time management and task prioritization are crucial. You’ll also need to be flexible and remain calm under pressure. But while these soft skills are critical to your success as a senior programmer, communication skills are what will set you apart.
Communication Is the Number One Skill for Senior Programmers
“We have to communicate effectively not only with senior leaders, but especially epidemiologists to help them carry out their research questions. So, a large part can be attending meetings, lots of email back and forth, and making myself available as best as possible to assist the epidemiologists when they have questions,” she explains.
“Also, with the data that I work with and the results I produce, I help others navigate by understanding what each piece says. It’s not just that I handle data, give a report, and hand it off. I participate with the whole team to help them describe what this does, what the data is saying, which direction it’s going, and give helpful suggestions on the next steps – and what they may be looking for, and what story the data tells.”
Knowledge of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Is a Definite Advantage
There can be challenges when you are trying to describe something and someone else isn’t really understanding what you are trying to say – for example, when you are speaking to an epidemiologist who isn’t at ease with technical language. When this happens, you need to explain things in a lay format with a positive intent.
“My advantage is that I have specialty in both epidemiology and biostatistics,” Nghi tells us. “So, when I need to communicate to an epidemiologist, my knowledge in this area kicks in. I’m able to bridge miscommunication gaps. In terms of technical communication, I can relay what the epidemiologist is saying to a fellow programmer because I have both sets of skills in my toolbelt.”
Visual communication is also important. Often, it is easier to share screens, draw it out, and help the other person to understand what you are explaining. This is an invaluable skill to have in her role.
“It’s often better than talking and not showing. You have to be willing to bend and flex with the flow, see who your audience is, what they need, and cater your communications style accordingly.”
It All Boils Down to Effective Communication
To be a standout senior epidemiology programmer, you must be good at teamwork. You must collaborate successfully, stay calm under pressure, and maintain a good work/life balance. The key to doing all this well is to be an effective communicator.
How are your communication skills?