What Is a Senior Programmer’s Job in the World of Epidemiology?

A Day in the Life of a Senior Programmer

“My job is like a puzzler. I’m given a puzzle and I put it together. When I finish a puzzle, it’s like finishing a journey. You start off confused. You don’t know where you’re going. You have no idea how it’s going to end up. The fun part is figuring that out, solving the problems, and then sharing the solutions with your colleagues and anyone who has asked for your help.” Nghi Ly, Senior Programmer, SimulStat.

It’s difficult to describe a day in the life of a senior programmer in epidemiology because every day is different. You prepare yourself for one type of day, and events take over. You must be flexible and go with the flow. However, when we caught up with Nghi Ly, we were able to build a picture of the type of work a senior programmer at SimulStat does each day, and the tools used to do the job successfully.

The Task List of a Senior Programmer

Nghi says that however her day turns out, it always involves quite a bit of coding and statistical programming. It’s also packed with lots of communications with epidemiologists, who are responsible for methodology for the purpose of conducting research endeavors. They also provide Nghi with the specifications of how to conduct what is needed to answer the research questions that they have.

“My day consists of following specifications to extract data. Once I have that data, I need to mine and manipulate it in a way that is feasible and workable for data analysis. I carry out that analysis to produce reports or output to meet the needs of the epidemiologists,” she tells us.

Senior programmers work on coding and programming, attend meetings, provide (and take) training to help colleagues understand what they are needed to do, and assist junior-level colleagues in the completion of their tasks.

Every day is a busy day, but no day is Groundhog Day.

Communication Is Key

Because of the nature of the work, schedules can go out the window. You must re-prioritize workloads, and keep others in the loop.

“You must react and prioritize according to emergent and non-emergent issues,” Nghi says. “And you must let all the people you are collaborating with know of your bandwidth, your availability, and your challenges.

“It comes down to communicating with your team. Let them know what is going on, and whether there will be any challenges upfront. Be honest. Communicate with positive intent. You’re trying to work together to come to a common goal. If everyone is on the same playing field, with the same message and understanding, it becomes a successful effort.”

The Tools of the Trade

Nghi uses a range of tools to help her work effectively and productively.

For coding and programming, her main tools are SAS, SAS Macros, and SQL. She also works with a large set of data, which is housed within the Databricks data platform.

Nghi’s specific role is heavily loaded toward safety reporting, which can be delivered to Regulatory Affairs. Therefore, it’s rare that she would receive a text or call outside of regular hours. But during business hours, it can get extremely busy.

“If I’m out of the office for any reason, I provide my phone number in case of any emergencies,” Nghi says. “I recognize that what we do is important. Sometimes all that is needed is an answer to a question. So, during business hours, I make sure that I’m always available. Of course, this depends upon conflicts such as meetings.”

To help her stay connected and communicate effectively, Microsoft Office is invaluable. She uses Outlook for email, which is constantly on, and MS Teams for chatting, and setting up meetings. “It’s important to be readily accessible during business hours,” she says. “It’s one of my things.”

Do you have ‘one of those things?’

Why not send us a message and let us know? We’d love to help you progress your career as a senior programmer in epidemiology.