Updated: Jul 5, 2021
I wanted an interesting come back to my blogging space. A lot of you reading this should by now have been subscribed. I am grateful to you all as it is you because of whom I am back here.
I wanted to apologize for my long absence. I assure you that you will hear from me regularly from now on.
Before going back to being all technical, I just wanted to talk a little about myself. Thus, this blog is entirely about my life history and the journey that has brought me to the place where I am right now. There is one other thing that has brought me to write this content. It is an announcement a.k.a a life update. I will make that announcement at the end of this. Please stay tuned for that!
Shrishti School, Vellore
I am Arthi, born in Chennai, India, and grew up in Vellore. I finished schooling at Shrishti School, which was a prestigious school in Vellore at that time (and difficult to get in). I was an average student. Never have I secured 1st rank in my entire life. But I knew with all my heart that I have a passion for learning. My Uncle who is now a Retired College Principal has always seen that thirst for knowledge in me. All my life subconsciously I knew that my core interests lay in the Life Sciences field. When I was in the 11th grade, like any other student who had opted for Biology-Maths major, I wanted to become a Doctor. I worked so hard. I have come to have known that I love Biology, the mysterious and amusing subject of the Sciences above all the other subjects. (Little that I had known back then that I had a secret crush on Mathematics too 😜)
But again like any other aspiring student from Tamilnadu, I did not have enough scores to have made it as a doctor. I was heartbroken. I had received a 94.66% in my 12th public, yet I was not satisfied.
Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering (SVCE)
Now, that I knew that I couldn't be a Doctor, left me thinking about what else would be the best for me. I introspected and researched a lot and one day I found a Gold Medal that I had won at the State level Eduheal National Biotechnology Olympiad in my Eighth Grade. I also remembered how enthralling it was to study Genes and how they could be edited/modified to cure diseases and how the majority of the genes have been left unstudied etc. Rediscovering my love for Biotechnology, I joined one of the best colleges offering B. Tech in Biotechnology (Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering, SVCE). My 4 years at SVCE had taught me so many skills: technical and life. I enjoyed the practical learning at the high-facilitated laboratories with the help of highly skilled faculty. I did several innovative projects (I will explain them all in a later post) which increased my confidence and risk-taking capabilities. All these experiences motivated the inner me to be a part of an organization that works for the betterment of people's lives. I wanted to give back to the world by contributing toward saving people's lives. At the end of the final year, my life-altering event had taken place.
I had been offered the position of Graduate Trainee at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals, (yes, the same company that had developed the Covishield Vaccine!). I was so happy and thrilled as being the only student from my class to be placed at such a prestigious, product-based core company. (Did I mention that I was not a high achieving gold-medalist in college?).
I joined AstraZeneca and the first 2 months were completely dedicated to my training. I was in a group of more than 100 other Graduate Trainees like me. For the next two months, I was trained in Python, C, C++, Java, SQL, and many other technical topics, which I did not understand even to the basics. I was anguished and scared. I already knew that I would not be working in a lab and developing medicines, but little did I know that I will be trained in all those IT jargons. I was disheartened worrying if I would fit in this role. The 2 months went by with me worrying about it the whole time.
On the last day of our training period, we were put into different teams across the company. I was placed at the R&D department just like I had been promised earlier. I met my manager and my team later that day.
Just like that, all the stress and worries that I had over the past 2 months vanished in a couple of days. My team (a total of 10) provided a warm welcome and made sure that I was comfortable and had all the required resources needed to ease into my new role. The Knowledge Transfer (KT) Sessions were so much in-depth that it all felt really simple. I worked at AstraZeneca for a period of 2 years. I was primarily supporting the SAS Software (Statistical Analysis Software) along with several other software used while developing a drug as well while testing the drug (with AstraZeneca being one of the world's leading Biopharmaceuticals). In the beginning, it all seemed like a typical IT role, where people maintain servers, apply security patches and address the users' issues. Almost a year into AstraZeneca, I came to understand the business: why such a tool is used, how the user actually benefits from the kind of support that we provide, and most importantly how the work I do indirectly impacts the patients who consume these drugs. All these made me develop a certain pride in the work that I did. All this knowledge helped me to empathize with my users who came up with an issue.
This newfound knowledge also subconsciously made me long for being in the role of my users who were SAS Programmers, Biostatisticians, and Clinical Data Managers. They were even one step closer to impacting the patient's lives.
This new interest made me pursue my Master's in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at SRM School of Public Health, Chennai. The 2 years in my Master's were so productive that by the end of it, I had done an Internship, a patentable project, a freelancing portfolio where I provided Statistical Consulting and Project Guidance to a lot of students using SAS, R, Python, and SPSS. I also wanted to share my experience with budding Statisticians; for this, I provided career consultations to a lot of enthusiastic students. I was offered a position of External Faculty in Biostatistics at MMM College, Chennai. Here I have been teaching Biostatistics to almost 3 batches of students (both UG and PG!). I have never thought that before the end of my Master's degree I could earn so many professional experiences as well as make profit from my skills. These experiences taught me that anything is possible if you have the right skills and know how to put them to use!
SRM School of Public Health
Job number: 2
With all these experiences, I landed a full-time role at Whirldata Inc., (while most of my classmates were struggling to even get into an internship). Whirldata is a Startup that provides Data Science solutions and services to different organizations. The organization had planned to open a new domain in Life Sciences. I was hired to help the organization in building this new domain by utilizing my experiences at AstraZeneca as well as from my Master's. I was asked to train employees in SAS Programming and also help in hiring new Employees. I performed Market (Competitive) Analysis of existing newly formed CROs: studying their business model, strategies, customer retention, etc. I drafted several articles which helped create a digital footprint for the organization. As my final work, before leaving the organization I individually conducted a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of different treatments available for Hemophilia.
After 6 months into the organization, it had occurred to me that it was time for me to move on.
(You might ask, why am I leaving such a great role, a role that holds a great future. I will sum all that up in another post. Let me know if you have this question.)
The big announcement!
Now! It's time for the big announcement! I have been offered a position as a Statistical Programmer at Pfizer! This is the same role that got me inspired at AstraZeneca. This is the same role that had me pursue my Master's. This huge role, my dream role at one of the leading Pharmaceuticals, the one that developed the antacid Gelusil which is consumed by almost everybody I know, the drug Viagra 😉 and many other Life-Saving drugs: Pfizer.
When I was offered this position I knew no bounds and felt like (still am) the happiest person on Earth. In a few days, I will be starting my new role at Pfizer and I am excited for all the challenges and learning that are to come.
Of course, all these wouldn't have been possible without the support of my wonderful parents, my brother, and my caring husband, who always stands by all the decisions I make, without any remorse.
Thank you so much if you still here reading my post. I felt that my journey and experience would help students or employees who are in the field of life sciences, statistics, or public health.
From my entire experiences mentioned above, one might understand that you may not achieve things at the very beginning of your career.
You might start out with a plan but end up happier somewhere else: a place that you didn't even know existed.
We all know that Change is the only Constant. So, no matter what, just keep moving forward. There is no timeline for success. Remember that! It would give me immense joy even if at least a single individual is benefited. So, please comment below if you feel so.
I will post regular statistical concepts and I will see to post my experiences as a Statistical Programmer too.
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