Successful Career Fair Series Finishes with Insights into BioPharm Industries

Moderator: Kevin Lee (Western Michigan University) Speakers: (left to right) Rakhi Kiralu (PPD), Jonathan Lisic (Cigna) and Richard Zink (TARGET PharmaSolutions).company logos

On June 3rd NISS hosted its final and most well attended Career Fair, the eighth in a series of career fairs that have generated a wealth of knowledge and insight into what it is like and what is required to acquire and thrive as a statistician in industry, government and/or academia.  Today's session was a wonderful example of this. 

Three senior statisticians shared with an audience of over 70 NISS affiliate members information about their companies, the opportunities that exist for beginning statisticians and data scientists and their personal advice for those interested in acquiring a position in the biopharmaceutical industry.  The speakers included Rakhi Kilaru, the Director of Statistical Science at PPD, Jonathan J. Lisic, a senior Data Scientist at Cigna and Richard Zink, Senior Director of Data Management and Statistics at TARGET PharmaSolutions.

Rakhi Kilaru was the first to present.  After sharing the mission and the "Five Defining Principles" that defines PPD, she described her own journey for how she got to where she is now and the background and experience that she had developed along the way.  This lead to a description of the various career opportunities for biostatisticians at PPD and the skills that are needed. She also branched out to describe other tracks in data analytics and data sciences that are constantly evolving at PPD.  Is PPD hiring?  The answer is yes!  You will want to check out the contact information and other resources she shared in her slides.

For Jonathan Lisic, working at home is not something new.  His position at Cigna has allowed him to work from home for several years now!  His background is also proof that it is possible to change positions from government, where he worked with data in the Bureau of Labor Statistics and then later in the National Agricultural Statistics Service before his move to the healthcare industry!  He shared information about what data scientists are involved in at Cigna as well as the skills that are important to have. In particular he mentioned that various tools and methods that are used including machine learning, experimental design and GIS. He finished his remarks with reasonable and practical advice for those on the job market.  

As the final speaker Richard Zink began his general remarks by mentioning that TARGET PharmaSolutions is a much smaller company and so the work is different in that you usually have to "wear many different hats instead of specializing in one area".  Like the previous two speakers he reviewed his personal journey which included large companies and small.  Now at TARGET PharmaSolutions he described his company as a "real-world data" company, bridging the gap between real-world evidence and randomized controlled trials which allows them to sit at the intersection of industry, the regulatory agencies and academia.  It was clear that he really enjoys the kinds of work his company gets involved in as it relates to its mission. Richard concluded his remarks by describing the variety of skills that are critical to the work he does and encouraged the listeners to make a habit of always updating your CV and find ways to get involved, particularly with the American Statistical Association!

By the time the Question and Answer session opened, moderator Kevin Lee (Assistant Professor, Western Michigan University) had his hands full trying to present as many questions as he could in the time allotted.  There were several very interesting questions such as: "What is the day in the life of a data scientist like?", "How does someone get started in statistical consulting?", "Is a Ph.D. required to get a position as a biostatistician?", and "What if I do not have any experience or background in the healthcare industry?"

Below you can find a recording of this session along with copies of the slides that the speakers used. The slides not only provide you with the key points that were offered but also include links to additional resources that should not be ignored!

Please Note: The recording of the session and links to the slides the speakers used is made available to NISS Affiliates now and then made available to the public on July 3.

Recording of the Session

Slides used by the Speakers

Rakhi Kiralu (PPD) - "PPD - Helping Deliver Life-Changing Threrapies"

Jonathan Lisic (Cigna) - "Working in Healthcare"

Richard Zink (TARGET PharmaSolutions) - "NISS Virtual Industry Career Fair"

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 by Glenn Johnson