Reason for undertaking a placement year
I decided to take a placement predominantly to get some experience under my belt as I did not want to graduate university without first getting a foothold into the world of work. I also wanted to see if a career in programming was what I really wanted (it turned out I was right!). I now feel far more knowledgeable in the direction I want my career to take post-university and more confident in my ability to land a graduate role having been in the industry for a year.
High-level description of work undertaken on placement year
Prior to beginning any study or ‘billable’ work I had to first become trained in SAS, the primary computing language used in statistical programming. Having gone through the various e-learning courses and completing my SAS Certification as well as the various study activities I have been involved with, I feel confident in my ability as a SAS programmer. These learning’s enabled me to understand the basics of the SAS language and begin practicing study work by performing Quality Control (QC) on previously checked data, giving me real world examples to tackle whilst not interfering with any live studies. Recently I have been able to contribute to a live study by performing QC’s on more complicated outputs, in this case a table intended to help the study team to monitor the impact of Covid-19 on the participants that are enrolled in our studies. This work has really given me an accurate insight into what tasks would be required of me as a full time programmer and has motivated me to pursue a career in statistical programming.
I was also able to develop my R skills as a part of a team building an R Shiny application. Shiny allows user functionality to perform basic or complex tasks, our case being an interactive map. The application would allow users to view programmers around the world via a map not unlike a Google map, with markers dictating each J&J site and displaying information such as number of employees, duration of employment etc. As well as the main map there is also a database detailing each employee with location, direct reports, ID number. This was a real deviation from clinical programming and was a wonderful way for me to develop other programming skills.
Non-project opportunities during placement
There was a myriad of activities to get involved in outside of my main role at Janssen, a highlight being an interdepartmental video series created, produced and edited by me. Using professional video editing software I was able to share with the department my experiences as the first statistical programming placement student regarding my R Shiny application, charity events I was involved with as well as introduce the department’s new placement students.
The placement cohort are all required to organise and run various charity events throughout the year. Some of the key highlights were a collective cycle form Lands’ End to John O’ Groats & my solo attempt at the Live Below The Line challenge, surviving off £1 a day for food and drink for a week. The latter was meant to be taken as a group in the office but due to COVID reasons I took it at home, recording myself in a vlog like manner to add to my video series. An additional aspect to my placement was my involvement in recruitment for future placement students, giving me a look behind the recruitment process and providing me with invaluable learning’s for when I seek roles post-university.
Would you recommend taking a placement year and why?
Absolutely! I cannot recommend a placement highly enough. The scope of development within myself as a working individual has been, I think, astronomical over this year. Beginning the year, I was a very quiet and unsure person, lacking confidence in my ability to contribute to the team and be considered a valuable member. Following the years progression with all the projects I have undertaken I feel that I have changed significantly not only in my work life, but also an individual. I have more assurance in my decisions, more of an assertive presence in my presentations and a sense of self-reliance I did not have prior to my placement. This is due to the challenges I have faced but also because of a fantastic support network I had around me during my time at the company. This placement has fundamentally boosted my development and I would recommend it to every student as a real game changer!