People say, “Hey, it’s not rocket science,” as if space technology is the most challenging field. I have some experience in that area and it was very interesting, but I personally feel medical science is much more difficult than rocket science. You need more creativity, and ultimately you’re helping to save lives. That’s what drove me towards a career in the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to really challenge myself.
In some ways, I think I was destined for it. My mother always wanted me to be a doctor, but I didn’t think I would make a very good one, so I studied engineering. I still wanted to be in the healthcare world however, to do something that really touches people, so in 2019 I joined Boehringer Ingelheim.
My role as an Advanced Data Analyst is to act as a bridge between the technical world, and the business and medical worlds. Once a drug has been produced, we need to communicate to doctors what we’ve developed and how it can benefit patients. Doctors are very busy people, so we need to use the right approach. I look at the data to understand the doctors’ perspective – what they’re interested in, how they’re engaging with channels such as websites, email, messengers, or social media – and I create strategies with the marketing team to ensure they’re given the information they need at the right time, in the right way.
“My colleagues now understand how to utilise my skills well. They trust me to solve problems, and it makes me feel like I have a superpower, like Wonder Woman!”
It’s a great time for data scientists at Boehringer Ingelheim because the company is taking on a huge data transformation. Before, there were too many tools, too many systems, and data was all over the place. Now, we have all the data in one place and there’s great momentum towards becoming a truly data-driven business. Usually this sort of change takes 10 years, but we’ve gone from crawling to running within three years. That’s remarkable.
Also, there is a real effort to help employees across the business to become more data-literate. It means my colleagues now understand how to utilise my skills well. They say, “Okay, this is the business use case. Maybe Niha can help out there because she has that expertise.”
The value of working in data science in the healthcare field became very clear to me during the pandemic. Before 2020, the minimum period to make a vaccine was four years. But for the Covid vaccine, that period was reduced to one year. That could only happen because of data science, because the technology had advanced so much. And I felt very proud to be working in this field. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a nurse, or performing an essential service, but I was able to contribute.
I joined the pharmaceutical industry because I wanted to do something meaningful, and looking back on it now, I really think I made one of the best decisions of my life.
If you’d like to exercise your data superpowers to help patients around the world, we’d like to hear from you.