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Changing Careers to Become a SAS Programmer in the Biotech / - page 7 / 9





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teaching position, Suzy worked for a freight company where she started out doing data entry. She then obtained a promotion to a programming position shortly after. In this job, she was responsible for producing listings and summary tables. The work kept her challenged but the data was very dry. She had an interest in science and medicine and wanted to work in the new biotech industry where the data dealt with human clinical trials.

Suzy then enrolled in a masters program at Hayward State University to study statistics. This enabled her to gain the credentials she needed to work in the biotech industry. This was her first introduction to SAS. The University also taught SPSS and BMDP software for statistical modeling. She enjoyed the fact that the classed were small with only between 20 to 30 students per class. This increased the interaction between students and professors. She was originally planning to become a statistician but realized that most companies require a PhD in statistics to function in that role. Her degree was more suitable for a job as a bioanalyst or SAS programmer.

Her first position after graduation was working for XOMA as a statistical programmer. She attributed her masterʹs degree to helping her obtain this position. The programming experience that she had in other languages also helped. This is where she learned about the ins and outs of clinical trials while performing analysis to produce tables, listings and graphs. She learned to structure her work and optimize programming by creating analysis files and working more with SAS macros. She attended SAS classes and learned from other senior SAS programmers who worked there at XOMA.

Suzy then moved to Genentech where she worked as a senior SAS programmer. She continued to learn new skills from SAS conferences and the additional classes she took. However, she found that the best way for her to learn new SAS skills was to work with another experienced programmer. Suzy is now doing work in the area of electronic submissions and Case Report Tabulations. This job utilizes her knowledge of clinical data, SAS, teaching skills, and the ability to work with diverse programming groups at Genentech. She enjoys being involved with projects where she can help to create the documentation for reviewers and deliver a user friendly submission to regulatory agencies. Upon reflection, there were two key moments for Suzy during her career that was pivotal. The first moment included taking the summer intern job at IBM and the second was getting a masterʹs degree in statistics. She has been fortunate to have found a great job that combines her various interests and talents.


Communicating effectively while adapting to changes are key attributes to becoming a successful telecommuting SAS programmer.

Angela earned a computer science degree in 1986 at the University of Mobile Alabama. She did not program in SAS during school, but did use PL1 as the primary programming language. She also did assembler programming and did not apply it towards statistical models such as in SAS. When she graduated, it was difficult to get a job since she was caught in the bind of not having the necessary prerequisite experience. Angela had wanted to do something related to her technical training in computers so she started to work through temporary placement agencies.

Angela started out as a data entry clerk for McDonald Douglas in Phoenix, Arizona. She continued to be shuffled around on various temporary projects doing data entry. These jobs were not within any specific career path or industry since the placements were more entry level. She then started to work through Jean Simpson, a local small agency in Shreveport, LA, which placed her at Boots Pharmaceutical. It was another data entry position but after three months on the job, she progressed to become a SAS programmer. She was able to accomplish this through talking to various people in the organization and in particular, the biostatistics and data management departments. Her first introduction to SAS programming was doing edit checks. This was related to what she was doing in that it included algorithms which check for the accuracy of the data which she worked with during her data entry position. Although she did not work on analyzing the data statistically, the data management tasks in conjunction with using the Clintrials database, gave her a better understanding of clinical trials data. Her programming tasks expanded into programming ad hoc requests for patient listings and data listings. Most of the knowledge was obtained on the job but she did also take some classes from SAS Institute which taught her more about SAS macros and SAS/Graph. Angela stayed at Boots for five years and worked her way up to becoming a supervisor.

Her husband then received a transfer in his job to Southern California at Edwards Air Force Base. It was about two hours away from Los Angeles but it was a smaller and more isolated community. The closest biotech company was Amgen but that


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