An interview with Zaheer, a Clinical Data Systems Analyst in the Data Management group
What do you do?
My job within the MRC Clinical Trials Unit is to provide clinical database development and maintenance support to the core work of the Unit staff. I’m part of the Data Management Systems group, which consists of programmers, business analysts, and data scientists.
One of my main roles is to ascertain the requirements for new study databases and for revisions of existing systems. I work with the study team in developing the specification, system development and installation of database systems, and testing, documenting, maintenance, issue resolution and support of database application software.
I am also responsible for the database administration of MACRO, which is one of our main clinical data management software packages. I provide database development support to study teams within the unit, e.g. writing of reports and queries and support existing database applications. I also work closely with other members of the Group to resolve application problems by users of the software systems which support clinical studies, both internal users and external users. My role also involves the supervision and line management to a small number of other members of the team, and I work with the head of group and other senior group staff to discuss resourcing and strategy.
What skills and qualifications do you need to be a database programmer?
You need expertise as a database developer in Microsoft technologies, along with skills in database design and development, and an understanding of the software development life cycle. Excellent communication skills are essential, as you need to work closely with scientists with varying levels of IT knowledge, as well as being a good team player, as most of our projects are collaborative. A degree in computing or a related area is also essential, and knowledge of clinical trials desirable.
What’s the potential for career development?
Typically programmers are hired as Senior Database Programmer/Systems Analyst; career progression to the next level is Clinical Data Systems Analyst, which requires extra experience and managerial skills. The group structure is fairly flat, so all staff can develop line management and project management skills, and everyone has an opportunity to learn about and work with new database/programming technologies.