From Practical Maths to Superstar Stats – Zoe’s Story

I started out my university experience by going to Dundee to study mathematics, this was mainly a theoretical degree with the occasional statistic module in the first two years. Once I was in my fourth year, I decided I wanted to focus on the more practical aspect of mathematics. After looking around I found this new master’s course at the University of Strathclyde which took my interest, Applied Statistics in the Health Sciences. I started this course in the September and I loved it - I was so glad that I had gone down the route of statistics.

About five months into my master’s I started the application process for PHASTAR, which was very smooth. After emailing over my application I got offered an interview which was to take place in PHASTAR’s Glasgow office. At first, going along to the interview was a wee bit intimidating - this was my first experience of an interview which was in relation to my degree. But once we got into the swing of things there was a relaxing and sociable atmosphere in the room, which was a good insight into the company from the get-go.

The interview consisted of several tasks which tested your various abilities: communication, teamwork, literacy and numeric skills. The whole process was really efficient and we found out quickly whether we had a final face-to-face interview or not. The final part of the day was an interview with two of the employees who worked in the Glasgow office. The interview was only 10/15 minutes long and they were mostly interested in finding out about yourself. There were a few of the usual questions to be expected but they were not trying to trick you. They just wanted to learn more about you and your experience. A few days after the interview I heard back and was very happy to accept the job.

One of the major bonuses of working at PHASTAR as a graduate is the level of training you receive in SAS programming before even beginning your role. It was amazing - the year I started there were 11 of us who were from all the different offices and we received training together in Glasgow for six weeks. Prior to PHASTAR I had mainly been using R for programming and had no SAS experience whatsoever, so this course was an intense and thoroughly worthwhile experience for me. Anna was our trainer and she was fabulous! She ensured that everyone was always up to speed with the new materials and would always be willing to help out if people were struggling on a certain part. She made the whole experience enjoyable and as relaxed as possible but ensuring we learnt everything that would help us on our way with our new jobs. Throughout the training we kept very detailed notes which have been extremely useful to look back on containing lots of hints and tips. Our bunch of graduates were a great laugh, and it was lots of fun keeping the non-Glasgow lot entertained as they were all new to the area. After a day of training we would go for food, drinks and pub quizzes, which was a great way to know everyone. We have all kept in touch with one and other even though we are all dispersed across the UK, and it is so nice that we get the Christmas party to all be reunited. After our training the support did not stop, we were all assigned a mentor to help with any questions (no matter how daft they may have sounded!). I found this extremely useful and took advantage of this over the last year.

Over the past year I have been exposed to a wide variety of tasks and areas of research (from levels of methane produced in cows to respiratory studies). There were four other graduates who started in the Glasgow office and looking back I can see how different our fields of experiences have been. I wanted to be challenged and pushed in this role and I can certainly say that I have accomplished this. Whenever you do need help, everyone is very willing and able to help. In every office there are a lot of experienced individuals who are always eager to help - someone will always have some insight into your problem! The wide variety in work has made it interesting as I have been learning lots of new concepts and statistical techniques. I have been given the opportunity to help write a statistical analysis plan which is now being used by our team, perform complex statistical analysis and now since the next lot of graduates have arrived, I am now mentoring one of them.

I would highly recommend joining the PHASTAR team, it is definitely worth it. Obviously like any job it can be challenging at times, but you need to remember the support from your team is always there. This job has not only allowed me to widen my knowledge and experience in my chosen career, it has also helped me build up my confidence in myself and my work. My past year at PHASTAR has been great and I would highly recommend anyone considering applying to do it!