At Alimentiv, our employees come first. We engage inspired and talented individuals who are motivated by our mission and vision, and we continue to learn more about our employees and their unique and niche backgrounds that make up the diverse workforce behind our clinical trial services. Today, we are highlighting one of our employees, Jill Klein, Senior Database Programmer in Data Sciences. We asked Jill some questions and to take us through a day in her role!
How long have you been in the position of Database programmer?
Jill Klein (JK): I think I have been building trials for about 7 years or so. Before I built them, I was a tester for clinical trials for approximately two years. I went back to work full time when my son started kindergarten, and have been working as a tester of clinical trial builds or a designer of clinical trials for 10 years now.
What was your educational background in preparation for becoming a programmer?
JK: That’s an interesting question! I’m actually a Liberal Arts major; not really a programmer by education. However, my education was instrumental in my learning to become a database programmer – it taught me how to learn, how to research, and how to dig in, and experiment with new concepts. My education allowed me to explore what I was interested in through independent study and working with mentors. This resulted in me becoming the type of person who reads the manual for the new feature, then creates a playground environment and starts playing with the new feature. Then I try to understand what it does, how it works, what the limits are, and how we can apply it.
How do you start your morning?
JK: We recently got a puppy, so the morning starts trying to get her to go potty in the “right” spot. Then it’s coffee with my husband while our pets eventually settle down for a nap right about the time I start work. As a database programmer, the morning email check is what tends to set the tone for the day. Some days I open my email to find that a trial experienced something unexpected. Then I have to figure out why “this” is happening. On those days, I can end up lost in rabbit holes trying to make sense of all the moving pieces. Other days, I smile when I get a similar email from a different team, and this time I know the “why”. I can explain what is causing the issue and what the resolution is. I try to start my morning with a plan of things to do and my priorities, but I have been doing this long enough to know that making a plan is great, but being able to adapt to changing priorities and refocusing is imperative.
What’s a typical day like in your role?
JK: My days vary depending on the projects on my plate. Some days I get to put my head down and build studies all day, nice and peaceful. On other days I jump from one thing to the next, answering questions for DM, and doing investigations into why this or that is happening or not happening. I also get to mentor other database programmers, which I enjoy. Some days are spent in meetings with sponsor teams explaining how things work in IBM, discussing their requirements, and coming up with solutions to fit their needs within the limitations of the software we are working with. I also get the opportunity to explore new features of the software and see how they can be used in our studies.
Tell us about how a database programmer fits into the lifecycle of a clinical trial? Where/what stage do you become involved?
JK: We are usually one of the last steps right before this gets into the hands of the clinicians and patients. At this point, months to years have been spent planning and strategizing, and now it is time to determine how to collect the data to determine the outcome of the trial. By the time the work reaches my desk, the trial is only weeks to months from being out in the world and it is a flurry of activity. The team builds the database, while other team members are working on Institutional Review Board approvals and site initiations. Typically, we finish the build of the database shortly before the first patient comes in to be evaluated for eligibility. Timelines are usually tight and can tend to shift.
Where/when does your role finish during the trial process?
JK: We are involved until the last pieces of data are entered by the sites, and then the Data Management teams clean the data. Once the data is locked and the study is closed out, we export the data and hand it over to the stats team – that’s when our job ends.
Advice for anyone that wants to be in this industry/role/company?
JK: Try to find a company that values the people over the profit, whose goal is the betterment of people’s lives. Being part of a solution for people brings satisfaction and makes the work we do more meaningful.
What do you like the most about working at Alimentiv?
JK: The people are fantastic, and the environment is very supportive. I have been given opportunities to grow in areas of my interest and provided the chance to mentor others. The work/life balance is great. I’m part of a solution here, and that makes me feel good.