Anneke Grobler

Statistician

MCRI

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[Be] willing to ask questions.

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WHAT DO YOU DO?

I work in medical research. I am the "numbers person" that makes it possible for the biologists, geneticists, "lab people" and medical doctors to do research. I work in a trial centre and help doctors to design clinical trials. I play a large role in the planning of the trials, by helping the doctors think through what they want to show and what data they would need to collect to answer their questions. I am the person who analyse the data. I am often the first person of a very large team to know whether a new intervention "worked" or did not work. People think statistics is a boring job and we work just with numbers, but I also spend a lot of my time working with people, communicating with people and explaining statistical issues in their studies to them.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS FIELD?

I did not really choose this field. I did a science degree with a mathematics focus and statistics was one of the subjects. I did not like mathematics at all, but really liked statistics and continued studying statistics. I had two careers I could go into when I graduated and I happened to find a job as a statistician before I found a job in the other field. Now I would not change it for anything else, but I did not choose it.

HOW DO/DID YOU TACKLE OBSTACLES?

Looking back I do not think anything was an obstacle. I guess some things were harder than others, like working with small children, or studying for a PhD while working full time. You just put one foot in front of the other and try your best every day. You eat the elephant one bite at a time.

WHAT DO YOU LOOK AT & THINK, "I WISH YOUNGER ME WOULD HAVE KNOWN THIS WAS POSSIBLE?"

I worked in applied research for many years and was too intimidated to do statistical methods research. I wish younger me had the right mentors or knew how to do that at the time.

WHY DO YOU LOVE WORKING IN STEM?

My work is honestly interesting. I am constantly confronted with new things I do not know how to do and I keep learning.

BEST ADVICE FOR NEXT GENERATION?

I wish younger me was more willing to ask questions when I did not know something. As a young woman in a technical field there is a lot of pressure on you to seem more clever and experienced than you really are. I found out later that the things I did not know many other people did not know either and people did not think less of me for not knowing it.

 

INSPIRATION

“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid of standing still.” – Chinese Proverb

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