Monday, July 4, 2022

Interview With Pramod Somashekar, Scientific Technology Expert And Director Of Data Science At Medidata

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1- Hello Pramod, can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

I am currently a Director in our Data Science group, and my group primarily focuses on engineering for Data Science applications in Clinical Trials.

When I am not helping the team create solutions that help save lives, I am also an active parent, and my 5 years old keeps me busy most of the time!

I should also note that I am from Japan, and actually lived there for a few years with the Medidata before transferring back to the States to join our Data Science group.

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My hobbies are keeping up with the latest cars and technology. I also am very interested in Healthcare IT and where it is going in the future. I think that technology can both help us if we use it in the right ways, and also hurt us if we use it incorrectly.

2- What are your focus areas and why?

We develop web applications that are intelligent, insightful and predictive in nature, which help our customers develop treatments that save lives and get to market faster.

We use a lot of Clojure, Python, and R to write our backends and React for frontend stuff. Our applications all use Docker for deployment on large clusters, and I think in our world, you have to use that to achieve scale with ease.

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3- How do you describe your journey in few words?

Many people don’t know that I actually started in a technical support role before moving onto a vast number of other roles within our organization. And actually, I am happy that’s the path I took.

I used to work at an executive recruitment software company long ago, and there, you had to do tech support for a while no matter what position you were hired for. It didn’t matter if you were a Director or VP of whatever… you had to start in customer support to learn the customers.

And I think this is the right way to go to build your career in any industry. You gotta be bold, learn the customers, ask a lot of questions of your peers, etc. I know that’s what I was doing, and still, do today.

Medidata has had the unbelievable luck of always hiring the best and most approachable staff (which is hard to find). When I was more customer facing, I would go up to project managers and ask them how they were managing projects and budgets and gain those skills… then as an engineer, I would ask product managers what their strategies were and gain that knowledge. And I gained a lot of little bits over the years which add up to a lot… and that’s the path to success. Always ask questions, always be an active learner, and you can guarantee yourself success no matter where you go.

4- Can you tell us about your mentorship experience?

I have had the fortunate experience of training and mentoring much staff both as an individual contributor and at the managerial level, and in real life outside of work. I love teaching and mentoring because I enjoy it when people are able to learn something new and apply it and make their lives better because of it.

From a technological perspective, I have this great ability to explain the most technical of material to people who don’t know anything about technology. I first try to identify with them and figure out their learning style and perspective of seeing things. Then I can portray the material in a way that is easy for them to understand.

For professional and personal growth, it starts with the identification of habits they currently have and giving them ways to adapt and better themselves.

Teaching and learning are both positive experiences. Even when someone is doing something wrong that’s obvious, the way I teach is in a way that doesn’t say they are doing anything wrong. All I need is for them to change perspectives and patterns of thinking to succeed.

5- Where do you think you are making an impact?

I think we are making a large impact obviously with clinical trials and predictive medicine.

There is a lot being done by us in this space, but I think overall not a lot of investment from other major firms. Most of that is due to all the red tape in clinical trials and regulatory requirements. We have to be innovative and regulatory compliant at the same time, and that can be challenging. But, that’s what technology is all about. It’s about changing perspectives, making lives easier and making things safer and cheaper to do.

6- Can you share with us some of your last solutions?

Not in great detail, unfortunately, but right now our biggest projects include a Clinical Trial Genomics application and an Operational Analysis and Site Selection tool.

The Genomics application basically allows you to take your clinical and genomic data (ie. variant data) and do your own custom statistical analyses using the web browser to submit your jobs. It’s highly sophisticated and complicated.

The Operational Analysis tool is based on historical data and can tell you how you stand compared to peers in the same disease area. It also allows you to conduct site selection and find the best sites with the best enrollment for your clinical trial.

7- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I think we will be in a world where Data Science and analytics will be mainstream and apart from everything we do in clinical trials. Second, to that, I also think that data standards will play a huge role in that. Right now standardization is more of a hindrance because we don’t have a lot in place. Once data standardization takes off, we will be able to gain more insights than we ever would have thought possible. But, in order to do that, we obviously need a lot of testing and verification to ensure that the data is being annotated properly, etc.

8- What can you tell young people who are pursuing their dreams?

I would say try not to study too much, or spend too much time in school. Your first objective should be finding something you feel passionate about, and second to that, getting to a point where you can start on the road to pursuing that. It doesn’t necessarily entail spending 12 years in school or studying very hard. Each person’s path is different.

Just find what you like, and stick with it.

9- What are you most excited about at the moment?

I am excited about virtual reality, to be honest. I did a little bit of research into telemedicine systems in grad school, and I think VR is going to be the next biggest thing. People are going to be able to get access to healthcare even if they are a thousand miles away from the nearest clinic. It is amazing, and from a clinical trial perspective, I can see this technology potentially improving patient engagement.

10- The last word or final thoughts?

Thank you for the interview opportunity and I hope my words and message was understood and clear.
Pramod Somashekar.

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Noelle Elia
Noelle Elia
is a Financial analyst at PSPC. Graduated from Telfer School of Management, Finance/Accounting with interest to Entrepreneurship and New Media.
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