In this episode we share out ideas and experience, which mindset sets up statisticians for success. We cover topics around:

  • Leading people
  • Convincing business partners
  • Delivering value and selling it – and what does selling means
  • Thinking outside the status quo to improve things in the long run 
  • Always learning about the business and the people in the business
  • Learning about statistical innovation
  • Doing things more effectively
  • Becoming more impactfully
  • Raising your business acumen – internally and externally
  • Having quality in mind 

Quote of the Episode by Bill Gates “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”


Success starts in your head – thoughts about the mindset of a successful statistician

(0:06) Welcome to the Effective Statistician with Alexander Schacht and Benjamin Pieske. The weekly podcast for statisticians in the health sector, designed to improve your leadership skills, (0:17) widen your business improvement and enhance your efficiency. 

(0:21) In today’s episode, number 12, we’ll talk about the success that starts in your head.(0:28) Thoughts about the mindset of a successful statistician. (0:32) This podcast is sponsored by PSI, a global member organization dedicated to leading and promoting (0:38) best practice and industry initiatives for statisticians. (0:42) Learn more about upcoming events at (0:47) Hi, welcome to another episode of the Effective Statistician with Alexander Schacht and Benjamin Pieske.

(0:54) Hi, Benjamin. (0:55) Hello, Alexander. (0:57) Today, we are talking about mindset.(1:01) We are talking about what are our thoughts about the mindset of statisticians, (1:07) how the mindset could be, and how the mindset of an especially effective statistician can be. (1:17) Have you ever thought about that? (1:20) Every day, basically. (1:23) Seriously, if you talk to people, if you lead people, if we discuss or try to convince people, (1:33) these are aspects of the mindset of a statistician, of my mindset, of your mindset probably.(1:42) It’s a day-to-day activity that we do that is part of the mindset of a statistician. (1:49) And I don’t know. (1:51) We think about this more in the background, probably, because you set yourself a goal.(1:58) I mean, you have a goal to write an email. (2:01) And there are certain aspects of it that goes into the mindset for me or for a statistician in general. (2:13) For example, if you lead a team, there’s a thought behind leading a team.(2:21) And this is the mindset of a statistician. (2:23) So, yes, it’s a day-to-day aspect of our job. (2:26) Yeah.(2:27) I think it’s kind of the underlying fundament that drives everything. 

(2:33) And I once heard about it, whether you are an owner or a renter. (2:43) It’s very – and this is a mindset.(2:46) If you’re working in your company, do you work in your company as an owner so that you really take care of things, (2:55) that you really drive things, that you really ownership and you’re passionate about it? (3:03) Or are you a renter that’s just kind of standing by, just giving advice that you’re not really involved (3:12) because you’re ready to move forward to whatever is next and you’re never kind of really there? (3:23) You’re just kind of – you consult, you give input, but you don’t really care because it’s not your own. (3:32) And I think that is where it starts with. (3:38) And I can very often see people that have these different mindsets and they just act very differently within the organization.(3:50) They communicate very differently. (3:52) They have a different attitude to it. (3:54) And I think especially when it’s about people that lead, they need to have this owner mindset.

(4:05) They need to have this mindset because otherwise, you can’t really lead. (4:12) Yeah. (4:12) I agree.(4:13) So basically, what you’re saying is that this should then be the mindset of every statistician (4:19) because I think we discussed this in previous episodes and that the mindset of a statistician should be to lead something forward. (4:31) I mean to lead a team, to lead people, to lead partners, project. (4:37) Yeah.(4:38) And I think that is also very important if you want to convince business partners. (4:44) Yeah. (4:45) So if you’re just a renter, you might just say, oh, I give my advice.(4:52) And if they don’t listen, well, they don’t listen. (4:55) It’s not my project. (4:56) It’s their fault.(4:57) Yeah. (4:58) But if you are an owner, a leader, then you want to convincing. (5:08) You want to sell your ideas and it really gets implemented because you’re convinced of what you have to contribute.(5:21) I fully agree. (5:22) I think this is one of the – how you identify somebody with a mindset or with the mindset of a statistician is that they try to convince not only to give input. (5:37) I mean so here’s my input.(5:39) So please do whatever you would like to do with it. 

(5:41) But really to convince that the ideas behind the input is the right one. (5:49) So absolutely.(5:50) I think it’s sometimes we are – as a function, we are maybe too shy to give our input and to stand for these kind of things. (6:04) And put a stake into the ground and say, okay, this is what is right and this is what we should be doing. (6:13) Of course, listen to all the other kind of sides of things.(6:17) And sometimes it’s not just black and white, but also to take the courage to really exert this influence. (6:32) Yeah, I think this is also part of the experience that statisticians have or will gain in the future. (6:40) Junior statisticians are often more in the position of being a little bit afraid, let’s say, of important titles of other business people, business partners.(6:51) So they are rather shy. (6:53) And even if they have good ideas, they are not experienced enough or they think they are not experienced enough to communicate this correctly. (7:01) So I think this is really something.(7:03) Also, when I look back at my career, this is a learning curve. (7:07) So first of all, I made the best calls in meetings at a time when I didn’t even know who I was talking to. 

(7:18) Yeah.(7:18) Because in the beginning, if you talk to, let’s say, vice president or whatever, you’re kind of, you know, who am I talking to? (7:27) Who is that? (7:27) And don’t say anything wrong. (7:29) But really, if you don’t care about titles and if you really give the idea and try to convince people, regardless what their title is, let’s say, or who they are or what positions they are from, it’s the best way of moving forward. (7:48) That’s what my experience was, at least.(7:50) Yeah. (7:51) Yeah, I completely agree. (7:52) And then you also need to understand your value and the values that you bring.(8:02) And if you understand that and you can explain this value, then you can also sell it. (8:09) And here, you know, selling is very often kind of has a very negative connotation to it. (8:16) But for me, it means helping the other person to understand how this is helping her or this is helping him in moving forward or how this is helping for the whole project to move forward.(8:31) So this, for me, is selling. (8:33) Absolutely.

 (8:33) I think selling is an excellent point.(8:36) But again, coming with the experience of a statistician, because interacting with other departments or with other groups, it’s also key to then understand what the positive impact of your input would be for others. (8:52) So, I mean, you can’t talk about selling or you can’t sell your goals to, let’s say, somebody from a different department without knowing what their goals are or what, you know, how your decision or how your input impacts their part on the project or positivity impacts it. (9:13) So this is really also feeding back to other episodes that we had is interacting with other departments.(9:20) So this is something that goes along with talking and understanding other departments like programming, medical writing, let’s say, and really selling the value of your input. (9:34) Yeah. (9:34) I think that there’s another mindset topic, and that is this continuous learning idea, that you’re always wanting to learn more about the business, about the people around in your business, about the processes, the greater business environment.(9:55) So not just maybe your company or your vendor, but beyond that, in terms of the therapeutic area, the regulation you’re working towards, if you are really interested in driving things forward, and if you’re really interested to become an effective statistician, (10:23) I think you need to have this curiosity to learn a lot about all these kind of different things. (10:30) And don’t stop working because you think you learned it all. (10:33) No.(10:35) You know, that’s the nice thing about it. (10:37) Very often, lots of these things you can learn while actually working on your project, but there’s also lots of things that you can learn just as a side. 

(10:50) Yeah.(10:51) So, for example, just don’t hang out always with the same people over lunch. (10:59) Meet other people. (11:01) You know, especially if you’re working in a bigger organization, there’s so many people that you can meet for lunch, you know, from completely different parts of your organization, and see how what they are doing is connected to what you’re doing, and it’s a bigger picture.(11:19) And that really opens up completely different new perspectives on things. (11:25) So, I can tell you once our GM made all the people sitting in the office to have a day with a sales rep. (11:39) And so, to be honest, I first thought this is a very, very stupid idea.(11:46) But, of course, everybody needed to do it. (11:50) And I really embraced it. (11:52) And I learned so much about the business.(11:55) I learned so much about the data that I’m working on, how that is then actually perceived by the customer, how that is discussed with the customer. (12:07) And one of my key takeaways from that, for example, was, you know, all the tables that we had in all these different publications and so on, you know, nobody had time to look into a table. (12:22) The figures, these were the gold.(12:26) And so, from that moment, I always spent much more time crafting the figures much more carefully because I knew this is the key part of the stories that will be used all over the world. (12:45) And this is – I mean, you could find with everyone you are going out for lunch or for a date, you know, shadowing, as we would say, for a day. (12:55) I think this is actually a good idea to have it, what you did, even though you didn’t like it in the beginning at least.(13:03) So, no, I fully agree. 

(13:05) Getting more into the day-to-day life of a colleague, whatever direction, whatever side of the floor, departments, it’s a really good idea. (13:18) Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance yet to do it.(13:20) It’s just that you try to interact with the people as much as you can on the project side and on other, you know, for business development side and really get to understand what the site or the understanding, the view of these people is. (13:37) And that’s extremely important. (13:39) Yeah, I think it’s also very important to help understand what’s your values that you’re bringing.(13:47) And sometimes also helps you to understand how you can overall improve the business. (13:54) So, this is actually another kind of mindset, having this continuous desire to overall improve things and to overall help the business. (14:07) Not just, you know, in your little area, but how can you, you know, do things maybe in a different way that other areas can benefit as well.(14:20) So, one example, for example, is you may deliver always tables to the different affiliates for their HTA submissions. 

(14:39) And do you know how they use them exactly? (14:47) So, I found out, you know, that sometimes they take them and then they need to manually enter the numbers into their local language tables. (15:03) So, because, well, you know, we send them English tables with English titles and everything, yeah, and kind of our standard ones.(15:15) But they need to have some maybe, you know, in French or in German or whatever, yeah. (15:21) And wouldn’t it be much more better if they get the data in such a form that they can more or less copy and paste it into their dossiers, yeah. (15:32) So, it makes sense.I agree. 

(15:35) But for that, you need to, you know, look much more outside of your areas that you’re working on and to gain these insights, yeah. (15:50) And you need to have this curiosity.I think that’s really important. (15:57) But just reflecting what we just said, it sounds probably quite terrifying, what we’re saying. (16:06) Because we basically talk today just about things to do outside your actual work, what you’re actually working on.

(16:14) So, that’s a really tricky piece. (16:17) I mean, and just to reiterate, this is a learning process. (16:23) Yeah.(16:24) This is a long way to go. (16:26) And, I mean, primarily the statistician is responsible for the statistical tasks, whatever and what direction this is now really going, depending on where you’re working and what your tasks are. (16:39) And this is just really to re-emphasize that the mindset should go in the direction what we described to kind of just look over the fence, to really go outside what your day-to-day work and really try to make yourself impactful for others.

(17:04) And for, you know, understand your impact for other people and other departments, other studies or even wider. (17:12) So, this is really – I’m just reflecting it for myself because it really – (17:20) Of course, this is not just a tick-the-box exercise. (17:25) And I think that this can’t be for these mindset things.(17:31) I find that so interesting. (17:35) I was once – had a one-to-one with one of our most senior statistical experts in the company. (17:47) And he was probably around 60 already at that time, had 30 years in the industry experience or maybe more.(17:57) And he asked me all kind of different questions. (18:03) I found that so interesting. (18:05) I thought, well, I’m the junior person.(18:08) I should ask the question. (18:10) But then I realized this is what makes him so successful. (18:15) He is so curious.(18:16) He’s so willing to learn and still, you know, asking questions all the time to improve himself, to get additional perspectives on things. (18:30) And this questioning thing, I found that’s really fascinating. 

(18:38) Of course, it’s also – you know, it makes you really humble.(18:44) Yeah. (18:45) You’re not a I-know-it-all. (18:48) And I think that is also very likable.(18:53) So, I think helps in that regard as well. (18:57) Sounds kind of a situation like a teacher-student situation where the teacher is asking all kinds of questions to kind of squeeze out the knowledge. (19:04) Yeah, but not really in that sense.(19:07) Yeah. (19:07) It was not teacher to student. (19:09) It was really – yeah.(19:12) I know what you mean. (19:14) I think it’s kind of really looking back. (19:16) I think for what I find – I mean I’m not 60 years old yet.(19:20) But still, what I find sometimes different is really understand outside the statistics area really to understand people that are following trends in different ways where you think, oh, it’s the youth from today. 

(19:32) So, I think this is something where people really kind of block usually away and say, okay, that’s not for me. (19:38) I didn’t do it.(19:39) I never did it. (19:41) And I won’t do it using Facebook, whatever. (19:44) So, things where you say, okay, but other people are curious.(19:48) They’re not just stopping. (19:49) And they try to adapt to it and find out what other people think and what other – in our environment, what other departments think about, what other statisticians, junior statisticians think about, what their approach is. (20:04) Maybe it changed.(20:05) Who knows? (20:05) And maybe there’s something new. (20:07) They brought something interesting or new topics from the university in the direction that he’s – somebody’s interested. 

(20:13) So, that’s why asking questions.(20:15) I mean getting to know your colleagues, getting to know other colleagues and statisticians or programmers, other people and asking questions. (20:25) Absolutely. (20:26) It’s the best way to move forward, understanding other – (20:29) Yeah, because I think that points to the next topic of the mindset is to always strive to be innovative.(20:42) Yeah, to – not for just the sake of applying the latest statistical technologies, but to innovate in order to make the products of your company better, in order to make the services of your company better. (21:03) That’s where I think the innovation is. 

(21:06) And this innovation might come from all kind of different places.(21:14) And if you’re kind of working always within your little bubble, well, you’re probably not really inventing lots of stuff. (21:28) So, yeah. (21:29) This probably comes together also with optimization then for the parts that you are doing.(21:33) So, I mean if you talk about delivery or if presenting results, then getting the experience means also that you would then optimize what you present. (21:46) So, it’s an optimization. (21:50) Another point that I noted down for the episode today is to really think big and think in longer terms.(22:01) So, I think in our – we are very often caught in our day-to-day activities, and we maybe have a yearly goal that we discuss with our supervisors. (22:18) And very often, we overestimate what we can actually achieve in this year, and it passes by so fast. 

(22:28) But I think thinking back is especially important in longer terms, in terms of what can you achieve in the next five to ten years.(22:39) And there’s a quote actually by Bill Gates that most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years. (22:49) And I think that is completely correct. (22:52) If you think back about what you have achieved in the last ten years, that’s probably – if you now think and extrapolate that to the next ten years, where can you be? (23:08) And I want to have people that have this long-term goal in mind, that have these kind of long-term vision.(23:20) And it doesn’t need to be super precise in terms of I want to have exactly this job or something like this. (23:29) Because, well, in ten years, there will be probably so much change that maybe this job doesn’t exist anymore. (23:36) Maybe the company doesn’t exist anymore.

(23:38) But I think to think more in kind of what would you like to achieve in this period in a bigger picture kind of thing. (23:55) And that’s an excellent point. (23:58) Because I think there are also restrictions to that mindset.(24:04) Because as you mentioned, the goals that you set, for example, with your supervisor are maximum one year. (24:12) You look at companies, they present their numbers every quarter. (24:18) So the whole situation where we live in the industry and even outside the industry is that people do not care about what’s ten years.(24:30) It’s so far away. (24:31) Whatever will be, will be at some point. (24:35) And you think, okay, but next year, summer vacation.(24:39) So it’s the mindset that we have to kind of get over and think bigger. (24:46) Absolutely. (24:48) Because then you can actually create completely different momentum to yourself.

(24:57) If you have this picture in mind, what you want to get to in ten years, you can break it down into, okay, maybe what’s more actionable to be achieved in three years, in one year, in the next month, this week, today. (25:18) There’s this book, The One Thing, that very often speaks about this. (25:25) So if you have this picture in mind, then what’s the one thing that you need to achieve in three years? (25:33) What’s the one thing you need to achieve in this year? (25:36) What’s the one thing you need to achieve in more and more shorter time periods? (25:39) And by that, you can – and then you get to these actionable tasks that you can do every day.

(25:51) That’s – yeah. (25:53) Again, I’m just still thinking loudly about this because it’s an excellent point. (26:00) I never – I don’t have ideas what’s in ten years.(26:03) I know that we still have enough topics for the podcast for at least – I don’t know about ten years. (26:09) I just looked into our idea list, and I think we have ideas for at least three years in the track. (26:16) Okay.(26:18) Yeah. (26:19) So there are long-term goals. (26:21) That’s good.(26:22) One other topic in terms of the mindset, and probably the last one, is the quality aspect. (26:31) So – and for me, if I’m talking about quality, I don’t necessarily think about tick-the-box SOP check quality mindset, (26:47) but quality to know what are the principles of qualities that we are looking towards. (26:56) So things like patient safety, things like professional behavior, things like traceability of what we are doing.(27:09) If you have these kind of – you need to have these kind of things in mind all the time to be a good statistician, I think. (27:20) And it also has actually something to do with integrity, I think. (27:26) Because – and that is in an industry that is also earning a lot of money, sometimes actually quite difficult.

(27:39) Yeah? (27:40) Because – well, there’s no surprise to our industry that we are highly regulated, (27:49) and there’s lots of companies that have a code of conduct and things like this. (27:54) Well, usually companies have a code of conduct because something went utterly wrong beforehand. (28:00) So it’s – therefore, I think it’s – have this integrity and quality in mind is really important for a statistician.(28:13) Yeah. No, I kind of more than agree. (28:17) There’s a lot of thoughts that we can spend on this topic, actually.(28:24) But I agree that the statistician should be kind of free of any background thinking in terms of – yeah. (28:35) So integrity is something really, really important. (28:39) And it frees you up as well for the work that you are doing.(28:43) So how can you sell, let’s say, results or numbers, whatever, in the best way, with the most impact, honest way, if you try to drive something in a specific direction? 

(29:01) So it’s – this doesn’t work together. (29:03) So really, you have to have the quality in mind what you’re selling. (29:11) That’s not the correct number.(29:14) It’s the quality of what you are trying to sell. (29:17) Yeah, absolutely. (29:21) Okay.With that, we are actually through all the different points today. (29:27) That was a lot of fun again, Benjamin. (29:30) Yeah, definitely.(29:32) And again, we’ll talk in ten years about what we achieved so far. (29:38) Yeah. Let’s see whether the podcast will exist by this time.(29:45) Okay. Thanks for listening and talk to you next week. (29:51) Bye.(29:52) Bye. (29:54) We thank PSI for sponsoring this show. Thanks for listening.

Join The Effective Statistician LinkedIn group

I want to help the community of statisticians, data scientists, programmers and other quantitative scientists to be more influential, innovative, and effective. I believe that as a community we can help our research, our regulatory and payer systems, and ultimately physicians and patients take better decisions based on better evidence.

I work to achieve a future in which everyone can access the right evidence in the right format at the right time to make sound decisions.

When my kids are sick, I want to have good evidence to discuss with the physician about the different therapy choices.

When my mother is sick, I want her to understand the evidence and being able to understand it.

When I get sick, I want to find evidence that I can trust and that helps me to have meaningful discussions with my healthcare professionals.

I want to live in a world, where the media reports correctly about medical evidence and in which society distinguishes between fake evidence and real evidence.

Let’s work together to achieve this.