Serve ASA and Enhance Your Influence
The ASA will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2014. In preparation, column “175”—written by members of the ASA’s 175th Anniversary Steering Committee and other ASA members—will chronicle the theme chosen for the celebration, status of preparations, activities to take place, and, best yet, how you can get involved in propelling the ASA toward its bicentennial.
Mingxiu Hu is a vice president and head of global biostatistics at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the largest pharmaceutical company in Asia. He was elected ASA Fellow in 2010 and serves as the ASA treasurer. He is on the ASA Board, ASA Executive Committee, and ASA Committee on Fellows.
In 2002, four years into my professional career, I started my volunteer work for the ASA, first as the Connecticut Chapter treasurer and then as chapter vice president and president. In 2004, I was appointed to the ASA Committee on Membership Recruitment and Retention and became its vice chair and chair during the last four years of six years of service on the committee. Other volunteer activities include being a member of the International Chinese Statistical Association (ICSA) Board of Directors, co-chair of the 2012 ICSA Applied Statistical Symposium, founder of the ASA Section for Statistical Programmers and Analysts, organizing committee member for various statistical conferences, and reviewer for many statistical journals. As an ASA member readying to celebrate the ASA’s 175th anniversary, I was asked to share a few thoughts about why I spend so much time volunteering for statistical societies and what this has accomplished for me.
Practice Leadership and Influence Skills
The ASA provides a safe environment for statisticians to practice their leadership and influence skills. The ASA always welcomes new ideas and initiatives. Best of all, it is very forgiving, and the consequences for failed attempts are minimal. No one will criticize you for trying. It will not affect your career or reputation and you will still learn something valuable from the experience. Failure at your work place can be different. It might affect your performance evaluation and take a while for your manager to trust you again. On the other hand, success in both your work place and your volunteer work has a similar effect. It builds confidence and raises your profile.
When I was on the ASA Membership Committee, I proposed establishing the ASA Section for Statistical Programmers and Analysts. At the onset, I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to get 100 people (the number required to establish an ASA section) to sign up for this section, but I decided to try it anyway because I thought it was good for the ASA and statistical programmers. I also didn’t think I had much to lose, even if I failed. It turned out that the interest level was much higher than I expected. I was able to establish the section successfully with the help of an initial group of 25 leaders I recruited via my network in the pharmaceutical industry and other organizations. Now the section is very active and has almost 1,000 members. This success at an early stage of my career significantly bolstered my confidence, which had a positive impact on my career advancement.
Build a Network
Serving the ASA offers excellent opportunities for getting to know your fellow statisticians, building your professional network, enhancing collaboration opportunities, and raising your profile. By regularly networking and pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know, you can enhance your interpersonal and communication skills. Networking is good for sharing ideas and information, which helps you expand your knowledge and allows you to see the world from other perspectives. It is also likely that within the network there are individuals who have already encountered challenges similar to what you may be experiencing. Their experiences can provide an opportunity for you to learn and help you avoid some of the mistakes they made. In addition, networking can naturally result in opportunities for scientific collaboration. As a manager with demanding responsibilities in the private sector, I find it challenging to devote undisturbed time to research, but collaboration with other statistical experts allows me to follow through on important research topics.
Access New Ideas
As we travel through this changing world, we have to keep learning how to make ourselves relevant and successful. We live in a world in which 90% of all existing data were created in the past two years. Technology advances at an amazing speed. Machine learning, adaptive design, personalized medicine, text mining, next gene sequencing, and Big Data, to name a few advancements relevant to our profession, did not exist a couple of decades ago. ASA is the “big tent” that houses experts from whom you may be able to learn new advancements. I have learned many novel ideas from my network and have successfully applied some of them to clinical trials. These applications have been invaluable for improving drug development efficiency in my company.
These are just a few important reasons why I spend time serving the ASA and other statistical societies. It also has been working out well for me personally. I am sure we all agree that a stronger ASA will make our profession more influential and relevant in the scientific world. It will create more opportunities for all statisticians. The ASA relies on volunteers to keep it running efficiently. I encourage ASA members to contribute to our association to make it even more effective than it is today. We cannot sit still and wait for others to do the job for us.