I began as an analyst at CRA in August 2016. At that point I had taken two college courses that taught me how to use Stata, had an internship where I frequently used Stata, and completed a senior thesis wherein I relied on, you guessed it, Stata. It is perhaps surprising, then, that the skill I feel I’ve developed most since beginning full-time at CRA is working with Stata.
What you’ll learn soon after starting at CRA is that you know nothing about Stata (or its twin brother, SAS). Even if you have fairly extensive experience with statistical analysis programs, as I did, you will quickly realize that your knowledge barely scratches the surface of what these programs can do. And don’t just take it from me, this is an experience echoed by many CRA analysts past and present.
The need to develop your skills in a program, however, is actually a win-win situation. First, since CRA does not expect prior knowledge of programs like Stata or SAS, if you literally have never heard of them, then you are by no means at a disadvantage. If you think you know a lot already, then you may be initially disappointed to find out that you are largely mistaken, but you will be able to learn a lot at a fairly rapid pace, and you will form important relationships in the process.
Since working with Stata is a core part of the Antitrust & Competition Economics Practice, your first six months will be really rewarding in terms of skills gained. As I write this, I am a tremendously better programmer than I was even three weeks ago. Such rapid development is not done completely on your own, either. You will often have the opportunity to be taught Stata skills one-on-one by a colleague with more experience. This training structure not only enables you to learn, but also gets specific senior staff members invested in your improvement.
I’ve worked very closely with a particular senior associate on projects that require coding. He constantly goes out of his way to help me improve and will literally stay at the office later than he has to in order to help me learn. He’s taught me countless tricks of the trade that have improved my efficiency tenfold. Beyond my tangible improvement working with Stata, I’ve fostered a relationship with this senior associate who can now attest not only to my Stata skills, but also to my ability to learn quickly. This sort of relationship is exactly what I mean by a win-win scenario.
Stata is also a great place to start because it is a natural stepping stone towards learning more advanced languages. Once you know Stata, learning SQL becomes a breeze, and from there it won’t take long to get a working knowledge of Python or R. The key to programming is learning how to think like a computer, and Stata is the best place to start. No matter where you stand right now, one thing I can guarantee about your first several months at CRA is that you will learn more than you ever thought possible about Stata.
“Try & Hire” internship experience at CRA Zurich amid the COVID-19 pandemic
José Bila is an associate in the Life Sciences Practice based in Zurich. He joined CRA in June 2020 as part of the Swiss “Try & Hire” program, where...