DNAnexus Snapshot: Five Minutes with Cristin Smith

 

In a series of Snapshot blog posts in the coming months, we’ll be spotlighting some of our fascinating team members to give you a better sense of who we are.

 

This week we’re talking to Cristin Smith, marketing programs specialist. Since coming to DNAnexus in August 2010, Cristin has built on her experience with sales operations to take on marketing full-time.

Q: What do you do at DNAnexus?

A: I work on our marketing programs, which involves getting the word out about DNAnexus through online advertisements, e-mail campaigns and the corporate website. I started out splitting my time between marketing and sales but as the company grew, I devoted more and more time to marketing and it is now my full-time focus.

 

Q: What did you do before you joined?

A: I got my MBA at Santa Clara University. Before that, I was doing R&D in a lab working on forensic science and food testing products at Applied Biosystems. My bachelor’s degree is in genetics, but I’ve always been interested in marketing and sales, which is why I went back for my MBA.

 

Q: What was it about DNAnexus that attracted you to the company?

A: In addition to being interested in joining a startup, I was impressed by the team’s intelligence and friendly nature.  I also found the vision of the company compelling. I had been one of those people struggling in the lab trying to make sense of sequencing data, so I experienced first-hand the need for a company to do what DNAnexus does. It doesn’t take long to generate a large volume of data, but how do you efficiently get something useful out of it?

 

Q: What have you learned since coming to DNAnexus?

A: It was interesting for me to learn more about bioinformatics because that’s something I hadn’t really worked on before.

 

Q: If you weren’t working at DNAnexus, what would you be doing?

A: I would be one of those professional travel guide writers. I love traveling.

 

Q: Tell us something about yourself that nobody at DNAnexus knows.

A: I was big into the television shows The New Detectives and Forensic Files back in high school — that’s how I got into the science.

 

Q: Fill in the blank: There is probably a genetic link to: ______________

A: Risk-taking behavior.  There have been a number of studies on this so it isn’t a novel idea, but I think the research is fascinating.

 

Q: If you could have anyone in history’s genome sequenced, whose would it be and why?

A: I’d sequence Gregory R Smith’s genome.  He started college at age 10 and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize at 12.  I’d be curious to see what genes are correlated with being a child prodigy.

 

Q: If you could have your genome sequenced, what would you hope to find or not find?

A: I wouldn’t mind finding out that I’m a genetic carrier for a few of Gregory R. Smith’s child prodigy traits.  Maybe my kids would get lucky and be able to skip a grade or two.

 

DNAnexus Snapshot: Five Minutes with Evan Worley

In a series of Snapshot blog posts in the coming months, we’ll be spotlighting some of our fascinating team members to give you a better sense of who we are.

 

This week we’re talking to Evan Worley, a software engineer and the first non-founder employee at DNAnexus. Since joining in June 2009, Evan has added to his computer science expertise by learning about biology and genetics from the rest of the team.

Q: What do you do at DNAnexus?
A: I’ve been at DNAnexus since the early days, so I often joke by saying “I interview candidates” as I’ve spent months of time interviewing, in aggregate. In reality, I’m a software engineer and I tend to work on web technologies. I enjoy tackling a mix of both back end and front end problems. I spent a good amount of time working on the Genome Browser.

Q: Where did you work before?
A: Before joining DNAnexus, I was working at Intuit on the next-generation tax modeling and calculation engine.

Q: What was it about DNAnexus that attracted you to the company?
A: I’ve always wanted to be part of an exciting, fast-paced startup. After a few phone calls with our CEO, Andreas Sundquist, I was convinced that DNAnexus faced some of the most interesting problems in the field.

Q: What have you learned since joining the company?
A: A lot! DNAnexus is full of extremely intelligent people, and I’ve soaked up as much as possible from them. In addition to everyday computer science discussions, I’ve also picked up a healthy amount of biology/genetics knowledge and terminology. I’ve also learned that building a team is a very difficult and time-consuming venture.

Q: If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
A: I’d be a professional soccer player for the LA Galaxy.

Q: What person had the greatest influence on where you are today?
A: I’d have to say Gary Gillespie, who taught CSE 12 (Data Structures) at the University of California, San Diego. CSE 12 was my first challenging computer science course, and I was engrossed with the material and projects. I later became a tutor for the class and developed strong relationships with my fellow tutors, who became invaluable partners in future courses and projects.

Q: Fill in the blank; there is probably a genetic link to _____
A: Personality. I’m very curious about the nature versus nurture tradeoff when it comes to personality and general outlook.

Q: If you could have anyone in history’s genome sequenced, whose would it be? Why?
A: Usain Bolt. Have you seen that man run?

Q: If you had your genome sequenced, what would you hope to find (or not find)?
A: Seeing the terrible effects of Alzheimer’s, I would hope to find that I am not likely to develop it.

Q: Tell us one thing about yourself that nobody at DNAnexus knows.
A: Shortly after finishing high school, I was certain I wanted to be a computer engineer. I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I “knew” writing software would be extremely boring. It only took two electrical engineering courses and one computer science course for me to change majors from computer engineering to computer science. I haven’t met any resistance since shifting my focus to the software side.

DNAnexus Snapshot: Five Minutes with Martin Bednar

In a series of Snapshot blog posts in the coming months, we’ll be spotlighting some of our fascinating team members to give you a better sense of who we are.

 

Q: What do you do at DNAnexus?
A: I am a User Experience Engineer. I play the advocate of a happy DNAnexus customer. My job is to learn about our users and translate their needs and wants into user interface (UI) design. That means mainly drawing a lot of sketches, wireframes, or mockups — essentially what looks like a screen capture of a complete product — and validating those with a representative sample of our users. I work with the rest of the team to assure the UI meets our business requirements and that the designs can be delivered from the development standpoint.

Q: What do you focus on when designing a user interface?
A: We need to achieve balance between meeting our current users’ needs and coming up with new and exciting, visionary things. We think about what users need and what they’re used to, but also about being innovative in ways that will open their eyes and empower them to do the previously impossible.

Q: Where did you work before?
A: DNAnexus is my second full-time position after graduate school. Before DNAnexus, I worked as a user experience designer at VMware, a cloud computing and virtualization leader, where I helped design interfaces for large-scale virtual data center monitoring and management.

Q: What was it about DNAnexus that attracted you to the company?
A: It was clear to me from the get-go that DNAnexus is a great place to be. The main points for me were: strong leadership by renowned genomics and bioinformatics experts; extremely smart and passionate colleagues; tough, big data visualization problems; and the opportunity to innovate and set the example for the whole field of cloud-based genome analysis.

Q: If you could say one thing to DNAnexus users, what would it be?
A: I would like to invite them to send their comments and feedback to our product using the website’s contacts section or directly to product@dnanexus.com.

Q: What have you learned since joining the company?
A: That there are always new things to learn.

Q: What would you do if you weren’t a user experience engineer?
A: I am having a hard time deciding between a skydiving instructor and a sailboat captain, so I am going to generalize and say adventure guide. I have always liked fresh air and some adrenaline — while I have an office job I try to balance it out by outdoor activities on the weekends.

Q: What person had the greatest influence on where you are today?
A: I feel like my parents are the ones who deserve to be mentioned.

Q: Fill in the blank; there is probably a genetic link to _________
A: Tobacco addiction.

Q: If you could have anyone in history’s genome sequenced, whose would it be? Why?
A: Leonardo da Vinci, perhaps compared to history’s other brilliant artists and masterminds.

Q: If you had your genome sequenced, what would you hope to find (or not find)?
A: I would hope I’m not related to Paris Hilton.