I always had a double-sided interest in biology and IT, being generally fascinated by technology. When I was 14, I started working in a computer shop and spent most of my money on online games. I taught myself how to make websites, graphics, film, and other digital media. Later, I studied at Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in Munich, where I got my Diploma in Mathematics with a thesis in Computational Biology. Then, I moved to Lausanne to do a PhD in Computational Neuroscience, at the intersection of biology, computer science and machine learning. During my studies, I also worked as a full-stack engineer and later launched a large research database called ICGenealogy.
When I joined SOPHiA GENETICS, I actually had another job offer in hand from a consultancy company. On the other hand, I had heard about SOPHiA GENETICS through a friend. He said it was the kind of company where you could have the flexibility to propose your own projects and follow them through. That was a very appealing concept for me, coming from the academic world. I also chose SOPHiA because there are more opportunities for growth here. I had the impression that, if there’s a need for talent and somebody has it, it will be immediately realized.
At SOPHiA GENETICS, the Data Engineering department is at the edge of Data Science and IT. As the Director of Data Engineering, I maintain databases that contain information about genomic variants. Our data sets are quite large, so I have to optimize the databases, and the applications around them, to make them work as efficient as possible. I’m also in charge of managing data for internal use and research. We organize these data and provide solutions to help our data science teams find what they need as quickly and easily as possible.
We are constantly expanding and I’m responsible for hiring new team members while managing the people and our projects. It’s challenging, but luckily, I’m the kind of person who likes to communicate and organize things. In fact, I actively develop these skills by spending my free time as the President of a Science Communication Association and performing on-stage in improv theatre shows.
What’s refreshingly different at SOPHiA GENETICS compared to academia, is that you have to be able to work in a team. So, communication skills are almost as important as technical skills. You need to be able to coordinate, give and take feedback, and present your work. If someone is perfectly qualified, but they can’t clearly explain a problem they’re working on to others, it won’t be a fit.
No two days are the same, here. It’s not always easy, but it never gets boring. I regularly hit points in my work that prompt me to read, learn and find solutions to unknown problems. It’s the same thing I liked about academia, but in an applied setting where it actually impacts patients’ lives.
With any job, you put your sweat and blood into it and in the end, you either feel like you’ve made a change, or you don’t. My work requires great care and responsibility, but with that responsibility comes the feeling that the work I do truly matters. This is something I really value about working at SOPHiA GENETICS.