My First Year at
Seven Bridges Genomics

It all started with an email that I got last November from a friend of mine. He was asking if I’d be ok with him connecting me with a certain UX guy from his company. They were looking to expand the team. I replied with something like: “Yeah, sure why not”. Few emails later and an interview, frightened and thrilled at the same time, I started my new job in January.

For a year I’ve kept one note open, writing down all the interesting stuff that was going on. Here are some of the highlights.

We Are Just at the Beginning

Our ~90 people team of biologists and hackers is located in Boston, Belgrade and London.

Our mission is to bring down genomics to the world of personalized medicine. We are doing this by designing robust but flexible products, that are helping experts to investigate and treat various kinds of genetic disorders.

The co-founders met over the internet about 10 years ago. A legend says that they met in person for the first time at a bus station in Pula, just after founding the company. Besides humbleness and transparency, they believe — and strongly encourage — the idea that the economy of 21st century lies in knowledge, being a foundation of our internal culture.

Culture Club

SBG’s internal culture astonishes me. Ever since I entered the door for the first time, I could feel a vibe that everything was opposite from tight and corporate — honest, but not in a cheesy way.

In the center of this culture are the people. We are a multinational team, from all over the world. The team represents one smart bunch assembled more like Guardians of the Galaxy than a hyped Avengers.

One of the first lunches in our new building

Just to help you imagine this amazing crowd, please note that so far I had a chance to work with:

  • A guy who’s hobby is catching snakes and singing khoomei;
  • Avid board games and Go players (Go is especially popular);
  • A guy who previously worked on radars and rocket systems;
  • Someone who researched brainwaves of a bat;
  • A professional poker player;
  • An astrophysics postdoc who worked in Portugal for 10 years;
  • A person who developed an algorithm on how proteins interact with themselves;
  • A guy who programmed machines in steel industry over Saudi Arabia and China;
  • Drone fanatic;
  • A guy who knows how to knit;
  • A sculptor;
  • TED speaker and Udacity instructor;
  • A guy who brews his own beer;
  • A girl who worked for a toy manufacturing company;
  • Backend engineer who’s developing his own pixel art game and collecting wild mushrooms;
  • … and photographers, musicians, hipsters, pole dancers, climbers and skydivers;

During lunch breaks and in the casual hallway chats you can hear a lot of smart stuff like:

  • Discussions about how and if math is exact when there are axioms;
  • Sub theories about Game of Thrones;
  • Stories about fractals and Counter Strike;
  • Discussions about life after death and what would it take you to stop if you go by 10% of light speed;

Also, there were a lot of awkward stuff like when someone broke Exit sign with a frisbee or when someone made a hole in the wall during a casual wrestling session.

Heel through the wall

I know it’s difficult to take me serious after all of these statements, but everyone’s really friendly and always willing to help and explain stuff, whether we talk about directors of product or backend engineers. This somehow comes natural, because we are mostly dealing with still undiscovered things and sharing is what keeps us going.

Sometimes when I ask a stupid domain-related question, it’s not strange to get 2 written pages as an answer tailored for me to understand.

But you can also get one-liner like: “pix or it didn’t happen” from your superior.

A Place Where Evolution Happens

Working in the environment where everyone’s vote and idea counts, irrelevant to their position, I’m having a chance for personal and professional growth.

Absorbing valuable life lessons from all these people gave me a different perspective on life, work and everything in-between. Sometimes you need to slow down, to be more patient, to ask more, to let go.

I’ve also learned that people don’t share as much as they should, especially my compatriots. We simply don’t have this blogging culture. It still needs to grow on us.

You should never pin yourself only to one profession but be open to learn more, every day. I’m not saying that I’m applying this in practice, but I’m very attracted to this concept.

For example there are devops engineers turned backend engineers turned bioinformaticians, or artists turned javascript developers.

I’ve had a chance to design far away from my comfort zone, to learn about genomics and biology and to fall in love with Python. I’ve also had a crazy fortune to work and learn under senior colleague who was like a mentor to me.

Designing for Genomics

You may wonder, what I’m actually doing for work here? I like to say I’m like an advocate of bioinformaticians among engineers. My main job is to listen, learn and discover needs, pain points and wishes of the people who use our products and to decompose and fix them with product or engineering teams.

So far I’ve been involved in 24 projects including one full product. Type of projects vary from Command Line Interface for file uploading from remote server, over building custom analytics tool, to designing experience for uploading few gigabytes of data via web browsers.

Some challenges we are dealing with may sound trivial in consumer app realm, where the largest files are usually your phone videos, but when you have a great amount of large files, challenges tend to scale up. I’m so glad I’m always the least smart person in the room.

All hands in Belgrade

I am doing stuff that I never had a chance of doing before. I’m moving from visible to invisible side of design. You’ll usually see me attending a meeting just for taking notes in my black little book or sketching out some blurbs on the white boards. I guess that so far I’ve made more Google Sheet files than a .psds.

What Awaits Me

This was my journey so far and I can’t wait to see what second year in this awesome company will bring me. If you are interested in working with us try locating your desired position over our jobs page.

Also, if you are designing in similar domain/facing similar challenges, please do reach me. We can always hang out or have a chat over the internet.