Vice President of Data Insights Mary Tran leads a brand-new team at Syapse that helps deliver real-world insights from the world’s largest network of health systems focused on precision medicine. In this interview, we talk about the power of understanding real-world data and how Syapse employees are excited to work — and play — together.
What brought you to Syapse?
I think I’ve always been attracted to the business side of healthcare because you have a platform to impact more patients’ lives. I actually started off my career as a cancer data analyst, looking at how health systems could improve the way that they were caring for cancer patients. Back then, having multidisciplinary care meetings with all providers present to collectively talk about their patient’s care plan was actually innovative. Fast forward to now, coming to Syapse and back to the oncology realm, we have so much more information and sources of data to inform treatment. It’s really awesome to see how care has advanced.
Was there an ‘Aha!’ moment during the recruiting process when you knew you wanted to join Syapse?
Yes, I think there was an honesty about how complex the problem actually is. At face value, it seems simple — what we are trying to do is provide information on how patients have been cared for, so providers can deliver better care and life science companies can develop better targeted therapies. It’s more complex though because of the way health systems are set up.
Even though it’s challenging, the optimism of “we can get this if we really try hard” is what led me here.
When you’re talking to friends and family about what you do at Syapse, how do you explain your role?
It comes back to the problem we are trying to solve: I like to say that I try to impact the lives of patients on a large scale and help providers make very informed decisions. What we’re doing is aggregating information on the care journeys of cancer patients and pulling actionable, digestible insights out to guide providers and improve the way patients are cared for in the future.
The Data Insights team is relatively new, and it was formed after realizing that the value of Syapse is not only that we can ingest large amounts of data (which is one of the big problems we’re trying to solve), it’s that we can deliver actionable information from that data. The better we understand the data, the better insights we can provide; that’s really the product.
Are there any projects that you and your team worked on that were particularly cool?
All of it is cool — we’re working in the era of precision medicine. No longer are we just talking about “breast cancer”; it’s specific mutations that nobody was talking about ten years ago. We didn’t have the capabilities to identify those mutations and we wouldn’t have known what to do with the information even if we did. Now, we’re doing some pretty unique studies in what were previously unknown populations. With all of this new information, we get to characterize these populations, and then characterize how they’re being treated and ultimately their outcomes. It’s so interesting!
What other teams do you collaborate with at Syapse?
Data Insights is a pretty core part of what Syapse does, so we collaborate with everyone. We focus on the most vital information that we need to obtain from our health system and lab partners in order to get the right insights back to them. So we work with customer success managers who manage the relationships with our partners, engineering teams who ingest the data, informaticists who structure it, and product managers — everybody across the board.
What has surprised you since joining Syapse?
I think I have a high appetite for change, so having to adapt to new things that arise on a daily basis doesn’t surprise me, but I could see it being surprising to other people. We are a growth-stage company. In order for us to solve new problems, we have to continually learn and evolve. The willingness of Syapse employees to continuously push the envelope was a nice surprise because you don’t always get that, especially in large organizations. And even as we get closer to becoming a large organization, it’s a mindset that we’ve kept.
Besides Syapse’s mission, what makes you excited to come to work every day?
We have regular team outings and events, and it’s fun to be around like-minded people that are excited to solve problems together and also hang out together. The focus on team culture, building that up, and making sure we’re working together in and outside of the office is very important. Also, I love the bi-weekly happy hour (‘The 415’) and the quarterly events! All of the events are organized and planned by and for our employees.
What are you most excited for in the upcoming year?
I’m going scuba diving in French Polynesia! This time will be with sharks, which I have a significant fear of, but I’m all about getting over your fears.
In terms of Syapse, because the Data Insights team is newer, I’m excited to see the department really come together. We’ve already made a lot of headway in a few months, and I can’t wait to see how far we go.
If you could become an expert in anything instantly, what would it be?
Languages, so I could speak to anybody fluently.
What’s something new you’re learning right now?
Guitar! But it hurts your fingers a lot. I was a huge band nerd growing up and played six instruments. I wanted to get that passion back so I thought it would be fun to pick up a new instrument.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
I recently went down to Chilean Patagonia, but I didn’t cross over to Antarctica. I was standing at where they call Fin del Mundo — the “end of the world” — but you have to actually cross over to Antarctica to get to the bottom of the world. So that would have been cool!
If you could switch roles at Syapse for a day, what other job would you like to try?
I think based on this project I might switch with Marketing or Recruiting because it’s cool that you guys get to interview everybody and understand what’s going on in the company. You’re the glue between a lot of different things and have a strong hand in driving culture.
What’s your favorite thing you own?
I recently went to Sedona and we did all this spiritual healing stuff, and I got these new crystals so lately I’ve been pretty focused on opening up my energy centers. That’s really San Francisco…
What’s your favorite snack in the office kitchen?
Popcorn! It’s healthy with just a little sweetness so you don’t feel too guilty and can eat a lot of it. I love it!