People of Synthace: Alexander Nash, PhD – Associate Bioinformatician
After interning at Synthace during his PhD, Alex joined the company full time in November 2019 as a Biological Scientist and has recently become Associate Bioinformatician.
The company represents a unique and flexible answer to some of the greatest problems challenging scientists in the life sciences industry today.Alexander Nash, PhD Associate Bioinformatician
What is your role?
As a Biological Scientist, I work within the Laboratory team at Synthace where we focus on ensuring that features developed by the Engineering team function from a biological perspective.
At the moment I am working on helping to bring additional functionality around cell culture and bioprocessing to our platform.
Where were you before joining?
Before I joined Synthace, I was undertaking my PhD at Imperial College London. My focus was on using gene editing and synthetic biology to limit the spread of malaria.
Why did you want to join Synthace?
I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to intern at Synthace during my PhD. I had been drawn by the premise of working in a fast-paced start-up at the bleeding edge of biological innovation.
During my internship I was struck by the positive company culture, constant striving for meaningful innovation, and the focus on meaningful progress over presenteeism.
Think about the expectations you had before you joined. Is life and work at Synthace in line with how you thought it would be?
During my internship I was treated as a regular member of the team, and so when I joined a year later as a full-time employee, things were much as I expected!
Were there any concerns you had before joining that were either realised, or that turned out to be unwarranted?
I was fortunate in that I had the opportunity to freely discuss any concerns I had during my internship, so when I joined it was without reservation of any kind.
Would you say it is possible to move around within the company and progress your career?
Yes, there is a great deal of support for career progression within the company, and that includes the transition between roles internally.
There are a number of examples of colleagues who have opted to dramatically change their roles since joining, and management has been very supportive of these changes.
Would you say that you can clearly see how your work has an impact?
Yes. The company ethos of making meaningful progress means that you are always working on something with an obvious contribution to the broader goals of the team.
It is particularly satisfying when you see all those individual contributions coming together and culminating in a new product or feature.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of the job is being able to work at the interface of so many disciplines to hammer out a solution to some of the most complex challenges facing scientists in the life sciences today.
The broad range of backgrounds and diversities of opinion mean that there is always an insightful perspective offered that you might not have conceived by yourself.
What do you enjoy most about #SynthaceLife (outside of your actual job)?
The company of my colleagues! The emphasis on hiring people who can positively contribute to an internal culture of kindness has meant that Synthace is a really great place to work with teammates who are not only talented, but also genuinely nice human beings. It is one of the things I appreciate most about working here.
Which activities/events have you enjoyed or found useful?
The Operations team is always on the lookout for new activities and events for the team to enjoy. I am always impressed by the quality of what they come up with.
In particular, I enjoy the team breakfasts and lunches, which are a great opportunity to have a chat with colleagues over some good food. The lunch and learn sessions are also an excellent chance to learn something new from a member of the team with genuine expertise in that area.
The diversity of events means that there is something for everyone.
What do you get up to outside of work? Do you have any hobbies or passions?
My main hobbies outside of work are running and climbing.
One of the best things about working at Synthace is that colleagues are open to trying things out or coming together to do activities. We have groups of runners and climbers who enjoy pursuing these hobbies together.
Would you say that you are encouraged and able to be your true authentic self at all times?
Absolutely. At no point have I felt that I have been encouraged to be anything but myself.
It is a testament to the culture of the company that colleagues are comfortable asking the tough questions of the executive openly and without hesitation.
I think that the broad diversity of backgrounds and perspectives is part of what gives the team strength.
What do you think are the biggest challenges we are facing at the moment? And how do you feel we are addressing these?
The most obvious challenge currently facing the company are the effects of the global pandemic.
The company has done well to address the concerns of staff and to put the safety of the team above all. Management has been very empathetic in their outlook to the individual challenges facing team members and offered a great deal of support. As a result, I have always felt like I have had a great deal of autonomy in how I want to respond to challenges such as lockdown, and Synthace has always supported those decisions.
On the other side of this, what do you think are the biggest opportunities at the moment?
I think that the company represents a unique and flexible answer to some of the greatest problems challenging scientists in the life sciences industry today.
If it continues to place emphasis on the value of each individual whilst favouring a strong collaborative approach, I feel very optimistic about our future direction.
How do you think working here is different to other companies?
While I cannot comment too much on the culture of other companies, having come straight from graduate school, I can compare my experience at Synthace with academia.
In the latter, I found that there was less focus on work-life balance, often at the cost of productivity and the risk of burnout. By contrast, Synthace strongly opposes presenteeism, actively encourages staff to take time for themselves, and focuses on a sensible trade-off between meaningful progress and the individual lives of our team. It is something that has always struck me as impressive for a start-up!
How would you describe the people and culture at Synthace?
The culture and people here are great. I was immediately taken by the emphasis on employing team members who were not simply talented, but were kind, good-willed people. Most impressively, those principles have not shifted as the team has expanded, and I feel it is part of what truly underpins Synthace's success.
What are the 3-5 best things about working at Synthace?
Brilliant colleagues, an exciting challenge, collaborative working, genuine empathy amongst team members, and a focus on making meaningful progress.
What are you most proud of when thinking about Synthace as a company and/or group of colleagues?
The sense of community that has been fostered amongst its team members.
I am always impressed by the kindness and openness of my colleagues, and the fact that this culture underpins the entire company is without doubt a laudable accomplishment.
What advice would you give to someone if they were looking to apply to your team? What traits and/or skills are important? How would someone know if they were likely to be successful? How could they improve their chances of being considered?
A role at Synthace would suit you if you enjoy collaborative, multidisciplinary work to solve complex challenges. You need to be passionate about your field of expertise, keen to learn more, and a good fit for the company culture.
What would you say to anyone considering joining Synthace?
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