In 2019, I was appointed Recursion’s President — a huge honor and also a big weight to carry. I spent some holiday down time reflecting on how I got here and what it means to be Recursion’s President. Then I grabbed a pumpkin spice latte and wrote it down for anyone interested in Recursion and the journey from engineering intern to company President and COO.
Most of my career, I worked as a biochemical engineer making innovative treatments for cancer and other terrible diseases. I started my career as an intern, then full-time engineer at an industry-defining biotechnology company. Biotechnology has revolutionized the way we treat illness and I had the honor of seeing that revolution first-hand. When Recursion reached out to me to join the team, I immediately saw the same possibility for new technology to once again change the way we think about medicine. I joined Recursion in 2018 and now I sit at the intersection of modern biotech and deep tech with the opportunity to participate in another technological sea change for medicines. This time, instead of starting from the vantage point of an engineering intern, I started as Chief Operating Officer. And now also President. Not only do I get another chance to work on industry-changing technology, I also get a taste of what it feels like to have the weight of a company on my shoulders.
Of course, the big weight of Recursion rests on the shoulders of our Co-Founder and CEO Chris Gibson. Being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster ride like nothing else. What I do, as both President and COO, is tackle a variety of things that enable Recursion to execute and grow. This allows Chris to put more of his energy on driving our vision, creating strategy, cultivating external partners, interfacing with investors, hiring exceptional talent, and so much more. I spend a lot of time discussing all these things with Chris and others so I can drive the translation of Recursion’s vision into action. To draw on an oft used leadership analogy… I am the orchestra conductor and Chris is the brilliant composer.
And there is a lot to conducting a high growth company. Finding the right talent. Providing a nice place to work. Ensuring people grow and perform at their best. Fostering harmony among performers. Communicating what is most important and why. Paying the bills. Getting Zoom to work (if you know, you know). And on top of that, I also dig into our science and technology; everything from convolutional neural networks to CRISPR to high-throughput microscopy. The opportunities to contribute are endless. Every week is a new adventure: keeping our weekly All-Hands meeting fun and informative, showing off our robots to VIPs, writing a post about what I do, and so on.
Growing Recursion in 2019 required plenty of orchestrating. We added 73 new people to our team, including several in senior leadership, expanding our expertise in key areas such as computational chemistry. We increased experimental throughput by 600 percent, allowing our biological images dataset — the world’s largest — to grow to 4 petabytes with more than 27 billion images of human cells. We significantly expanded our ability to model a wide range of diseases and our capabilities in designing new chemistry previously unknown to science, allowing us to continue finding treatments in rare genetic diseases as well as opening up new opportunities in inflammation, immuno-oncology and infectious disease. We continued to advance our two, clinical-stage drugs with a myriad of activities in clinical trials, manufacturing and FDA oversight. And just before the holidays we created our first spin-out company under new CEO Dr. Mani Mohindru to drive forward our Neurofibromatosis Type 2 clinical program AND (spoiler alert) identified and in-licensed a third drug into our clinical-stage portfolio.
Whew! 2019 was a busy year. I am enormously proud of everything the Recursion team accomplished in 2019 and was honored to be part of it. Despite all that amazing progress, my pumpkin spice latte-fueled holiday reflection led me to a favorite highlight from 2019 far less considerable in nature. Every few weeks I invite anyone at Recursion with interest to join me for a “Fireside Chat.” We break into groups of eight and spend one hour discussing a topic related to personal and professional growth (something of a life hack for career development). 2019 topics ranged from Imposter Syndrome to Building Resilience to Influencing Styles. Every single time I was blown away by how thoughtful, supportive and vulnerable my colleagues were in these moments. Decoding biology to radically improve lives is hard work. What I felt most grateful for in 2019 was doing this hard work while growing together with such amazing people.
What were you most grateful for at work last year? I would love to hear more reflections from my healthtech colleagues out there.