For this week’s BenchSci employee spotlight, we’d like to introduce you to Teyden Nguyen, Senior Data Engineer on the Data Ingestion team. We thank Teyden for joining us to share a bit of her story and her perspectives on work and life at BenchSci.
What is your name, and what do you do at BenchSci?
My name is Teyden Nguyen, and I'm a Senior Data Engineer on the Data Ingestion team. I work on developing our pipelines and our processes for ingesting and processing data for downstream machine learning and data analytics.
What made you choose BenchSci?
There were really three main reasons. First, BenchSci’s overarching mission aligns strongly with my passion for improving medicine and biomedical research with computer technology. Second, the company was and still is at a very unique, rapidly expanding stage that has provided me with a great launchpad for advancing my career. It's really exciting to be a part of this massive driving force of a company that is capable of accomplishing so many big things.
The last and perhaps most important reason is the culture, which is incredible. I was able to see that even before joining the company by reading the blogs and evaluating the benefits package and company outreach. I wouldn't have picked BenchSci otherwise.
For a company to meet all these criteria is actually very rare, but BenchSci excels at them all.
Could you tell me more about your work in bioinformatics at the Mostafavi Lab?
I was a research assistant there working towards my Master's degree. My thesis was on machine learning models for predicting diseases and clinical symptoms with phylogenetic structures of microbiome data.
What skills or languages do you need to know to work at BenchSci?
As a data engineer, having a good grasp of Python is key, along with skill in data processing and manipulation using SQL or SQL-like technologies. Knowledge of Google Cloud—or cloud technology in general—can be really helpful, but the company is also happy to train in those areas. Having a genuine interest in biology is always a plus, but most of our engineers don't actually have any background in biology.
Lastly, it’s important to have really strong communication skills, especially working in a remote-first environment. Having strong communication skills will take you a long way no matter what your career. I think that’s sometimes overlooked in engineering.
What is the biggest misconception about your job?
The biggest misconception is that you need to be a biomedical scientist of some sort to work here. At BenchSci, I think there’s this assumption that, since the data on our platform is highly scientific, the data engineers must also be scientists. Some of us are, but as I already mentioned, the majority of us actually aren’t. The scientific knowledge we need to do our jobs can be learned without a biology Ph.D.
Ultimately, the technical skills you can demonstrate are far more important than your degrees or the scientific knowledge you possess. We work adjacent to biology concepts and really only ever apply scientific knowledge at a hobbyist level.
What are three words you would use to describe our culture?
I would say progressive, autonomous, and inclusive.
To stay connected, Teyden’s team shares photos of their lunches
How do you collaborate with and stay connected to your team members in a remote-first organization?
From a work-oriented standpoint, we try to pair program as much as possible. It's an efficient way to share knowledge while also connecting, building relationships, and learning how your teammates work. You can learn a lot just by watching your colleagues—they may know things that you didn't. Or perhaps you have some tips and tricks to share with them.
From a social standpoint, one of the really helpful things we have is a separate Slack water cooler channel just for our team. We use this regularly for non-work-related banter—it’s a great way to get to know each other. A while ago, I started sharing pictures of my lunch on the channel because food, to me, is one of the key ways that humans connect with each other. It’s one way that I get to know my teammates.
Back when we were working in person, you would see what people ate for lunch. That’s how a group of us discovered our shared love of spicy food, which led us to create a spicy noodle challenge team social event. That was a lot of fun. I really like having that open-ended water cooler channel to discover these sorts of things about my teammates.
What is your hidden talent?
For a long time now, I’ve had a knack for remembering serial numbers. It’s weird and not exactly in my full control. For some numbers, I do need to put in conscious effort to remember, but for others, I have no intention of remembering them; I just do.
For example, I always forget these two digits on one of my credit cards and have to check. In a way, I think it's my brain's defense mechanism against putting my credit card number into too many online shopping sites.
But then I’ll remember other serial numbers, like a random reservation number, or a serial number on a drink can, or something like that. It's a weird, not always useful hidden talent.