Employee Spotlight - Maria Elena Garcia-Ochagavia

Maria Elena Garcia’s background is in Computer Science and since she was an undergraduate student, she has been learning how Machine Learning can help in the discovery and development of drugs. In 2019, Maria Elena obtained her Master in Computer Science from the University of Havana with a dissertation on a methodology to find drug candidates for repurposing using Supervised Machine Learning methods. That same year, she moved to Toronto to start a new chapter in her career working for Cyclica optimizing and improving our drug discovery technology.

What’s your role at Cyclica? 

At Cyclica I am a  Computational Scientist and I am a part of the Machine Learning Platforms Team working specifically with MatchMaker. My role involves equal parts software development, Machine Learning research and MLOps. In essence, we strive to optimize and improve our technology to make better and faster predictions.

What do you like most about your job?

The most exciting part about my role at Cyclica is that you are always doing something that you have never done before. Cyclica’s technology evolves continuously and we are faced with different challenges every time. In addition, Cyclica’s team is incredibly supportive and there is a culture of collaboration that makes the constant challenges easier to tackle.

How do you define success? 

In my personal opinion, professional success is being happy at work and all that that entails: challenging work, respectful work environment, friendly colleagues, proper compensation, good work-life balance, and knowing that you are living up to your potential.

What’s the best career advice you have ever received?

I think that the best career advice I have received is: “Don’t underestimate yourself”. As a person coming from a developing country, there is always a hint of self-doubt, a tendency to think of your experience and education as less valuable than that of those who have been here longer. However, the experience can be accumulated and knowledge can be achieved and while your experiences may be different they have value in their own right. 
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What books do you want to read? 

I love novels that transport me to other periods of time and other cultures. I enjoy learning about how people had different beliefs and values and how that affected the way they make decisions. Classics like The Three Musketeers, Alexander the Great, Pride and Prejudice and Love in Time of Cholera are among my favorites. Right now I am reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. I would also like to read more of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's works like One Hundred Years of Solitude. 

What do you like to do when you aren’t at work? 

When I am not working, I enjoy cooking, especially baking and trying new flavors and learning new techniques. I love sharing my food with my family and friends and making a night out of it.

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