The Stories of the Phenomenal Women of Cyclica

The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) disciplines are responsible for many incredible advancements in society. From Rosalind Franklin’s groundbreaking work in discovering DNA to Katie Bouman’s development of the computer program that made the first-ever image of a black hole possible, women have made significant strides in STEM. Despite these achievements, women continue to be underrepresented, with only 28% in STEM fields despite the overall workforce being 47% women. 

Research has shown the effects of social beliefs and the learning environment on young womens’ interest and achievement in STEM. Implicit bias and stereotypes associated with STEM disciplines can hinder women from fostering an interest in math or science, and prevent advancement in the workforce. Understanding these biases and working to actively address them is critical to creating a more inclusive environment for women in STEM (take the implicit bias test at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/).

Women undoubtedly enhance the workplace. Numerous studies indicate that women not only make an organization a better place to work, but also increase engagement, enhance performance, and improve job satisfaction. Women bring a wealth of perspective along with deep business and scientific acumen to the workforce. Given women represent 50% of the population, we need more women in STEM to make innovations effective, safe, and useful. 

In this post, we highlight the stories of women at Cyclica. We firmly believe in the value of gender diversity, and sharing stories of women leading in STEM is an important step in creating awareness and addressing stereotypes. We are proud of our phenomenal women at Cyclica, and are deeply grateful for their commitment to driving drug discovery. We hope this post inspires young girls to pursue careers in STEM, promotes a culture of inclusivity, and acknowledges the fantastic work of women in this field.

 

Phenomenal Linda

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Introduce yourself! What’s your story? What made you pursue a career in STEM/work at a biotechnology company?

I am a scientist-turned-business professional with a background in immunology. Prior to joining Cyclica, I completed both my bachelor’s degree and PhD from the University of Toronto. With an interest in business, I volunteered as a consultant helping biotechnology companies and healthcare startups with their business problems. I was also a co-president at a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to connecting medical resources between China and overseas countries. I was very interested in an external-facing role that allows me to leverage both my scientific background and business skills. Cyclica gave me the opportunity to work at the intersection of client-relationship management, business development, and product delivery/development.

+READ MORE OF LINDA’S STORY

What interests you most about the drug discovery and artificial intelligence space?

Coming from a basic (non-clinical) science background, It is exciting to see how safer and more effective drugs could get to patients at a much faster rate with the help of artificial intelligence.

What do you do at Cyclica? What do you like most about working in a startup environment?

I’m a Strategic Partnership Manager at Cyclica. I establish partnerships with biotech and academic groups with a focus on North American, European and South American markets, while supporting multiple projects with big pharma partners. My work entails identifying prospects, negotiating agreements, managing active projects, providing technical support and maintaining client relationships. I like that Cyclica provides lots of learning opportunities across different areas; the opportunity to meet and work with senior industry professionals on a daily basis; and of course, being able to work with intelligent and passionate colleagues everyday.

What is the best advice or guidance you have received? Any learnings you would like to share?

When I first joined Cyclica, one of the best advice that I received is don’t be afraid of making mistakes; don’t stop until you are told to do so. With iterative experimentation, I would also like to add, be brave and take risks. It is always better to fail sooner rather than later. The learnings and experience gained through failures will be invaluable for your career and life.

Phenomenal Shelley

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Introduce yourself! What’s your story? What made you pursue a career in STEM/work at a biotechnology company?

My PhD in Biochemistry provided me with the opportunity to experience the interface of fundamental science and the clinic. In collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, one of my main projects consisted of applying proteomics to identify biomarkers for pediatric inflammatory bowel disease. This rewarding experience inspired me to seek out similar opportunities wherein I can work with passionate individuals to work towards an overarching goal of having a meaningful impact in healthcare.

+READ MORE OF SHELLEY’S STORY

What interests you most about the drug discovery and artificial intelligence space?

What interests me most about this space is the potential to expedite the development of new medicines. The possibility of using artificial intelligence to reduce the bench-to-bedside transition time really resonates with me. What excites me about Cyclica’s approach is the focus on polypharmacology which has allowed me to apply my expertise in proteomics to potentially develop safer and more effective drugs.

What do you do at Cyclica? What do you like most about working in a startup environment?

As an Applied Scientist, I work closely with Cyclica’s partners across biotech, Pharma, and research institutions to address their research objectives and accelerate their efforts with Cyclica’s drug discovery platform. I also conduct internal validation studies to ensure the generalizability and robustness of new experimental machine learning prototypes.What I like most about working in a startup is the lively environment and being surrounded by innovators.

What is the best advice or guidance you have received? Any learnings you would like to share?

One of my graduate studies mentors emphasized the value of being unafraid of admitting when you are wrong. This mindset has strengthened my ability to adjust my perspectives when presented with new data.

Phenomenal Maria Elena

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Introduce yourself! What’s your story? What made you pursue a career in STEM/work at a biotechnology company?

I am a computer scientist with a keen interest in biological sciences and healthcare. I hold a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Computer Science from the University of Havana. While studying for my Bachelor’s I did three internships at one of Cuba’s most important Biotechnology companies: the Center for Genetics Engineering and Biotechnology of Havana (CIGB). Through my internships, I was introduced to handling and analyzing biological data as well as the impact this type of analysis can have on the drug discovery process. After graduating, I took the position of Instructor Professor at the University of Havana, where I continued collaborating with the CIGB for three more years prior to joining Cyclica.

+READ MORE OF MARIA ELENA’S STORY

What interests you most about the drug discovery and artificial intelligence space?

My passion has deep roots in understanding how mathematical relationships and technology can accurately predict complex situations. Building on my passion for computer science, I wanted to create an impact in healthcare and biotechnology through my skills. Cyclica is a great match for me as I can bridge software development and data sciences, to create tools which simplify and expand the work of scientists in the complex drug discovery process.

What do you do at Cyclica? What do you like most about working in a startup environment?

As a computer scientist I have always been passionate about finding interesting applications to the latest algorithms and technologies. While these new technologies are exciting it is important to be cautious and skeptical, especially when it comes to helping patients. It is interesting to see how this industry is rapidly evolving and how Cyclica's approach is challenging the status quo of traditional drug discovery using artificial intelligence.

What is the best advice or guidance you have received? Any learnings you would like to share?

Being a women in science, you're usually in a position of being the minority, I would encourage women in STEM and in other industries to not be afraid in speaking up and voice your opinions. While being open minded and willing to accept your colleagues and mentors thoughts.

Phenomenal Carly

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Introduce yourself! What’s your story? What made you pursue a career in STEM/work at a biotechnology company?

I’m Carly Holm, People Champion at Cyclica. I started my career in HR over 12 years ago and have always been passionate about human nature and organizational design. I spent the bulk of my early career working for big banks in both the US and Canada, and now focus on small businesses and start-ups, helping business leaders set up their organization so that both the company and the individual people within it thrive.

+READ MORE OF CARLY’S STORY

What interests you most about the drug discovery and artificial intelligence space?

I love being part of an organization that uses science and technology to better the world. It’s fun and exciting to see how quickly science is evolving and I love having a part in ensuring the people on the ground are supported and growing. I’m constantly amazed by the quality of talent.

What do you do at Cyclica? What do you like most about working in a startup environment?

As the People Champion, I’m responsible for everything from compliance to compensation, talent planning and employee engagement. That said, my true passion lies in setting the foundation for a strong culture in the organization. To do this, I’ve worked on establishing a performance management process, streamlined onboarding and recruiting processes, and worked with senior management to uncover any issues and challenges when it comes to their people. I love working in a startup environment because it gives me the opportunity to start fresh. I can think differently and base major decisions on what is best for the company, rather than having a prescribed way of doing things.

What is the best advice or guidance you have received? Any learnings you would like to share?

Don’t be afraid to speak up and be bold – even if it’s a topic you may not be an expert in! Early in my career, I shied away from giving my opinion and missed opportunities to add value. Now I know that leaders appreciate a different points of view and people who think outside the box.

Phenomenal Melissa

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Introduce yourself! What’s your story? What made you pursue a career in STEM/work at a biotechnology company?

I love science, in particular chemistry, but I’m a disaster in a lab. When I discovered that I could do chemistry on the computer without the risk of blowing things up I was sold.

+READ MORE OF MELISSA’S STORY

What interests you most about the drug discovery and artificial intelligence space?

I’m passionate about enabling the discovery of novel medicines. Despite how much progress we’ve made scientifically developing medicines still takes way too long and costs too much money. What excites me about artificial intelligence is the potential it holds to both addresses these issues, and to tailor therapies specifically to the patient.

What do you do at Cyclica? What do you like most about working in a startup environment?

Throughout my journey I have worked with diverse teams across pharma, academia and industry, guiding drug discovery through computational chemistry and informatics approaches. At Cyclica I help our scientific and business teams develop cohesive strategies for innovation that are aligned with the needs of the drug discovery industry, while also guiding how we share our story with the world. Things I love most about working at a startup are the opportunity to wear many hats, the fast-moving pace, and the passion and energy of the team.

What is the best advice or guidance you have received? Any learnings you would like to share?

A friend and fellow scientist once told me that I shouldn’t be afraid to embrace the suck. Careers are not straight paths, and you only grow by challenging yourself to try something new, to apply your skills and expertise in a different way. I still remind myself of this on a regular basis.

Phenomenal Cindy

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Introduce yourself! What’s your story? What made you pursue a career in STEM/work at a biotechnology company?

I completed my bachelor's in computer science and philosophy at the University of Toronto. Besides programming, I've also worked in translation and technical writing. I got into STEM when I took an elective course in computer science. (Coincidentally, both of my two professors were women). I had so much fun learning to problem-solve with code that I decided to pursue a career in tech. My family - including a number of women in STEM - were also very supportive, for which I am grateful.

+READ MORE OF CINDY’S STORY

What interests you most about the drug discovery and artificial intelligence space?

The potential of artificial intelligence to change how researchers approach drug discovery. It's remarkable how dramatically AI can accelerate the discovery process - at equal or greater accuracy, no less. As a layperson of science, I'm amazed by the way scientists make a positive impact, and then find ways to do that faster and better.

What do you do at Cyclica? What do you like most about working in a startup environment?

I'm a junior developer on the Core team at Cyclica. I work primarily on developing features and implementing bug fixes for internal tools. There are many reasons I enjoy working at a startup. To name a few: things get done fast, I get to work with a broad scope of technologies, and my colleagues are passionate about the work they do.

What is the best advice or guidance you have received? Any learnings you would like to share?

It's hard to narrow it down to one piece of good advice. Here's a great saying I recently came across, though: "When is the best time to order a pizza? 45 minutes ago. When is the second-best time? Right now." You can do the thing!

Phenomenal Jessie

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Introduce yourself! What’s your story? What made you pursue a career in STEM/work at a biotechnology company?

I am a designated accountant, CPA. I've been working in the accounting industry for over 20 years. I am specializing in project, consultancy, law firms accounting to help businesses manage their finances in a timely and effective way. I personally really enjoy working in STEM as most of them are on project bases. Biotechnology is a new area that I wanted to explore which I can gain insight and improve myself with no limitation to my previous experiences and the industries that I have been familiar with.

+READ MORE OF JESSIE’S STORY

What interests you most about the drug discovery and artificial intelligence space?

The AI in drug discovery industry is new to me. To me drug discovery is a complex and mysterious process that I would like to learn more about. I believe artificial intelligence will help to develop a better and healthy society, one of which is by accelerating the drug discovery process. I am really curious to see how the industry grows and develops in the coming decade.

What do you do at Cyclica? What do you like most about working in a startup environment?

I am responsible for the full cycle of bookkeeping, payroll processing, tax filing, financial reporting. Help management to monitor costs and perform budget cost analysis. I really enjoy working at Cyclica which contains the subsistence of an energetic, flexible, open-minded and challenging environment.

What is the best advice or guidance you have received? Any learnings you would like to share?

Management has provided the guideline and the framework to lead the accounting department to accomplish the goal. The management team also has an open mind that allows me to bring in my experience and the best practice to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the department.

Phenomenal Dasha

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Introduce yourself! What’s your story? What made you pursue a career in STEM/work at a biotechnology company?

Even though my background is rather diverse, I like to introduce myself as a pharmaceutical scientist. I completed my PhD at the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences (UofT, lab of James Wells), working on mechanisms of drug-receptor interaction. Following that, I carried out my postdoctoral training at the Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, lab of Sergio Grinstein) in cell biology, studying temporal and spatial regulation of receptor signalling. Due to my passion for quantitative methods, I also self-taught programming, data science and machine learning, in hopes of being able to apply these powerful tools to my biological questions in the future.

+READ MORE OF DASHA’S STORY

What interests you most about the drug discovery and artificial intelligence space?

I picked pharmacology as my specialty in undergrad because I wanted to be equipped for discovering new drugs “when I grow up”. During my PhD and postdoctoral research, I often felt the need for a more holistic approach to drug discovery in comparison to the traditional methods I was trained for. Inspired by the recent developments in medicine and biology that are being made through the use of artificial intelligence, I am excited to contribute to this space with the Cyclica team.

What do you do at Cyclica? What do you like most about working in a startup environment?

I joined Cyclica two months ago, as an Applied Scientist. I apply Cyclica's platform to answer diverse drug discovery questions with our partners, evaluate the quality of the results, and help guide the development of innovative solutions based on our partners’ feedback. I love being in an environment where our research and new technology has the potential of having a meaningful impact on healthcare.

What is the best advice or guidance you have received? Any learnings you would like to share?

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received was to take as many online courses as I could in order to fill the gap in my education that was making me feel subpar. I learned that it is never too late to acquire a new skill, even if it wasn’t a part of your post-secondary training. If it wasn’t for that advice, I probably wouldn’t be at Cyclica today.

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