My First 90 Days as a Recursionaut

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Throughout my career, I always heard about finding your “dream job” but had honestly dubbed the concept a myth. I never imagined that one day, that myth would become my reality. On April 5th, 2021 my now-manager Ben Sukow called with a job offer that changed my perspective.

For almost a decade, I have wanted to work in the field of computational biology. I wanted to learn and grow in that space, and always hoped to work at a place where my contributions could impact a greater cause. Recursion’s interview process gave me a lot of insight into the company values and culture; which I found to be highly collaborative, interdisciplinary ("One Recursion"), and a place where growth mindset ("We Learn") goes a long way. 

Recursion is focused on solving very hard problems in biology and revolutionizing the drug discovery process using computer science. As a computer engineer with almost 20 years of experience in software engineering and a PhD focused on identifying RNA binding protein targets using machine learning, a career at Recursion felt like a hand in a glove. 

On top of the meaningful mission and collaborative company culture, I was happy that Recursion was open to my joining as a primarily-remote Principal Software Engineer with occasional travel into the SLC office. I accepted the offer in less than 24 hours and started on May 3rd, 2021. Recursion has been everything I ever imagined: biologists, chemists, engineers and data scientists tirelessly working together to decode biology. In this blog, I detail what my first 90 days as a Recursionaut have looked like.

I started as a Principal Software Engineer, which is a technical leadership role working cross-functionally with teams across Recursion. Typically, roles of this kind are not clearly-defined, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Recursion had spent time defining different levels of the career ladder and building out a framework ("We Deliver") for every role in the tech organization to anchor feedback and provide more detail on expectations, leveling and opportunities for growth. ​​ These resources helped my manager identify projects that would be a good fit for me. Recursion also provided career coaching through BetterUp, an online/app-based coaching guide; a perfect example of our "We Care" value.

After considering my role, a clear definition of responsibilities and goals outlined by my manager, I decided to schedule one-on-one meetings with my peers and various leaders across the company. I crafted a set of questions that would help me understand potential areas for growth at Recursion. I also used these conversations to better-understand Recursion's journey from a startup to a successful IPO.

I was blown away by how welcoming every individual I talked to was, and also curious to learn about me and my path to Recursion. It’s deeply apparent that Recursionauts genuinely care about each other ("We Care") and want to do everything in their power to help out anywhere they can. Every individual I’ve worked with wanted to understand how we could push Recursion to the next level. Growth mindset ("We Learn") is a vital part of Recursion's ecosystem.

A month into my journey, I was able to participate in Recursion’s company-wide Hack Week. In all my previous jobs, Hack Week meant consuming a ton of caffeine and writing code to make something bright and shiny. Not at Recursion — we do Hack Week right. A box of goodies along with a soft cotton shirt arrived at my doorstep a week before Hack Week. I joined a team of data scientists and biologists that were determined to try a new methodology to gain further insights into drug discovery. The novel idea we worked on quickly became the focus of the Q3 goals for drug discovery. I was impressed by how much I was learning throughout hack week, while still maintaining a work-life balance.

Another awesome benefit at Recursion is that we close the office for a full week, two times a year. Recursion employees take the week off over the 4th of July to refresh and rejuvenate themselves, and another week at the end of the year. 

After the July shutdown, I visited Salt Lake City and met the people I was working with virtually. It was great to see my coworkers in person and cement the relationships I had made online, and also build new connections.

When I’m in town, I try to explore the area around HQ. As a runner, this means scouting what trails the city has to offer. My favorite so far has been the City Creek Canyon trail — it starts with a long uphill run to the trailhead, passes through Memory Grove and has a nice consistent gradient until you make it to the top. The views of Salt Lake City from the top are breathtaking and it’s the perfect way to start my day.

During a recent visit, I was fortunate to get a tour of the High Throughput Screening (HTS) lab: a place where robots and researchers work tirelessly to perform over a million experiments a week. Having worked with several people from the HTS team over Zoom, it was nice to see them in action and develop a better understanding of their day-to-day operations, pain points and witness science being performed at the scale of Recursion’s operation. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip — behind my mask, I was grinning ear to ear.

Recursion has done an exceptional job connecting employees (across different departments) and sustaining our culture. In my short stint so far at Recursion, I have been able to to work with engineers, data scientists, scientists, medicinal chemists and high throughput laboratories. It has been amazing to see what we have achieved so far and collaborate with my teammates to identify what challenges we want to take on next. Since the beginning of my time at Recursion, I have taken great inspiration from this quote from the Martian:

Scott, R. (Director). 2015. The Martian [Film]. 20th Century Fox.

I strongly believe that Recursion will come home, which for us, is decoding biology to radically improve lives.

Shweta Bhandare is a Principal Software Engineer at Recursion.