Tell us about yourself and what got you into Engineering.
I grew up in Bulgaria and was 11 years old when I first started coding. My dad was a butcher, and he wanted me to do something more applied so he signed me up for programming courses. We didn’t have a computer in our home — I would come home and write my homework (code) down with pen and paper.
I did competitive programming, algorithmic competitions at the state-level for seven years after that. Essentially, you sit in a room for five hours solving puzzles and submitting solutions. When the time came for college, I had been coding for so long that it was a no brainer to choose computer science at that point. At the core, I just really like challenges and being an engineer is like solving puzzles for a living.
I went to college at an international school in Germany. I did a couple of internships, including spending a summer in San Francisco. While I was there I was blown away by how smart and motivated the people that I met were. The challenges that they were trying to solve were bigger, more impactful, and more interesting. Then after graduation, the natural choice for me was to come back to the Bay Area and I’ve been here ever since.
What is your role at Color, and what does your team do?
I’m a senior Product Engineer, and I work on the Participant team. Our team’s job is to provide an engaging health platform to help our participants — our end users — lead better, healthier lives.
Color makes precision health programs accessible, convenient, and cost-effective for everyone. We use technology, software, and innovation to bring clinical-grade genomics with its power to help identify someone’s risk for major diseases such as cancer and heart disease as well as how our bodies metabolize medications to entire populations regardless of geography and socioeconomic status. Moreover, Color’s tools empower institutions to conduct groundbreaking research while also returning clinical results. My team is responsible for building the piece of our platform which end users interact with. We put a lot of focus on engaging people with their health and motivating them to take action on it by presenting clinical information in a personalized and digestible manner.
One of our values is “Stay Curious”. How do you like to stay curious in your role?
No matter how much I’ve built, I want to keep learning. For example, I wasn’t familiar with React and wanted to take a course, so I organized a group of 6–7 engineers and related teams so we could learn together.
Our team also does a tech talk once a month for a discussion around a particular topic. Past topics have included the history of the Twitter timeline, how to build a distributed pipeline, workload fitting, and concurriences and databases. Many of my teammates came from companies like Google, Dropbox, Twitter, and Pinterest, so we try to share stories of challenges and learnings from Color and our past experiences.
How did you hear about Color and what attracted you to working here? What excites you about what Color is doing?
Color was recommended to me by someone in my network. There were a couple of things that attracted me to Color, one of the biggest drivers was the team. During my interviews, I was like “wow! I want to work with every single one of you.” It was such a nice feeling — loved the interactions with the team and thought everyone was very talented. The other thing that really excited me was the mission. Philosophically, when you start your career, maybe you have a chip on your shoulder (it’s a lot about “you”). Can I be good at this? I need to prove myself. As time passed, I realized I have skills that can be applied at a challenging place that’s fulfilling. At Color, it excites me that what I do at the end of the day might impact someone’s life directly, or indirectly.
At Color I am also exposed to interesting and talented teams not seen at traditional tech companies. It’s really fun to be around teams like Bioinformatics, Scientific Affairs, Genetic Counseling, and Variant Science. I’m learning so much here from presentations, like whole genome sequencing and improving processes in our lab. The composition of teams here, you can’t really find at most Silicon Valley.
What has been the biggest surprise for you here at Color?
I was quite surprised by how the internal processes work. We do a really good job balancing high scrutiny when dealing with medical data, but also being agile where we can. I came in thinking I was going to be shackled by policies and procedures. But Color is actually really fast to pilot things, change direction, etc. while adhering to important privacy regulations. We do a great job respecting the two. Pretty exciting to me as an engineer!