Ramya Prathuri studied bioengineering at UC Berkeley the first year the university offered a synthetic biology track. At a conference she attended as an undergrad, Ramya happened to encounter Ginkgo Bioworks CEO Jason Kelly. The team was still in its early startup phase, with fewer than 20 employees, and its vision intrigued her.
Ramya applied for an internship right out of college. She remembers an informal process that involved an interview with [Ginkgo Co-Founder] Barry Canton. Ramya joined the team, and over the next two years she grew in her role as the company grew from a promising startup into a major synbio player.
Many of Ramya’s mentors encouraged her to pursue her PhD, as they had, since the valuable experience can help young scientists grow and learn quickly. Though Ramya started a PhD, she decided to master out of the program after some time.
“While I am happy to have gotten the opportunity to study among talented scientists in my PhD program, what I learned [from that experience] is that you really shouldn’t do a PhD for the name, but because you really have a passion for the science and experience” Ramya explains. “People warned me that without it, I may not be able to grow in my career or be limited to doing rote work, but as I started my doctoral lab rotations, I realized that wasn’t true based on my time at Ginkgo.”
Shortly after her master’s, Ramya returned to Ginkgo as a scientist, where she was welcomed back to her original team with open arms. Today she’s progressed to the role of senior scientist, and leads a subteam of the High Throughput Screen team within Ginkgo’s Foundries, working largely with enzyme assays.
“I’ve always gravitated towards enzymology [the study of enzymes], and I find that in working in Ginkgo’s Foundry, there is never a dull moment with the breadth of development work we take in,” she says of her current position.
As someone who has watched Ginkgo evolve from its earliest stages to being the publicly traded company it is today, and who has built relationships with its founding members over the years, Ramya says that she enjoys and values advocating for others, and aspires to lift their voices in the workplace.
Ginkgo’s culture is especially powerful, Ramya says, for two main reasons: “transparency from leadership all the way down, and that all employees are expected to share their opinions”
“This culture of communication means that we rely heavily on employee input to make big decisions on the direction of the company, and also to flag things that need to be fixed,” she adds.
At Ginkgo, Ramya sees a diversity of personalities treated with respect, regardless of their seniority, role, or educational background. Since her earliest days as an intern, she feels like her voice has been heard, and as a growing leader, she works diligently to make sure others feel heard, too.