Felipe Sarmiento approaches the synbio field, and his career path, a bit differently than most. Felipe, who holds both a PhD in microbiology and an MBA, saw the potential to build a robust career in the business of science when finishing his doctoral program. His previous role was at a small enzyme development company, who he had known for years through a mutual Chilean connection.
“I worked at a small firm alongside Ginkgo as our partner on a particular bioengineering project, and I found that I just loved their mission,” Felipe says. “I also really liked their interactions, and how they were so open and connected with me, and with each other.”
After seeing Ginkgo’s mission and people in action, Felipe decided to join the company, even though it meant leaving a team he deeply appreciated and had worked with throughout his early career.
“The more I got to know the Ginkgo team and learn about the company’s technology and core culture, the more I realized that I just wanted to be one of them,” he recalls.
This realization led Felipe to pursue a role through his partnership colleagues, some of whom are still his teammates. Felipe now facilitates synbio business relationships as one of Ginkgo’s Directors of Commercial Operations and was part of Ginkgo’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee for about two years. He believes that the openness he experienced and the type of unique and diverse individuals that Ginkgo hires are key components of what gives the company its business superpowers.
“The thing I love the most here is this feeling of openness, and I want other innovators to be able to experience what I did.” Felipe explains. “To me, Ginkgo’s openness means you always find the information that you need, and you always find support and camaraderie in your colleagues. It happens at all levels, too – it’s very normal for any one of us to be able to work directly with members of leadership like [Ginkgo Bioworks Founders] Reshma, Tom, and Jason.”
It also helps that everyone at Ginkgo is a special Pokemon, he jokes, with the opportunity to evolve. “One of our company values is ‘whimsy’ and when you arrive at Gingko you’re informally assigned a Pokemon according to your hiring number in the company,” he explains, laughing. “Even though most people would probably prefer to be Pikachu or Charmander, at #139, I’m now assigned Omastar [similar to an ammonite fossil]. I used to be Mew [a rare Pokemon]…and that was MUCH cooler!”
Values like these, Felipe says, give people the space to have fun at work, and engage with a creative, connected culture that’s truly unlike other biotech and synbio firms. And having fun is important, he says, because while there’s plenty of hard work to be done as Ginkgo moves toward a bolder, more visionary future for science and humanity, it’s infinitely easier to make that happen in an uplifting environment.