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In our DNA: Abraham Chen, Senior Customer Service Associate

February 3, 2021  |  Codex DNA

Team member: Abraham Chen, Senior Customer Service Associate

Came aboard: October 2020

What do you do at Codex DNA?
In a retail setting, you imagine customer service as a call center or the smiling face behind a counter. However, in the biotech industry, customer service really has a lot to do with operations. We are a key touchpoint across the order-fulfillment workflow. Our work begins from the very point when a customer decides to buy; we help with their purchase order, getting it through shipping and invoicing, and ensuring the product reaches the customer’s hands. Because I work with so many groups inside Codex DNA, I get a 360-degree view of the organization.

How did you get into that kind of work?
Honestly, I stumbled into it. My background is in sociology and psychology and I thought I would go into counseling. But when I graduated, I needed to make sure I could pay the bills and stay in San Diego, so I took a customer service role at a small online retail company. Eventually, one of my friends called me about an opportunity at Illumina, and they took a chance on me. My time at Illumina really honed my customer service skillset and understanding.

What brought you to Codex DNA?
First and foremost, it was watching Dan Gibson’s TED talk and really seeing the possibility of his technology to change the world and everything we know about health science. I found that extremely compelling. I also enjoy being in the startup environment at a small company. When I need to get something done with the shipping department, I can walk 30 paces to talk to them. My desk faces the labs, so I get to be reminded of how my desk job ultimately impacts scientific discovery. In fact, Dan’s office is just three doors down from me!

What’s the company vibe?
I think we’re building a culture right now. I really love that. Everybody’s on board with the fact that we’re trying to do something exciting together. My coworkers are all extremely collaborative and there’s always an attitude of getting the job done.

How do you describe synthetic biology to non-scientists?
I always start by asking people how much they remember about DNA from high school biology, and then I describe to them how we build machines that can create DNA synthetically. I also tie it in with SARS-CoV-2 and everything we’re doing in response to the global pandemic.

What one thing do you wish more people understood about DNA?
DNA has been getting a bad rep lately, with fears about designer babies and genetic data being used against you. What we don’t talk about enough are the types of breakthroughs we’re making in human health. The next frontier in medicine has to do with the genome: unlocking what’s going on in our DNA to change how we diagnose and treat diseases and ultimately find a cure for cancer.

What’s something fun about working at Codex DNA?
People here really like to dress up for Halloween! The team is all in when it comes to having fun, even in the middle of a pandemic. Big props go to the small and mighty People and Culture team, who work tirelessly to ensure a great employee experience.

What was the first thing you ever wanted to be when you grew up?
A vet, because I love animals so much. I still love animals. My wife and I got married at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and a cheetah attended our reception.

How do you see synthetic biology changing the world?
One of the most powerful applications of synthetic biology is the ability to send genetic data across the web and create biological material to fight infectious disease outbreaks halfway around the world. We’re used to seeing this in sci-fi films, but it’s mind-blowing to see that this reality is closer to hand than we imagined. Ultimately, synthetic biology is going to save lives, and may even save our species.

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