The groups and companies that we interact with in our field have 3 main functions:
2. Generate data
3. Market and sell those date (internally or externally)
As an example, if you are a genome sequencing company: You probably have a unique technology that offers your customers some level of differentiation. You either have or are working on a way to process samples in large numbers or improve the reproducibility of your data generation. You have some way of projecting your services or sell your data internally or externally. All three of these functions are dependent on each other at the same time often being very unique. Keep in mind that every company is different, CORE Facilities, HTS Groups, Cell Culture Automation and many others often share these three functions.
Innovation and Marketing are important and are both being saved for another blog.
Why is generating data separate from the 2? It requires a very unique set of skills. The individuals that I have met over the years who excel in automation, have a unique blend of life science, computer science and most importantly… a systematic approach to process establishment and optimization. This blended person is who we refer to as the Automation Guy. ***I say guy, but in a lot of cases this is a lady! ‘Guy’ is my gender-neutral term. J***
I was down in San Diego last week and had a chance to meet an automaton guy at a quickly growing company. He knew the science, the environment he was working in (rapidly growing), the fundamental understanding that breaking complex processes into bite-sized-chunks allows people outside of the lab a chance to better understand what is going on, and most importantly, he knew how critical to his company’s success his role was. He respected the responsibility.
We got to talking about risk assessments and what experiences got me to where I am in my life. One of the bigger risks with companies big or small, is their dependence on this automation guy. They are the gatekeepers to building complex processes, keeping them generating data and fixing them when they break….. They ALL break at some point. Most outsiders understand part of the job, but very few understand all that goes into it. That lack of understanding can lead to a lack of respect for the role.
It became almost comical talking about the importance of projecting your own worth to your coworkers. It sounds self-promoting for someone to explain how much of the data that is being generated is critically dependent on 1 or 2 people in a company (or department). This is not to seek promotions or raises, but to properly factor in the risk as attrition is a reality.
I respect that Innovators and Marketers are important. Innovation tends to be upfront in the efforts and the marketing tends to follow established sales and marketing practices…. But they are also important…. A blog for another day.
To distill my thought here, think about the leader of automation in your organization or department. Think about how big of a mess it would be if she or he left or had to quit. It is a bigger risk than most companies big or small realize.
Great automation guys are few and far between.