Before anything else, values come first. Without clear, shared values, we wander independently and contradict one another. Everything’s harder when we all believe different things about what’s important to us, our company.
Primarily, what we value in the company is to:
Be a great colleague Treat others how you wish to be treated (hopefully you’re not a workplace masochist if you’re reading this). Also can be paraphrased as the ever relevant “don’t be a dick”. As simple as.
Be honest Honesty is extremely important, so is constructive candor: in other words, say what you think at all times but with positive intent. This applies to everyone, your team members, project coordinators, and, even more, your manager, if you have one. We want to create an environment where everyone feels like they can openly voice their opinions and give and receive feedback rather than build resentment. If you “only say about someone what you will say to their face”, we believe this positive transparency can help do away with most office “politics” and contructive feedback will empower the team to kick ass even more.
We offer flexible hours, thus everybody is in charge of their own time management, so trustworthiness is also important when it comes to time reporting. We all like to do a bit of surfing on the GoT or Avengers subreddit (no spoilers) to clear our minds but being honest and transparent about working hours for example if you are a contractor or an employee is an example of how this is paramount. We do not ask our contractors and employees to use time trackers because we hold everybody to high standards and we want to be able to trust them, as they should be able to trust their colleagues. We expect honesty and rely on each other to deliver great software to our clients. We believe in second chances but once trust is broken, it’s a lot of unnecessary work to go back from that.
Levelheadedness We should be calm, considerate, and thoughtful in our dealings with each other and the world at large. We don’t act out of spite, we don’t rush to judgment, we don’t jump to conclusions. If someone disagrees with us or attacks us we listen, we think, and we respond calmly and clearly - directly addressing the idea or the situation, not the personality or the pressure. It’s ok, and in fact a great quality, to be able to admit you were wrong if you realize you were.
Generosity. Generosity is a wonderful virtue. Being generous is surprising someone on the other end with goodwill and asking for nothing in return. It could be time, attention, or treasure - we give what we’re expected to, and then some.
Take responsibility Nothing is more valuable to a team than somebody who can step up and take responsiblity for their tasks as a developer for the project as a project manager, and so on. We all need to be “worrying” in a positive way about project success. If nobody worries about things making sense and working as intended and blindy doing your part the project will fail, we have all seen it happen. If we all “worry” for the software we produce in the parts we take responsiblity for then, the output will be easily a 1000 times stronger compared to just doing “our bit”.
Care about excellence Every single line of code we write is important. Every single communication with a client is a direct reflection of the company. Sure, sometimes we have to cut corners, but we need to do so knowingly and know where the skeletons are buried so that we can go back, document it and/or clean things up when possible.
Independence. This one’s a bit of a contradiction. After speaking about shared values, here’s one that breaks away: Independence. We encourage independent thought and original thinking. Since day one, we’ve always done things our way. We don’t look to the industry or our competitors for the way forward. We see things with our own eyes, make our own calls, and offer thoughts, perspectives, ideas, and products that we think are right, not that they think are right.
Be fair What’s fair? We all have to use our best judgment, and everyone’s judgment varies, but a good rule of thumb is “what would you do for a friend or a neighbor if they asked for help?” An example might be providing a bug fix even if it’s a little outside the scope of the contract. Or being someone who says ‘Sure we can do that for you’ when a customer expected you to say ‘sorry, we can’t.’ If the request is reasonable, grant it. At the same time, saying no is sometimes the right thing! If that’s the case, don’t feel badly about it.
Building research software in academia is often a struggle. Hiring experienced developers with the right expertise for short or medium length grants is tough, sometimes students will write the software as part of their masters or PhD and they have to learn how to code while the try to answer meaningful scientific questions at the same time.
Incorporating cutting edge ideas coming from research labs into the industry is also very hard, companies lag up to 10 years behind compared to what forefront scientists are developing. Big organizations seldom have an easy time innovating, challenging and changing the way “things are done around here”.
This is where MetaCell comes in with its scientific translational approach. We develop industry standard neuroscience research software with our academic clients, often open source, and bring those same ideas and standards to pharma and the life sciences industry in general. MetaCell applications and services advance the understanding of the brain, ultimately helping our clients make the most of their neuroscience data and models.
We find ourselves building software in two main ways. One is helping other organization solve their problems by deeply understanding their problem space, working to define the ideal solution with them, and then building it for them. This is our service contract business and has been MetaCell’s bread and butter since 2011.
The second way we build software is potentially even more impactful. We build our own software products and improve them without experience from helping organizations do more with their neuroscience data. In this path, we offer an off the shelf license based solution to our clients and potentially customize it with their specific needs. This is much cheaper than rebuilding everything from scratch, because we are not reinventing the wheel every time - only when a better wheel is needed.
These two approaches go hand in hand. By solving new problems with our service contracts, we gain the capital to re-invest in MetaCell to build our own products based on our own vision to help our customers, so next time that same problem comes up we have a solution ready to use.
Our academic software propels scientists towards new discoveries. When our academic partners and clients come to us with an idea that will unlock new computational experiments that’s when we really get excited, because we know we are accelerating brain science in a sustainable way.
In the same way, our industry clients and partners might be sitting on a goldmine in the form of a ton of data from clinical trials that’s sitting on some dusty hard drives in a padlocked room. We take pride and joy helping our clients unlock the potential of this data with our neuroscience data intelligence off the shelf solutions and custom builds, so they can make new drugs or life sciences products more efficiently.