Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Q&A with Xiang (Sean) Zhou

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, an annual celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islanders’ accomplishments and critical contributions to U.S. history. To mark the occasion, we are featuring several employees at Sema4 discussing their stories of achievements and challenges throughout their journey. In our first Q&A, Xiang (Sean) Zhou, VP of Data Science and Product Development of R&D, shares his perspective on remaining true to your roots, motivating others along the way, and going after your dreams.


What is your role at Sema4?

I lead a team focused on building clinico-genomic databases, specifically our precision oncology database and pan cancer disease database. This means conducting real-world evidence-based research and generating machine learning predictive models in terms of diagnosis and disease progression, building Centrellis® (the Sema4 healthcare insight platform) to deliver the dashboard information back to our healthcare partners. The last component is to facilitate the Sema4 Biopharma data delivery by preparing and delivering all the data to pharma each time a contract is signed between Sema4 and its partners.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

I always want to build something meaningful. Sema4 provides me with the opportunity to realize my dreams, being that it’s a patient-centric company with the mission of improving overall patient care.  I am surrounded by talented and passionate colleagues who share the same vision as me, and I believe that Sema4 is building something that will have a huge impact on healthcare practices and ultimately improve the quality of patient care. I feel lucky and rewarded to be a part of the company.

What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month mean to you?

On one hand, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month serves as a window for people from different backgrounds to better understand Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. On the other hand, it provides an opportunity for Asian Americans to revisit their culture, history, stories, contributions made to society, achievements, needs, and challenges. I hope that through this journey people can learn from each other and discover something new about one another. I also hope that during the re-discovery process, Asian Americans grow fonder and are prouder of their roots.

What challenges have you had to overcome in your career?

I faced many challenges throughout my career with the biggest being getting out of my comfort zone. There are always new things I try to learn from so I can evolve personally and professionally. I encourage myself to face new challenges, and to be open to receive advice and learn from other peoples’ experiences. It is not always a smooth process; however, it is rewarding knowing that it makes me a better person.

What advice would you give to other people who want to pursue a career like yours?

In my early career, my professional background focused on molecular biology and biochemistry. I then went into bioinformatics, computational biology, and biomedical informatics, and shifted my focus towards the data side. I would advise everyone to believe in themselves and to go after their dreams. It is okay to be different. Most importantly, you have to remember that in order to achieve your goals, you have to be willing to fully commit yourself to any career path you choose from and give it 120% so you are defined by your actions and not your words.

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Are you interested in joining the Sema4 team? To find out more about open positions, please visit our Careers page here.