Black History Month Q&A with Rachel Brunson

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of Black and African Americans’ accomplishments and a time for appreciating their critical contributions to U.S. history. To mark the occasion, we are featuring some of our Black and African American employees at Sema4. In the second Q&A of our series, Rachel Brunson, Manager of Inside Sales in Sema4’s Customer Excellence Department, explains why she celebrates Black history every day of the year and how Sema4’s mission resonates with her on a personal level.

  • 1. What is your role at Sema4?
  • I was recently promoted to Manager of Inside Sales for the East Coast. My role involves working with field sales management on the execution of account and sales strategies. I lead an amazing team, which was responsible for pushing through Sema4’s saliva kit initiative to allow patients to collect their test samples at home. We also reach out to patients to help them send their kits back and coordinate mobile phlebotomy, again giving patients extra options for getting tested. Another aspect of my job is working closely with healthcare offices so that things can run seamlessly through our labs. Finally, I help to facilitate a positive customer experiences by coordinating across multiple Sema4 departments to implement best practices.

  • 2. What motivates you to work at Sema4?
  • Both of my parents, and other family members, were impacted by cancer, and I lost my father to cancer in 2016. Sema4’s mission to empower patients with sophisticated genomic testing and help patients understand data on themselves really struck a chord. It was a key factor in me deciding to come to Sema4. I’ve been with the company since the start, nearly four years now, and it’s just astounding everything the company has accomplished. It’s great to be a part of this mission. It means a lot to help patients understand what’s going on and how they can improve their health trajectory and life.

  • 3. What does Black History Month mean to you?
  • For me, I celebrate it 365 days a year! The month of February, though, encompasses the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, who played a prominent role in shaping black history. I like looking at the true meaning and origins of black history, starting with Carter G. Woodson, because I truly want to understand it, including my own family history. I spend time educating myself and my kids about the civil rights movement and where we are today. We have 400 years of black people being oppressed to look back on, so this needs to be ongoing learning, not just one month. As the great poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou stated, “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”

  • 4. Can you tell us more about Sema4’s Diversity & Inclusion Council and your role on it?
  • I am so excited to be involved! The Council evolved from the roundtable that Eric Schadt, our CEO, hosted, at which I shared my experiences at Sema4. We want to look at policies to make Sema4 an even more inclusive place and to help ensure the voices of people across the company are being heard. It can be hard for any employee to bring their best self to work if they’re underestimated for being a person of color. Ultimately, I want to help drive programs that will be building blocks for Sema4’s organizational change.

  • 5. Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired you?
  • My whole family has inspired me. They migrated up from the South to start a better life for us, and my parents enabled me to achieve my goals. My mother and father set me on the trajectory I’ve been upon to make sure I’ve had the best education and helped push me to greatness. They taught me that the aim in life is to always push your limitations.

  • 6. What barriers have you had to overcome to reach this point in your career?
  • I’ve had to start from the bottom. I always wanted to be the best and looked at each job as a learning opportunity. There’s always been a progression to get to the end goal. I started as an accessioner, which began my foundation for understanding how a lab works. Once I became an Inside Sales Manager a few years ago, I thought that may be the end, but I realized that I don’t have to limit myself. So, I went and got my MBA, and now I lead a team and continually put in hard work daily so that excellence will continue to follow me!