It is Women’s History Month, which celebrates the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. To mark the occasion, we are featuring some of our female employees at Sema4. In the fourth, and final, Q&A of this series, Kate Bogdanova, a Variant Curator on our all-female somatic variant curation team, discusses her innovative work at Sema4 and the influence of her role models. Read the previous installments of this series by clicking here, here, and here
1. What is your role at Sema4?
I am a variant scientist in the oncology curation team. Variants are changes in the DNA, some of which can increase a person’s chance of developing cancer. I act as a liaison between the Knowledge Base (KB) group and the Reporting Laboratory Directors. The KB group provides expertise on specific cancer types and guidance on which treatments may benefit the patient most based on the variants identified in their tumor’s DNA/RNA. My role is to make sure that all the relevant variants are included in the patient’s report, properly annotated and classified. We also ensure that the report itself is cohesive and scientifically correct, and that recommended trials are appropriate based on the patient’s clinical and family history.
2. What motivates you to work at Sema4?
I really appreciate our innovative approach, from the tests we offer, on both the germline and somatic sides, to the tools that we are developing to support those tests. We provide critical information to our patients and physicians and connect them to Pharma to help them get into a trial or the other way around. I take great pride in the role I play in this extensive process. Our reports may help to identify a misdiagnosis or to verify the suspected diagnosis, which will translate into better risk assessment or treatment options for our patients.
3. Can you tell us about a female role model who has inspired you?
It’s a combination of my grandmother and my mother, both strong individuals, who taught me that I must work towards my goals to achieve them (both in your professional career and personal life). They told me to “find my voice,” “have the courage to say,” and “try again” if I was not heard, which I think are important throughout the journey of becoming a mature individual.
4. What barrier(s) have you had to overcome to reach this point in your career?
Language and foreign degrees. I knew that my last name and degrees from Russia would raise the question in the U.S. of whether I know English and have creditable knowledge. And so, I had to improve my English. Although highly regarded in Russia, both universities that I got my degrees from are not known in the U.S. I knew that I might not be on the “preferred” candidate list, and the hiring manager would have to “take a risk” by inviting me for interview. I believe these are common problems faced by many people immigrating from another country.
5. What advice would you give to other women who want to get into this industry?
Don’t give up, whether it’s securing an interview at the company you’re trying to get into or your dreams in general. If you follow your dreams, you are unstoppable. Failures are a natural part of every process; the persistence will eventually overcome the obstacles._____
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