About 20 months ago, I left a fantastic job at the Broad Institute to strike out on my own as an independent consultant. At the time, I was nervous. I was pretty sure that I could manage the nuts and bolts of running a small business. I’ve got experience using spreadsheets to track potential customers and to remind me to follow up on invoices. I’ve managed projects, reviewed contracts, and picked up enough negotiation and other critical soft skills to get by.
The big question in my mind was this: Would people would still take me seriously when I wrote from a shared home office or a co-working space in Somerville rather than from a private office on the 11th floor of one of the biggest names in Kendall Square. That was a leap of faith for me. I honestly didn’t know.
Nearly two years in, I’m thrilled to report that it’s working out great.
All of this is because of the amazing professional community of friends, colleagues, vendors, customers, and collaborators that I’ve met and worked with over the years. You folks reading this post made this possible.
You, specifically. Thank you. I’m not going to list all your names, but I recently had a chance to make a picture out of some of your logos:
As Eric Lander frequently says when he speaks in public: “Wow!”
In case you’re wondering, I will probably have a “real job” (paycheck, office, boss) again sometime in the future. Here’s why:
I miss sharing in the mission. One of the hallmarks of a good consultant is that we leave once the need for specialized and time critical services has passed. That leaving is bittersweet. If I do my job right, I get to see client after client outgrow their need for me.
I also miss mentoring, building teams, and working on not just technical efficiency but also on culture, inclusion, fairness, access, and the quality of life. I can give little nudges to these things from the outside, but really making a difference requires time and focus that a consulting engagement usually doesn’t afford.
For all that, I’ve got no plans to rejoin the 9-5 crowd any time soon.
When I left the Broad, I made a deliberate decision to move away from my comfort zone. I didn’t just quit a job, I also moved away from what I already knew and towards what I know to be important in the future. That meant that I set aside perfectly good opportunities to tune up high performance computing systems, and instead spent a summer researching and writing a white paper about Blockchain. I demurred on cloud migrations and dug in to enhance my admittedly basic knowledge of effective, practical information security. I got facile with the language of governance and compliance, and started in on covered entities, HIPAA, and all that jazz.
My goal in all of this was to swim rapidly out of the research shallows, all the way out to the gnarly rapids where data, computing and information intersect with clinical care.
Forget 20 months, I’ve spent nearly 20 years working with genomic data. I want to see what’s holding us back from the long promised genomic medicine revolution, I want to find the very toughest problems, and I want to help solve them.
And really, the core of my gratitude is that I feel like I’m getting a chance to do that.
Thanks to all of you.