Anna Farne, Senior Software Developer at Inivata tells us more about how her role in software development is helping transforming the lives of cancer patients around the world.

How I became interested in the role of IT in Science

During my first role working as a lab technician I became interested in IT and how it fits into a science and research environment. There were nice software tools for data analysis, LIMS systems for tracking samples through the lab and robots that needed programming. I decided to return to uni and do an MSc in IT so that I could get involved in that side of things. After my MSc I joined the EBI as a database curator where I worked on their archive of gene expression data which contained experiments on everything under the sun, plus the occasional fruit fly in space. As part of the curation team I started writing tools to automate the tedious parts of the job so that we could focus on the interesting bits. From there I went on to work at the Sanger Institute, developing the LIMS system for their stem cell engineering team and working on a genome browser tool to show CRISPR sites across the human and mouse genome.

Applying research to impact the lives of cancer patients

After many years of supporting research in academia it was time to move to a company that was applying this research to directly impact the lives of cancer patients. Inivata was at a very exciting stage, building on research performed at CRUK to produce a commercially available test that would identify actionable mutations in cancers and allow patients to be directed to the most suitable therapies for them. Everyone in the Inivata team was driven by this common goal and over the years we have made this happen. We continue to innovate so there is always more to do! 

Every day is unique at Inivata

A normal day starts with catching up on email. When you work in a company that has sites in both the UK and US a lot can happen overnight. After that there is a quick catch up with my manager when we set priorities for the day and decide how to deal with anything urgent that has come up. The nature of the work for the day will depend on where we are in our software development cycle. At the start of the development cycle I’ll be getting to grips with the user requirements and starting to plan the architecture of the systems needed to support them. Next it is into implementation when days are spent coding, mostly in python. Then we move on to user testing, making changes based on user feedback and fixing any bugs that have made it this far. Finally, there are release days when we transfer all our work into the company’s production systems – these can be a bit challenging but with the support of our DevOps teams’ things usually go smoothly.

My top tips for anyone considering joining a small company like ours!

Be prepared to wear a lot of different hats! In a small company there isn’t always a dedicated team to gather user requirements, or write documentation, or decide what type of servers you need, so you have to be prepared to learn new things and work independently. Inivata is growing and gaining staff with more and more expertise. There are still lots of opportunities to put on a new hat and learn a new skill. Join us!

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