Anne Wojcicki always followed her interests. From sneaking into figure skating rinks as a kid, to taking her interest in genetics to the next level and co-founding the genetics company 23andMe, Anne told us how she’s built her career off curiosity. And as 23andMe has faced challenges from regulators and privacy advocates over the years, Anne had to dig into her passion even more to boost morale.
On Talking to Haters
Anne: I had one consultant who wrote me a letter saying essentially, “You're the bottom of the barrel. Nothing would ever inspire me to work with you.” And I was like, “Oh, you know, I think we have a misunderstanding. It would be great to chat.” And there's a genetic counselor recently who, who also was just very negative…. That's how you grow as a person. That's also going back to my academic roots. What's interesting is the debate and engaging with people who not necessarily love you, but engaging with the people who don't and what am I missing?
What can I learn? And…that's also how we make progress. Like we routinely win, try to win people over. There's lots of established academics who really did not like us in those early days, but by reaching out to them and engaging in dialogue, we've been able to, you know, win them over.
On Working Through Setbacks
Anne: The FDA stuff, I think about it all the time, because it had such a huge impact on the company…. It was a total pivot for us because we had to go back and rebuild the entire product. And there’s a lot of things that were an amazing process, and it definitely has made us a much stronger company and a much stronger product. But those days were super hard. I mean, I had no head of regulatory, my head of communications left pretty quickly. It was hard and I think that fundamentally what saved the company was, you know, what I say is one of our core values, which is we lead with science.
....I think that people stayed at the company because… there is that belief, like now we're fighting an even bigger fight and we believe in the science that we do. We stand by it. And we're going to prove it to you now that it was right.
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