My name is Eric Reckase, and I am a senior software engineer at ArcherDX. Nearly three years ago I was fortunate enough to restart my career, switch domains entirely, and join a team of the hardest working scientists and engineers I've encountered in my 20 years in the industry. As that anniversary approaches, I've been reflecting on the long and twisty path that I took to get here, and why I hope to be working at ArcherDX for many years to come.
In 1995, I recieved a dual Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Electrical Engineering from New Mexico Tech in Socorro, New Mexico. During my final year of college, I really had no idea what I was going to do with my life after graduation, but at the time, graduate school never even occured to me - I was ready to go out into the world and get a job. A single recruiting event later and I was suddenly a defense contractor pulling down a decent paycheck, and I remained a defense contractor for one company or another for the 10+ years, moving back and forth from the Boulder area to the Albuquerque area a few times.
The first turn of events that led to my working at ArcherDX happened in 2005, when my third son was born. Just a few days after birth, we learned that he had moderate congenital hearing loss in both ears. After the initial shock wore off, I had to figure out how we were going to pay for the hardware he would require. I decided to write a letter to the head of Human Resources of my employer at the time, asking for some extended healthcare coverage that could cover my son's significant medical expenses. The letter I received back changed the course of my career; I was basicaly told that it was not in the best financial interests of the stakeholders to provide that level of insurance to their employees. And I thought, "Do I really want to work for a company that feels this way about their employees?"
That's when I resolved to switch careers and leave defense behind. I wanted to work for a company that not only valued their employees, but also a company that was involved in a noble cause. So I immediately started searching for the job I was meant to have.
However, my search took eight more years.
Luckily, in 2013, I was contacted by a recruiter about a position at a company called Enzymatics. Enzymatics had just just purchased a startup in Boulder called ArcherDX; ArcherDX was experimenting with a novel approach for identifying cancer-causing gene fusions, and they were looking for bioinformaticians and software engineers to help them develop the algorithms to process the new data. I was intrigued, but other than my undergraduate Biology and Botany courses, I had little to no knowledge about genetics, let alone the genetics of cancer diagnosis and treatment. I was almost 20 years into my career... how could I possibly convince this company that I could completely change domains, and change fast enough to not hold them back? I decided that no matter how long the shot, it was worth a shot, and so I applied. I started devouring articles on genetics and cancer, on file formats and sequencing technology, and became more and more determined to get the job.
I was informed by the recruiter that the CEO of the company, Jason Myers, wanted to have a 30 minute chat with me to determine whether or not it was worth bringing me in for an in-person interview. That afternoon, when he called, I told him the same story that I've related in these paragraphs: how I wanted to get out of defense and into something more morally defensible, something smaller and more focused, something that did something tangible for society rather than making yet another widget. That 30 minute call turned into over an hour, and I found out in the next few days that I was being brought in.
It's a miracle I survived the interview process. Rather than underline my strengths and my passions, I spent half of the interview ranting about my previous employers, highlighting why they were terrible places to work and how unhappy I had been for years - This was a pure newbie mistake, borne out of excitement, but still a potentially fatal one. I was given a coding task to perform to prove that I was capable of contributing to the team, and so I made that my primary goal for the next few days... and the work paid off. I started my new job, and entirely new career, in October 2013, as employee #11.
It's now been three years into this bioinformatic journey, and I'm starting to become a fairly capable bioinformatician. ArcherDX has supported me taking online courses to enrich the knowledge that my coworkers share with me on a daily basis, and I've learned more about good software development since I started here than I learned in all of my previous employment.
I work at ArcherDX because there is little more noble than trying to improve the quality of life of those suffering from fatal diseases. Because our teams don't take anything personally, and our work is always a learning experience (which is massively refreshing after years of resistance to change). Because ArcherDX realizes the value of giving employees everything they need to be able to do their job effectively; this doesn't just mean computer or lab hardware, but also socialization opportunities, support for continuing education, and customized workspaces. And, because after 15 years of working in classified spaces, sometimes below ground, having a window facing the Boulder Flatirons is almost reason enough to come to the office.
2477 55th Street, Suite 202
Boulder, CO 80301