…for me the hardest thing has been to accept how as a CEO you can sometimes feel alone. Alone in your decisions, alone with the board but also occasionally alone when you want to go for lunch and realize that nobody has waited for you while you’re busy working. Another thing I wish I had known was how much time I would eventually work and travel. There were weeks where I would sleep overnights at home but take planes daily at 7am, landing back at home near 11pm. I wouldn’t have a chance to say good morning or “sweet dreams” to my daughters
I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Jurgi Camblong, CEO at SOPHiA GENETICS. Dr. Camblong’s goal is to give medical experts Data-Drvien Medicine technology to accelerate the fight against cancer and rare diseases. As an accomplished Molecular Biologist, Camblong’s expertise has been published in Cell, Science & Nature. He is a member of the Advisory Council on Digital Transformation to the Swiss Federal Government and was personally recognized by EY as Emergent Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017. He’s given a number of high-level talks with leading genetic researchers. Working on the frontlines of Data-Driven Medicine applications — an exploding global industry — Jurgi looks to carry a torch that will allow today’s researchers and future generations to learn from and eliminate some of the greatest medical hurdles we currently face.
Thank you so much for joining us Dr. Camblong! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Back in 2011 when we founded the company, we were full of dreams but pretty naive. Having spent enough time in life sciences as academic researchers, it was clear that multi-modal new-generation data and the proper analysis of this information specifically for genomics would completely transform the way people manage cancer and rare disorders.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
We had no clue about how to build an AI platform in the cloud to compute such large amounts of data. Ultimately, what we did was simple. We got in touch with as many hospitals as possible to identify their pains and expectations for computing clinical genomics data. We then developed and trained SOPHiA to face those challenges while ensuring top analytical performance. In addition, we contacted a number of IT service companies who were knowledgeable about the proper amount of terabytes and processors it would take in order to streamline the whole workflow. This exercise educated us on the initial market expectations and available technological solutions in order to maximize product-market fit. So, in a nutshell my main lesson is to go out, listen and learn from the street.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
I think recruiting the right people has been instrumental. Despite already being comfortable in their careers and employment, the first four people who joined the company were brave enough to buy into the vision. They all put in a lot of energy and passion to build the first product and to sign the first contracts. This has been very important, setting the right culture and mindset from within the company. Since then we have been repeating it over the years, recruiting exceptional people who are mission and impact driven. I believe that proper execution is a must to succeed, but at the core the two most important factors leading to success are the vision and the team.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
I am someone who really likes people and team spirit, so for me the hardest thing has been to accept how as a CEO you can sometimes feel alone. Alone in your decisions, alone with the board but also occasionally alone when you want to go for lunch and realize that nobody has waited for you while you’re busy working. Another thing I wish I had known was how much time I would eventually work and travel. There were weeks where I would sleep overnights at home but take planes daily at 7am, landing back at home near 11pm. I wouldn’t have a chance to say good morning or “sweet dreams” to my daughters
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I recommend reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***. I think it perfectly explains how you should only place value on few things for which you definitively want to. You must protect yourself from the rest. I’d also say that it’s important to place family first while trying to find the right balance between work, family and personal hobbies. To give your best and to work intensively you must have that balance.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I think there are many people but my wife would definitively come first. Second, I would probably cite our Chairman. As a CEO you can feel pretty lonely and if the partnership with your Chairman is the right fit, they end up being a coach with whom you can be really honest. In this way you may end up sharing all your worries and frustrations, only to find a path toward solving your problems together.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
Professionally I think that SOPHiA is the beginning of a revolution. My dream is that we will be able to prevent many more cancers. If prevention is not sufficient at the time certain cancers are declared, I hope that we can convert them into manageable diseases that we can live with. Personally, I have a lot of dreams about things I want to explore with my wife and my two daughters.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
My passion and honesty in my relationships.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
This is a tricky one, SOPHiA is already a movement per se. Currently I would not have the required energy level to launch another movement. So, I think I would rather follow others’ movements. I can also be a good follower and there is no leader without followers.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Both on Twitter and Linkedin. @JurgiCamblong @SOPHiAGENETICS
About the author:
Carly Martinetti is a writer and entrepreneur who previously founded two award-winning pet tech companies. She loves to explore the intricacies surrounding what makes a successful business leader, their passions, and motivations to improve the world as we know it.