In Meet Our Expert you will get to meet the talented people behind Cergentis' success on a personal level. In this interview, Beatriz recounts a cheeky, playful and curious-minded younger self, opens up about what brought her to the Netherlands and how she experienced Cergentis' transitional period!
How were you as a kid?
I grew up in Portugal, in a really small town called Vale de Cambra. There weren’t a lot of kids around, so I was mostly by myself! However, my cousins used to live nearby and are also around my age. So, I was always very close to my family growing up. I also have a younger sister and a younger brother. Me and my sister are 5 years apart and there are 9 years between my brother and I. We were quite similar in that we all shared a brain to annoy and play practical jokes on our grandma! [laughs]
What influenced you to study science?
I was always curious and interested in everything. In whatever I could learn and do. As for science, I think I just wanted to choose something that would require in-person learning and not a subject that you could simply learn by picking up a book. What I like about science, over maybe philosophy or psychology, is that it isn’t subjected to point-of-views but that there is an underlying scientific reasoning behind solving the “why's”.
What made you pick biology?
In 12th grade, we had to choose what we wanted to go for at university. At the time, I was interested in genetics. So, my university choices in Portugal were based on the ones that offered genetics studies. I ended up at Porto University because I felt they had the better curriculum. Interestingly though, I kind of fell in love with microbiology afterwards!
For me, growing up, it was never really about worrying what job I would be doing later in life or working towards that one set dream or having a defined end-goal. I’m motivated by doing things that I really like, making sure that I’m learning something new every day and that I don’t get bored. And being in the lab is something I really like! I believe that if you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll be able to do it for a longer time.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your previous work experience?
After my studies, I was looking to get more lab experience. I had the chance to do it in a lab that was kind of halfway between academia and industry. I did that for a couple of years, got involved in different projects and even got the chance to work in 2 completely different fields: occupational health and air quality. But I also got to work on malaria for about a year! That was a complete shift, which involved genetic engineering. I ended up liking it very much! At the time, I also helped writing grants. By the time I was working on the second one, I saw an advertisement about an opportunity to come work here in the Netherlands and do COVID testing. It came at a good time, at a point when I was considering working away from home for some time. I was interested in the experience of living abroad. That's when I came to the Netherlands the first time.
It seems that purpose is the main driver for your career!
At the end of my second grant I was actually offered the possibility to stay and do my PhD at Universidade do Minho. But I wasn't very passionate about the project, so I didn’t want to commit to 4 more years. Like I said earlier, I was ready for a new challenge and this COVID testing opportunity in the Netherlands seemed interesting. However, that doesn’t mean that I would not ever go back to research or academia in the future! But as I said, I like to do different things. So, when this opportunity at Cergentis later presented itself, it seemed very interesting to me!
How big of a contrast is life in the Netherlands compared to Portugal?
You can’t prepare yourself! The weather here is impossible! [laughs] Especially, if you come in January, it’s so cold! But having lived here for a year now, although completely different from Portugal, I do like it! I think the work culture is good. But to be fair, I also don’t really have a good comparison, because I had only worked in academia before. With that said, I think the work culture in the Netherlands is rather easy going.
What attracted you to Cergentis?
During the interview process, I had the chance to speak with some of the Service Team members and it gave me the impression of a fun team! Personally, as I was going to start a job in a commercial environment for the first time, it really helped me to start in a smaller team. Indeed, the smaller-scale environment, I thought, would help make the transition feel a bit less of a shock.
Can you describe your responsibilities?
I’m a Technician and I’m part of the Service Team. My responsibilities include receiving and processing incoming samples, performing the TLA protocol in the lab, and then place those processed samples in the sequencer.
You joined us at a rather interesting time! Can you tell about that transitional period for the company?
When I joined, Cergentis had just officially been accredited with ISO 17025:2017. That was a big achievement for the company. It demonstrates that our genetic QC services are operated at a high-quality standard!
I remember my first day. Maya and Helen had also just started. From then on, we had more and more new colleagues joining. I like that Cergentis is expanding. It’s nice to meet all these new and talented people!
The number of incoming samples have also been significantly increasing over the last years. That obviously led to the expansion of the Service Team. As a result, there was an interest from Cergentis to receive adequate Lean Management Training, to ensure the smooth flow of operations. Since then, we have systematically applied this new approach. In fact, we recently completed the yellow belt! It was interesting to follow those classes and see how they can help you and your team adapt to various situations. It definitely changes your perception of work: how you work, how you work as a team, etc. As someone who had never worked in a company before, it was good to see how companies handle operational processes.
The Service Team recently introduced a “stress level” check as part of your meetings. How beneficial is this addition?
We used to do stress management trainings only once a week. But we do it daily now, during our meetings. That’s actually very helpful, I’d recommend it to anyone who is working with a big team! It truly helps reduce, cope, and manage stress in the workplace. It keeps things between the lab people and the analysis team coordinated. It allows to stay on top of important tasks, in terms of providing everything that might be necessary in case something goes wrong, in case people are overwhelmed with work or something. It really is helpful and applicable to any kind of work!
How would you describe Cergentis’ culture?
It feels like a team here! Everyone works well together and is very comfortable around one another. That’s something I find very important, especially if you have to work with different teams or departments. Here, it feels like everyone gets along. I already had that impression during my interview rounds. Back then, it felt like people at Cergentis care about one another and that the teams get along.
Solvias recently acquired Cergentis. How excited are you about this important development?
It’s good that we get to grow and that a company like Solvias sees the value of our services and products. It’s definitely exciting to be part of something bigger! I think new business and professional growth opportunities will come with this acquisition. And as someone who always likes learning new things and doing more, I’m excited at that prospect!
Outside work, what are your favorite pastimes?
I like to hang out with my friends. But I also like to read, go to the movies, go to concerts, etc. A lot of things actually!