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To Attract Talent, Wow them with the Mission

Few geographic locations have the kind of instant association with an industry the way Silicon Valley does for tech companies. Microsoft’s presence in Redmond, Washington and Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle notwithstanding, California’s Silicon Valley includes such heavy-hitters as Apple, Google, and Facebook. The competition among companies for highly skilled employees has led to sky-high salaries for some and a host of fringe benefits like catered meals, on-site services like daycare or dry cleaners, and flexible schedules [1-3].

Earlier this year, I wrote an open letter to the tech industry, targeting students and recent college graduates, to consider healthcare for internships and a career. My reasoning was simple: healthcare offers the opportunity to work on the same methods and platforms that the tech industry does: Big Data, cloud, mobile platforms, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, and more—but with a twist. Healthcare has some of the biggest, most complex challenges facing any industry today. Those big problems come with tremendous opportunities to make a real difference for everyone from patients to doctors to researchers. As tech companies, including Apple, Amazon, and Google, make inroads into the healthcare market and health services, the competition for employees is only ratcheting upward.

At the recent AI Applications Summitfor BioPharma, I spoke with top business leaders in the field who shared with me their thoughts on attracting (and keeping) the talent needed for these highly specialized companies. In my MoneyBall Medicine Podcast Special AI Summit Series, these leaders discussed the challenges associated with luring top talent to a startup or small biotech, in and out of Silicon Valley, when competing with giants like Facebook and Google. They described the importance of having staff who understand the complexities of biology and employees who can straddle both the tech and lab worlds. Although their companies have very different business models and goals, their CEOs consistently pointed to having a unique mission—using cutting edge technology to transform some aspect of healthcare and pharma, relationship-building, and always being open to talent, even if you’re not quite ready for the position, as ways to attract top talent to their companies in the face of fierce competition.

In this special MoneyBall Medicine Podcast Series from the AI Applications Summit, I speak with Andrew Radin, co-founder and CEO of twoXAR, Ron Alfa, Vice President of Discovery and Product at Recursion Pharma, Guido Lanza, President and CEO of Numerate,Wout Brusselaers, CEO and founder of Deep6.AI, Shrujal Baxi, medical director of Flatiron Health, and Milind Kamkolkar, Chief Data Officer at Sanofi. We discuss a variety of topics, from finding talent to new business models and their predictions for where AI is leading us.

  1. Thurm, S. 2018.Who Pays the Most, and Least, In Silicon Valley?. Wired.
  2. Stangel, L. 2013.Only in Silicon Valley: 10 employee perks other U.S. workers don’t get. Silicon Valley Business Journal.
  3. The Economist. 2016Tech firms shell out to hire and hoard talent.