Employee Spotlight: Vicki Toy-Edens, Senior Data Scientist
by Vicki Toy-Edens on September 29, 2020
Our mission at Protenus is to advance the science of healthcare by bringing together creative and skilled individuals who are passionate about the security, usability, and applicability of health data. As this information becomes more voluminous, comprehensive, and, as a consequence, more vulnerable, we are building scalable, insightful solutions that address critical issues preventing the efficient, safe, and effective delivery of patient care.
What's your role at Protenus, and what do you do?
I’m a Senior Data Scientist that looks for underlying signals to detect instances of clinical drug diversion.
What did you go before coming to Protenus?
I received my PhD in astronomy from the University of Maryland, College Park where I worked on building an instrument for a ground-based telescope at NASA Goddard Flight Center to study the earliest stars and galaxies through the brightest explosions in our universe, gamma-ray bursts. For two years after my PhD, I worked at a small retail tech start-up as a hybrid data engineer and data scientist.
What initially attracted you to Protenus?
There was a suspicious amount of good reviews on Glassdoor about how great Protenus was to work for, so I was skeptical going into the interview. However, once I interviewed with my team I realized that those reviews seemed to be true. Everyone was really invested in the company and collegial and I instantly got the feeling that this was THE place for me.
I was really interested in finding meaningful work that I would be proud of and feel that I was making a difference in the world. When I first began looking for a new job, I made a list of things I wanted in my next position and Protenus checked off every single box. After my first week, I could tell that the reviews I found on Glassdoor were legitimate. I knew the team members who wrote them and I was experiencing the same sense of company culture that I had read about before applying.
What's your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is the freedom to research interesting problems while collaborating with my incredibly smart colleagues. It is very reminiscent of academia but it is much more rewarding to see the fruits of my labor come into existence much faster than academia. I can ponder problems and think through different methodologies and then discuss them with my team who always provides amazing feedback. I often find myself coming up with solutions after a walk or I dream about them at night. I think the best kind of work is one that your brain is processing in the background. Not only am I intellectually engaged, I feel like the work is very meaningful and is making the world a better place by trying to identify incidents of drug diversion early so the diverter can get the help they need.
What's the most important thing you've learned since starting at Protenus?
The most important thing I’ve learned since starting at Protenus is how vital a healthy customer feedback loop is. We work closely with our customers to test out new hypotheses and often get new ideas on different ways to approach problems. I’ve seen firsthand how this can spark ideas and trust from both sides of the relationship. It is critical to understand the end user’s workflows in order to form the most useful compliance analytics. Protenus does an excellent job at this.
How has working at Protenus impacted your career?
Working at Protenus has reaffirmed that data science is the right field for me. I have now worked in three wildly different spaces (astronomy, retail, and healthcare) and I find that each has its own nuances and quirks, but all of them have equally fascinating problems to solve. I have learned how to implement and pick out different algorithms that are useful for the particular problem we’re trying to solve at Protenus. Exposure to different problems and different ways of thinking have really expanded my technical skill set.
I’ve also learned that you can maintain a healthy work-life balance while doing the work you love. I have never been more happy and more productive than I am at Protenus.
What has surprised you the most about working at Protenus?
I am most surprised about how quickly I felt at home. As an introvert, it usually takes me a while to feel comfortable in a new environment. However, at Protenus I instantly connected with my team and felt like I had been here forever. I was also really surprised about how transparent the company is top to bottom. During our weekly all-hands meeting we discuss things like: our burndown rate, potential clients, organizational hiccups, and new features in the platform, as well as, personal milestones like new babies, weddings, etc. Protenus is truly a company that cares about its employees and shows it by treating everyone as equals.
In 10 words or less, how would you describe the culture at Protenus?
Caring, collaborative, honest, thoughtful, and family-friendly.
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