Q&A with Dr Angelika Fuchs – Global Product Lead for Data Automation at Roche

Each month we have the honor of interviewing WOMEN WHO INSPIRE US. This month we talked to Dr. Angelika Fuchs, Global Product Lead for Data Automation at Roche Pharma Research and Early Development Informatics. With 10 years experience in Research Informatics, a passion for science and human-centric digitalization in drug discovery, Angelika has some great advice to share based on the experiences she made in her industry.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and your current position.

I was always interested in a wide variety of topics especially in the space of science and technology and my education and professional path reflects these different interests I guess. After high school I was eager to do cutting-edge science and therefore started out with a Bachelor and Master degree in Molecular Biotechnology.

During those studies I realized that working in a lab is exciting, but it is not what I wanted to do for the rest of my professional life. So I decided to start a second degree in Computer Science at the Technical University of Munich. Those studies led to a PhD in Bioinformatics, where I could nicely combine my passion and interest for Biology and Informatics.

Since then I am more than 10 years at Roche Pharma Research and Early Development. I started as a scientist, providing and implementing small tools for scientists, helping them with algorithms and data management capabilities.

Afterwards I went through different jobs and roles in the space of research informatics and became especially curious about developing software for larger user communities. I started to lead global informatics projects and was also leading a team of research informatics scientists building and maintaining software for the discovery of new antibody drugs.

Currently, I am the Product Lead for Data Automation. This means that I am looking after the digital strategy and a portfolio of activities with the goal to help scientists capture and process data in an automated fashion.

What has been your toughest challenge you faced while working in tech? What did you learn from it?

Personally, it’s part of what I really like about working in tech that we are regularly faced with often tough challenges and need to find creative solutions for them in our teams. Where I typically struggle is when I have the feeling I have no way of influencing the situation.

Definitely a difficult time was when my son was very little. I joined Roche when he was 7 months old and the daycare situation in Munich was so bad that literally two weeks before my partner’s parental leave would end we didn’t know if our son would get a place. In the end we got lucky and got a place but up to that point I had many sleepless nights.

And even with the daycare in place the first years were very demanding. I guess every full time working couple with small kids can relate but essentially for many years I felt that there are just too few hours in a day to balance family and work.

I was passionate about my job but of course wanted to also be there for my son when he needed me. Additionally, my partner and I had to balance our respective schedules so that one is not forced into the position to always sacrifice for the other. I often felt torn between the different worlds.

Nevertheless, at the same time it was also a very valuable experience because I learned to prioritize relentlessly and to say no. This experience helped me to become very effective and this is something that helps me still today. This is especially important to me as I am working in a very innovative environment and always have to make decisions on where to spend time.

When do you see or feel that your work has the most impact?

We develop software and make it available for our scientists, so they can create and develop innovative drugs. Our software solutions enable scientists to run their experiments in a more effective way or gain insights which were not possible before.

It is always a big moment of joy to see that, together with my colleagues, we can really make a difference in how scientists at Roche work and ideally that again will increase the chance and the speed to successfully bring new medicine to patients. So in the end, I feel that the technology we are developing creates value also to the wider society.

What drives you at work?

I love to try out new things and test ideas which have never been done before. In today’s world, technology and science have an influence on all of our lives and I work exactly in the interface of those two. At the same time I am very lucky because I am working with amazing colleagues who all share this passion for technology and science with me.

In the end what drives me at work is the feeling of creating something in a team of great people that enables the development and discovery of new drugs that can save people’s lives.

The technology we are developing creates value also to the wider society.

– Dr. Angelika Fuchs

Do you have any specific values which guide you? 

For me it is very important that I can be the same person at work and in private life. At Roche our company values are courage, passion and integrity and these are also values which mean a lot to me and guide me in my life.

Being passionate about what you do is the foundation of being successful and simply brings joy to your life. At the same time, life for me is not just about being successful but also about achieving your goals in a sustainable way.

I am always inspired when I see people not only acting in their personal best interest but also considering the impact on people around them. Finally, I believe that you have to be courageous, since it’s important to leave your personal comfort zone from time to time and grow. And even better if you can grow together with others!

What valuable advice did you get that you will never forget?

I personally got a lot of great advice. It is difficult to pinpoint one, but what stuck with me maybe the most is to be truly yourself. Try not to behave how you think others want to have you. Be honest to yourself and speak up if you think something is not going in the right way.

Be brave enough to take responsibilities which might be out of your comfort zone.

– Dr. Angelika Fuchs

What advice would you give to other women in tech?

While women are still underrepresented in tech (hopefully that will continue to change!) I think it is especially important that we ensure that diverse voices are being heard and that the technology of tomorrow is shaped to fit all needs.

So my advice to other women in tech would be: whenever you see an opportunity, speak up and say what you think – no matter if it’s in a small or big round. Don’t hesitate to strive for opportunities and be brave enough to take responsibilities which might be out of your comfort zone!

Be not too critical with yourself, focus on what you can do very well and learn as you go!

We would like to thank Angelika for her invaluable time and for sharing her story and advice with us. We wish you all the best for your future endeveaours. Thank you, Angelika, for being a woman who inspires us! 💛

Author: Nikol Laschan

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