It’s not every day that you get to see the CEO and CSO of your company dressed up like Princess Leia and Darth Maul of Star Wars fame, especially if you happen to work at a startup on a mission to eradicate cancer. Biotech companies have a reputation as serious places that do serious work, and all-too-often this single-minded focus on the technology comes at the expense of having any fun.
But Earli’s founders have always believed that solving some of the hardest problems in biology requires building a company where creativity and free expression are encouraged and rewarded. Which is how Cyriac Roeding and David Suhy ended up marching into Earli’s office to the tune of the Star Wars theme with their lightsabers in tow to kick off Earli’s Halloween celebration—which, true to name, happened a couple of days earlier than October 31.
“One of our core values at Earli is ‘Work Hard, Play Hard,’ because it's also about the journey, not just the destination,” says Roeding. “The journey we’re on is not easy–in fact, it’s incredibly hard–and that means Earli attracts scientists who want to crack an important, hard problem. But it’s important to do it with people you enjoy, people you admire, and people you trust.”
From the beginning, Earli has focused on building a company where everyone feels they’re part of a community instead of “an employee.” One way that Earli has accomplished this is by fostering a culture where people feel comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone, trying new things, and expressing their creativity.
This commitment to individual expression was on full display for Earli’s costume contest, which featured many costumes that were entirely homemade. For the contest, each Earli pod—including the Delivery team, In Vivo team, Reporter team, and Synthetic Gene Regulation team—picked a theme and went all in on their costume designs. There was a Men in Black team, a Dr. Seuss team, a Star Wars team, and many others.
Of all the impressive costumes created by the Earli teams, however, the llama pinata made by Adja Rojc stole the show. Rojc, who had previously wowed the Earli team over lunch by teaching the team how to sew a sweater, made the entire costume from scratch, demonstrating an immense creativity that also shines through in her lab work. When she’s not making sweaters and llama costumes, Associate Scientist Rojc is involved with creating patient-derived cancer cell lines known as PDX models, a complex task that benefits from her attention to detail.
The llama was strolling through the office and lab, looking upbeat and happy to experience a day at Earli.
The highlight of the Earli Halloween celebration was a scavenger hunt designed by Earli’s “Kulture Kommittee'' led by “Kulture Kween” Shereen Asad and Senior Scientist Dariusz Wodziak (aka tongue-in-cheek as Chief Culture Officer at Earli). Much like how Earli’s work on synthetic biopsy requires a tremendous amount of sleuthing in the lab, the scavenger hunt required each team to follow clues hidden throughout Earli’s campus using a treasure map. Each clue led the team to a digit that when combined in the right order produced a GPS coordinate that ultimately led back to Earli’s HQ.
Once all the teams had completed the scavenger hunt and made it back to Earli’s office, they assembled for a costume contest that was judged by two mystery guests on Zoom and one dancing Rhino. Each team did their best to impress the mysterious jury, who ultimately chose Rojc’s llama as the winning costume before revealing their true identities. The dancing rhino was Al Park, Earli’s Head of Bioinformatics calling in from Boston, and the other two judges were former staff scientist Hadley Hanson and Bijee George, Earli’s previous head of manufacturing.
“Hadley and Bijee are two beloved former Earli members who are still cultural icons for us,” says Roeding. “We also like to celebrate people who are no longer active at the company because once you’re part of the Earli community, you can always be part of the Earli community. That’s what this culture stands for.”