It’s not often you hear someone in the workplace say they’re hoping to change the world.
But at Tempus, it’s the norm.
With a data-first mentality, Tempus hopes to improve outcomes in the health care sector by collecting and pipelining a library of clinical and molecular data, and then shepherding it through a machine learning platform to help physicians draw insights for cancer patients across the country — including at premier hospital networks like the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic.
We spoke with Tempus team members from the design, product and engineering teams about how collaboration, when combined with a passion for health care, is changing patients’ lives.
EMPLOYEES: 500-plus nationally; 400 locally
WHAT THEY DO: Tempus is a technology company that’s built both the world’s largest library of clinical and molecular data and an operating system to make that data accessible and actionable at the point of care.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Chicago
CUP RUNNETH OVER: On top of several other notable perks, like unlimited vacation, Tempus has an in-house barista for any kind of caffeine fix.
Alissa Ampezzan, Director of Design
The designers who work on the engineering product pods that build Tempus’s software applications fall under the purview of Alissa Ampezzan, whose work extends to both internal and external teams.
BEYOND WORK: Alissa is currently on a trek to conquer Netflix, but when she’s not watching everything under the sun, she’s traveling or catching a live show at Thalia Hall.
What about Tempus made you want to join the company?
Hands down, the mission. Prior to Tempus, I worked at Civis Analytics where the CEO was asked to deliver a recommendation to then-Vice President Joe Biden on the role of data science in the Cancer Moonshot project. In that report, the Civis team recommended building a comprehensive, un-siloed dataset of all cancer patients and the technology tools to analyze it. A few months later, I met the Tempus team and found they were doing exactly that. It’s the closest thing to fate I’ve ever experienced.
Tempus is a data-driven company. How does data impact or drive the work your team does?
I get this question a lot, and it’s my favorite. Sometimes people assume designers are the opposite of data-driven. We’re emotional, creative artists, right? Wrong. I’m so proud of the team’s grounding in practicality. That’s probably not something you hear from a lot of design leaders, but I really am. Nothing annoys me more than futile arguments over assumptions about users. Bring the data, even if it’s not always perfect.
The professional growth opportunities here are infinite, but the greatest opportunity has been hearing stories from patients who are still alive today because of their Tempus results.”
Tempus has grown rapidly since you joined the team in April 2017. What challenges and opportunities has this growth presented you and your team?
It’s definitely exciting in a “How much did I sleep last night?” kind of way. Our team alone has gone from two to eight employees in that year and a half. It certainly keeps us on our toes, and the biggest challenge and opportunity is continuing to find great people to join us. The professional growth opportunities here are infinite, but the greatest opportunity has been hearing stories from patients who are still alive today because of their Tempus results. Each one of those gives me goosebumps – that will never get old.
Hailey Lefkofsky, Product Lead
With a focus on data platforms and analytical tools, Hailey is helping to build products and tools that make it easier for Tempus’s partners to draw insights from clinical, molecular, treatment and outcomes data.
BEYOND WORK: When Hailey isn’t at the office, she’s stringing her racket and looking for an open court to play tennis.
As a mission-driven company, what about Tempus appeals to you, and did it influence your decision to join the team at all?
It’s easy to feel motivated when our mission is to improve treatment options for patients and their families. I’m particularly motivated by the way that Tempus approaches this problem – we’re revolutionizing the healthcare industry by bringing big data to the forefront of everyday practice. By empowering physicians with analytical tools, they are able to make data-driven treatment decisions to increase the likelihood that their patient responds positively.
This team dynamic has fostered an open learning environment and encourages people to ask questions, challenge the status quo and feel supported by their peers.”
There’s a greater team variety at Tempus compared to most tech companies. What’s it like working with all these different stakeholders to build products?
We structure teams in a way that ensures members are dependent on one another. This requires intense collaboration and trust in each team member to guarantee product success. It also means that no one is ever truly the smartest person in the room. Rather, you bring a unique intellect and perspective that others can learn from in the same way that you can benefit from your teammates’ background. This team dynamic has fostered an open learning environment and encourages people to ask questions, challenge the status quo and feel supported by their peers.
You’ve been at Tempus since the summer of 2016. What about the company’s evolution has excited you the most?
We’ve grown rapidly, but we’ve grown in a really smart way. Despite having hundreds of co-workers, I think we’re still lean and teams have maintained their nimbleness. Most importantly, we still set priorities based on what will be most impactful to patient care.
Isaiah Simpson, Software Architect
As the lead for software engineering teams that support the molecular analysis pipeline and reporting tools for Tempus’s genomic sequencing products, Isaiah is responsible for overall system architecture and ensuring engineers are working efficiently with science and operations teams.
BEYOND WORK: If the weather is good, you’ll find Isaiah biking to work or on a trail during the weekends. Isaiah is also learning the mandolin, sparked by his interest in folk music.
What about Tempus appealed to you, and did it influence your decision to join the team?
As a software engineer, I believe Tempus’s mission and approach is one of the best ways I can contribute to society. I was really looking forward to building something that will be very meaningful to people and to solving some problems that haven’t gotten enough attention from technologists — problems that urgently need solving.
The other thing that attracted me to Tempus was the opportunity to work for an early-stage startup again. Tempus was at about 40 employees back then, and the engineering team was still small. The chance to help build a company like this from the ground up was very appealing to me. We’re quite a bit bigger now, but in many ways I feel like we’re still just getting started.
What is your team’s approach to keeping an eye on new technologies and incorporating them into projects or products?
Tempus has a lot of engineers who are deeply interested in particular areas of technology and tend to follow, and contribute to, developments in their fields closely. This naturally leads us to consider new technologies and approaches on a more or less continuous basis.
On my team, one area of focus right now is scaling batch processing workflows and finding ways to effectively decouple and leverage modular, decentralized systems. So, we’re ramping up our use of Lambdas and other “serverless” products from AWS, as well as workflow orchestration platforms like Apache Airflow. These technologies are helping us accomplish more and move faster than we otherwise could.
No single person has everything needed to be successful in this space, so we lean on each other’s strengths.”
Can you describe someone who would be ideal working alongside you at Tempus?
I love working with people who are excited and passionate about what they do and really enjoy it. Life at Tempus is challenging; we’re constantly trying to solve problems that don’t have established solutions, so it can be daunting and frustrating at times. Being surrounded by people who are so engaged in their work is a big part of what makes Tempus special, and it’s definitely what I look for in our recruiting.
By necessity, we’re all learning a lot as we go, much of it from each other. So, it is vital that everyone is confident in their abilities — even if they’re doing something new — yet have have the humility to learn from their colleagues. You also have to recognize that everyone you work with is in the same position: we’re all stretching ourselves. No single person has everything needed to be successful in this space, so we lean on each other’s strengths.