“Right now, working in DIS is my dream job.”

After earning her master’s in data science, Alma Lopez was eager to find a new industry where she could put her knowledge to use.

“I need challenges,” she says. “I need something new.”

Alma had worked in software development for years and wanted to combine that experience with her new degree. She quickly realized that the healthcare industry had a wealth of untapped information that could benefit from her unique mix of technical knowledge and a background in data.

But with no direct experience in the industry, she was nervous to join Roche at first. What would she be expected to know on her first day? What about in the middle of a project? She knew she couldn’t just sit down with a medical textbook when major decisions had to be made.

Alma was joining the Diagnostics Information Solutions (DIS) team just as it was launching two years ago. The new software division saw value in her experience and was willing to get her up to speed. Her training included oncology concepts and the latest research findings to learn about the domain. Plus, she’d have ongoing communication with healthcare scientists to help understand rising needs and information.

Now, Alma recognizes just how much the healthcare industry means to her. Doing work that eventually helps solve problems which impact patients’ lives gives her a renewed purpose in her career.

“You see how many people are affected by cancer or hear stories from friends or family,” she says. “It’s valuable to me to be able to make things happen.”

DIS is different

Alma likes to describe the DIS team as a start-up inside a large company.

The work they do in personalized healthcare is motivating for her. With a digital revolution in the industry, Roche is able to leverage technology and machine learning algorithms.

But feeling like a start-up goes beyond just the job description.

“Compared to other companies where I worked before, the mentality here is different,” she explains. “Team members are willing to go the extra mile to meet our goals.”

What could easily feel corporate, instead seems more like a family to Alma. It helps that Roche promotes so many family events, like summer picnics and movie outings. Everyone gets a chance to know each other better.

Breaking down barriers

Alma’s role is all about communication. As a Product Owner, she’s translating business needs to developers and interpreting constantly changing priorities. Alma credits her years of experience and technical background for allowing her to make sure projects provide the most value for end users and that needs are communicated effectively and timely.

Alma knows her job means working with many different personalities across her teams. But she appreciates just how smart, flexible and driven her co-workers at Roche are.

The biggest difference? The truly global reach of her company.

Inside her Santa Clara office, Alma counts colleagues from the U.S., France, Malaysia, Italy, Mexico and Poland. But beyond that, she also finds herself coordinating with teams and clients in the U.S., Germany and Japan.

Alma admits it’s not always easy trying to communicate between multiple time zones. On an already challenging project, it’s an added layer of difficulty. Still, she admires the team effort involved in just scheduling a meeting or answering a question. There’s a shared willingness to be flexible that helps keep projects moving.

And a work trip to Poland last January showed Alma just how much of a cohesive, international team Roche really is.

“They welcomed me with open arms,” she said, noting that such a warm environment brought a sense of trust and made it easier to collaborate. “Sometimes, just being able to connect in person is very important because we can provide better communication for working together.”

Another thing Alma was pleased to discover at Roche – for the first time in her career, she is working with a tech team that has a near equal number of men and women. Alma says there is a noted difference in the work culture thanks to that kind of representation. She believes the diversity of perspectives is one of the reasons their projects are so successful.

Balancing work and life

Beyond just the work she does, Alma also notices that there’s a difference in how the culture affects her time with her family. There’s plenty of mothers in the office, and Alma says they understand when her kid is sick or she has to tend to a responsibility. She also says the company’s accommodating work-from-home policy has been incredibly helpful.

Alma has noticed that her kids are becoming big Roche fans, as well.

“I got a blue Roche sweatshirt from a hackathon we had,” Alma explains. “But it was stolen.”

The thief, of course, is one of Alma’s children who now proudly sports the company logo.

Alma’s husband likes to point out that even though there are so many opportunities in the Bay Area, she has no reason to job hunt. He remembers how companies had her working unreasonable hours of the day, glued to her email on weekends. But she feels Roche is different.

“Before, you were stressed, feeling unrecognized,” he tells her. “Now, I see you so happy.”

Curious about DIS and all the ways people like Alma are making a difference at Roche?

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Tags: USA, Santa Clara, Career Blog, Diagnostic Information Solutions, DIS