The videocall background picture of Anna Niskanen suggests there are no limits: planets circle around the head of the front-end software developer in steady curves, just like programming languages swirl around in the vast universe of cyberspace. In the field of genetics, the tools provided by software developers are nothing less than solutions which enable genetic testing and clinical interpretation for inherited diseases.
Anna sees and appreciates the bigger picture: that clinics, doctors, and geneticists around the world seek genetic testing to help their patients.
“Especially when stories of individual patient successes reach the Technology team, I am proud that everyone is a key part of that puzzle and serving an important purpose,” Anna says.
At the end of the day, what most motivates Anna is the fascinating world of software developing — or rather, at the beginning of the day, as Anna is a morning person. She wakes up at 6am, prepares Vietnamese coffee, and starts coding. Usually, she handles functionality requirements by inquiring and asking for input: “It is actually quite interactive; you have to get input from different colleagues and users. In fact, half of the job is tapping into the knowledge of the entire internet community.”
That is clearly an understatement: coding for genetics applications means problem-solving, progress-tracking, and especially quality assurance, through various levels of testing during each stage of the development process. In software development, getting to understand what exactly is needed and how to get there is a true team effort on par with modern development. And it is here where the field of genetics meets her own personal ambitions: it is innovative, comprehensive, and reaches for the stars.
“Working as a front-end software developer in genetics is like finding the perfect set of dinner cutlery for your guests amongst a variety of options. In software development, you need to find the most suitable tools for a desired requirement,” Anna notes.
That is precisely what she was looking for when changing her career: learning every day, along the way, by creating modern tools. She wants to innovate, understand what is necessary and what is not, rethink and improve.
Anna joined Blueprint Genetics in 2020, leaving over 10 years of academia, customer care, and marketing behind her; she wanted something new to be both creative and ambitious, and was aware the tech sector is in ever-growing need.
“The network of people who change careers and transition towards software development is huge and expanding,” says Anna, noting that the field is increasingly attracting women, with social media groups providing support and informing new generations of coders to come.
“You need an analytical mindset as a software developer,” she concludes, “and you need to love creating new things and reviewing and modifying existing ones. Constantly.” Learning is a core element of her job, and crucial when aiming to make already existing applications better.
Anna still remembers her first day: there she was, starting her first software development position after some months of training. One tiny checkbox wasn’t working in one application; Anna needed to reattach an HTML tag. She was glad she had that box as a concrete thing she could fix and tick off her to-do list.
From there, the advancement was fast as she dove deeper into the complex spheres of coding for genetics – never looking back, but into the future with cool ideas in her head.
Blueprint Genetics is a genetic testing company based in Helsinki and Seattle. Our global team of more than 200 exceptional people works across the organization to provide world-class genetic testing to healthcare professionals, so they can provide the best possible care for patients and families with inherited diseases. Whether we work in software development, customer service, the laboratory, or the geneticist team, we are committed to the individual ones. Join us and make a difference: careers.blueprintgenetics.com.
Text: Nina Laurinkari
Photo: Anton Sucksdorff