Meet the 23andMe Team: Denali Lumma

Denali is responsible for ‘quality assurance’ at 23andMe. She is a software engineer obsessed with producing software that works, in all cases, at all times. After years of writing buggy software, debugging it, and adding more bugs, a-hem ‘features’, she finally decided it was time to start writing correct software. As a full-blown test-driven development and test automation believer, Denali believes if it’s worth testing, it’s worth automating. She designed and implemented an automated test harness and reporting system that offers broad, deep and comprehensive testing, eradicating the need to hire manual testers. She hopes to replace herself by developing software that can generate comprehensive tests without human direction.

Denali on the 23andMe service:
Denali says that her data regarding HIV/AIDS Infection was the coolest thing she has learned about so far from her 23andMe genetic profile (which she got free as one of the many perks of working for 23andMe).

When HIV infects a cell, it latches onto a protein that is encoded by a gene called CCR5. But some people have an unusual version of the gene, in which 32 DNA bases are deleted. People with two copies of this unusual version of the CCR5 gene are resistant to the most common strain of HIV (though protection is not complete).

“Our data says that both me and my husband have one copy of CCR5 gene with the 32 base deletion,” said Denali.

Research has shown that while people with this genotype aren’t resistant to HIV, they do often experience a slower progression to AIDS if they are infected with the virus.

Denali’s son has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the unusual form of the CCR5 gene from each of his parents.

“This means that our son has a 25% chance of having two copies of this version of the gene. We haven’t gotten him genotyped yet, but we gleaned this information about him already from our data,” she said.

Denali on being a 23andMe employee:
When asked what it’s like to work here, here’s what Denali had to say:

“The people who work here are hands-down cream-of-the-crop. I learn from all of them constantly. We also have many different kinds of experts speak regularly. Every single one of my coworkers is exceptionally talented and contributes a tremendous amount to the company, which is rare for most businesses. It is like working on an elite educational research project, except I am getting paid like a professional.”

Think you have the right stuff to join forces with Denali in engineering? Check out our jobs page now!


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