Meet Marcela, a product manager at 23andMe. A product manager represents the customer’s needs while also considering engineering constraints and business requirements. Her most recent projects were focused on building the user experience of those who participate in research through 23andWe and helping to build the burgeoning 23andMe community.
Marcela on the 23andMe Service:
“I was born in South America, but both my mother’s and my father’s ancestors came from Japan. I found it unsurprising to learn that my paternal haplogroup was one that is only found in Japan today, and that one-third of the Japanese population can trace its paternal ancestry to the people who first arrived in Japan, crossing an ancient land bridge that no longer exists. (A woman has the same paternal haplogroup as her father, her brother, or any male in her father’s line. I learned mine by sharing genomes with my father!) However unsurprising it was, though, I was delighted to learn that this piece of history was preserved throughout all the recent migrations in my family. At the same time, I find it fascinating how long-ago migrations are represented in our genetics — through haplogroups and their predicted migrations or the details in Ancestry Paintings, such as the one shown for the sample Uyghur woman.”
“I’m also really passionate about 23andWe. Right now, people think of genetics as a blueprint, as an answer to the question, ‘What are my chances of having a certain trait?’ However, research in genetics is telling us so much more than that now.”
“It’s helping scientists understand more about the pathways involved in certain diseases and it’s leading to changes in health care and treatments. For example, understanding the genetics behind Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) caused scientists to start looking at the condition as an immune disorder.”
“Even research on some of the less serious traits on our site can turn out to be extremely valuable — researchers can study traits that are present in a large percentage of the population to learn about the basic mechanisms behind more rare conditions. The work of some scientists studying the photic sneeze (sneezing in the sunlight) could lead to insights into the biology of epilepsy. Studies of caffeine metabolism might lead to greater insights into other, more complicated drug pathways.”
“Another aspect of genetics research is helping us understand who we are and why we are that way. How did culture and biology interact to make some populations lactose intolerant and others not? What other details in human history and migrations will research in genetics uncover? Why is it that 90% of the population (including me) is right-handed? Genetics may answer only a few of these questions, but I’d be amazed to learn those few answers.“
Marcela on being a 23andMe employee:
“I studied Human Biology and Computer Science, and my honors thesis dealt with privacy in genetic databanks. I never imagined that I would find a job that combines my interests in product management, consumer internet software, and genetics.”
“I love the challenges at work. I want to design the experience of using our site so that my parents can easily understand the wealth and detail of genetic information we provide. We balance many different considerations in our site. Privacy is always our primary concern, but we also want people to learn from friends and family members. We want to make scientific studies accessible, but without losing the important details. We provide such a new type of information that we’re constantly building and rebuilding features based on the many perspectives in the 23andMe team and the many pieces of feedback our users send.”
Think you’d like to join the team? Check out our jobs page!