What is it like being a LabOps Manager in the startup world?
Episode

Larina Burke, Laboratory Manager at Hyasynth Bio

What is it like being a LabOps Manager in the startup world?

Managing LabOps might always look the same, but every day is an opportunity to create a new relationship.

In this episode, Larina Burke, Hyasynth Bio Laboratory Manager, talks about her role as a laboratory manager in a small company. She starts by explaining how Hyasynth Bio is the only company that engineers and ferments yeast to produce a pure CBD isolate used as an ingredient in many personal care products. As a lab manager, she has a broad spectrum of responsibilities, but she highlights leadership, relationship building, and developing communication as some of the most crucial. Larina talks about the importance of identifying challenges in your lab team and recognizing members’ strengths to promote learning and improvement. She shares how being a part of the LabOps Unite community has opened up many new opportunities and experiences, allowing her to connect and learn from fellow professionals in the field.

Tune in to this episode to learn how being a lab manager means motivating and empowering your team members to be better!

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What is it like being a LabOps Manager in the startup world?

About Larina Burke:

Larina Burke (she/her) hails from the island of Newfoundland, completing her Master’s degree at Memorial University. Having obtained industry experience while working with partners at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Larina later moved to Montreal to seek employment in the start-up sector. With a passion for cultivating new experiences and learning opportunities, Larina is excited to step out of her comfort zone and participate in the LabOPS Community. Larina is currently thriving as Hyasynth Bio’s Lab Manager, where she finds great satisfaction in supporting and positively impacting the work and efforts of the incredible team around her.

 

OR_LabOps_Larina Burke: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

OR_LabOps_Larina Burke: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Samantha Black:
By building a platform to share challenges, network, and thoughts from leaders, the LabOps Leadership Podcast is elevating LabOps professionals as well as the industry as a whole. With the intent of unlocking the power of LabOps, we deliver unique insights to execute the mission at hand, standardize the practice of LabOps, their development, and training. Welcome to the LabOps Leadership Podcast.

Kerri Anderson:
Hi, I’m Carrie Anderson, and I’m one of the founding team members of the LabOps Unite Group. I’m really looking forward to our conversation with our guest today. Sam, you want to kick it off?

Samantha Black:
Yeah, thanks, Carrie. We’re so excited to be here today with Larina Burke, who is a laboratory manager at Hyasynth Bio. Thanks for joining us today, Larina.

Larina Burke:
Hi, Carrie, hi, Samantha. Thank you so much for having me, I’m really looking forward to our conversation.

Samantha Black:
Awesome, so just to get us started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are today?

Larina Burke:
Sure, I guess the first thing that most people find out about me is that I’m proud Newfoundlander, as I’ll tell anybody who stops to speak to me for a few minutes. I started my career in Newfoundland at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in the lab of Dr. Harry Murray, which is where I got my first exposure to industry as opposed to kind of more academic pursuits. Prior to that, I did my undergrad and master’s at Newfoundland’s Memorial University, and after that, I kind of felt like switching things up a bit, so I decided to move to Montreal and seek out some opportunities in industry and startup sector. And I had actually met Kevin Chen, Hyasynth’s CEO, at a juggling convention about a year prior to starting to work there, and having met with him and spoke with him about his company and what they were working on, I followed them on LinkedIn. I was very interested in what they were doing and when I saw an opportunity to apply for a job there, I definitely jumped at it, and as they say, the rest is history.

Samantha Black:
That’s awesome, I love that. You never know where you’re going to meet people, it’s so funny.

Larina Burke:
So true.

Samantha Black:
I love that you found that connection and you got interested in the company, and you really like what they were doing and you followed it. So I was wondering if you could just tell us a little bit about what Hyasynth is doing and what you’re focused on within the company.

Larina Burke:
Yeah, of course, so Hyasynth is a sustainable biotech company here in Montreal. We engineer and ferment yeast in order to produce a pure CBD isolate that will be used as an ingredient for the personal care industry. So that could be stuff like cosmetics, mental health, pain management, things like that. So our CBD product, because it’s fermented, not grown, it’s naturally THC free, it’s heavy metal free, and I invite everyone listening to maybe check out our website, HyasynthBio.com, and follow us on LinkedIn to learn more about our process and where the company is going, how our product is developed, and any job openings, and maybe you come work with us too. For me, I’m in the role of lab manager. We’re a small company, so I definitely have a broad spectrum of responsibilities and roles there, which is exactly what kind of interested me in the startup industry in the first place. I really like to have a varied work schedule and different tasks and things throughout the day. So right now I’m focusing a lot on developing leadership and mentorship in myself and with my team and working on developing some more, I guess, employee-facing structure as well. So we’re looking at employee resource groups and things like that as well. So I definitely take a strong preference for that kind of support role that I get to play where I can really motivate and empower the amazing scientists that I get to work with to do their job even better.

Samantha Black:
That’s awesome, yeah, I think that’s really important and I think that the fact that you’ve embraced that is amazing. I think that’s sometimes hard for people, to go down that path, or they don’t know how to get started. So I love that you’re doing that and from a lab manager position, that’s really inspiring because I know it’s probably not a super defined part of your role, and you’re taking that on, but I think that’s amazing.

Larina Burke:
Thank you.

Samantha Black:
I did want to circle back one more time to Hyasynth, and CBD is just a fascinating area of science to me. How are you and the company really pushing that field forward? I think you know, coming from traditional pharma, biotech, there’s a lot that’s still being figured out in that field. So I’m just wondering like, what are some of the really cool science things that you guys are doing to advance your products?

Larina Burke:
Oh, my goodness, I honestly, I don’t even know if I could sum it up. We have several different teams that kind of tackle this problem, I guess, from different perspectives, and we have a very interdisciplinary team as well. So I guess one of the things that I really focused on is kind of developing and helping to develop that level of communication between the interdisciplinary teams. So for me, that’s one of the kind of, I guess technical challenges to overcome is to really kind of develop that culture of constant communication and constant learning between team members from different backgrounds and experiences. So I would say for me, in my role, that’s kind of one of the technical challenges that I’m hopefully helping them to overcome and improve on every day, and I really think that that is a huge aspect of where Hyansynth’s success comes from. I believe we’re currently the only company that is producing CBD in this manner so, I definitely will throw it back to the expertise of my team and their passion and enthusiasm for the project, and also their willingness to develop all these other skills as well to kind of bring it all together.

Samantha Black:
Awesome, awesome. I’m going to kick it over to Carrie, but I love this. I think it’s so interesting, so thanks for sharing.

Kerri Anderson:
Yeah, that’s great. I think it’s incredible that you are helping to motivate and inspire people within your team and everything because I think something in operations we often don’t think about is that it is a customer service role and it is important to be able to be there and support the scientists and help push the science faster or forward.

Larina Burke:
Absolutely.

Kerri Anderson:
Forward faster.

Larina Burke:
Absolutely, I really kind of see myself as like the bird on the team and, you know, developing those relationships both with your team, with executive members of the team, with the scientists, and then with sales reps and other technical experts in the field and being able to kind of be the, I guess, the touchpoint for all these different people to bring them together and connect people with who they need to be connected with. And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you guys this, but I really can’t overstate how important kind of that relationship development aspect of the LabOps is.

Kerri Anderson:
Oh, absolutely. It’s one of the number one things I tell when I get new lab assistants or anybody starting into this career is, build those relationships because those are the most important thing you have.

Larina Burke:
100%.

Kerri Anderson:
So especially being at a startup, you know, you can wear many hats in such a fast-paced environment and I’m sure you’ve seen many struggles within the lab. What are some of the struggles that you’ve encountered and how have you worked to overcome them?

Larina Burke:
Oh, my goodness. I mean, I guess it depends. Like people find different things challenging, I think. So I think one of the struggles for me, or one of the things that I try to do, is to really like get to know the individuals on my team as unique individuals, right? So like what is their skill set? What are they enthusiastic about doing? So you can really kind of bring those skills to play in the best and most effective and efficient way possible. But then also kind of identifying challenges or weaknesses in yourself or areas where members of your team could learn from each other and improve that way as well, right? So I guess one of those challenges is just kind of identifying and understanding that everyone’s challenges are different and that different people will require different things to be successful or to feel empowered at work. So really like bringing yourself to work, and like your whole self to work, and being personable with people and letting them see who you really are, and in turn, they show you who they are, right? And you get to work with all these different people and kind of support them in their own way.

Kerri Anderson:
Yeah, I think that’s great. It’s really good to be able to use people to their strengths and be able to recognize what those strengths are, and weaknesses.

Larina Burke:
Yeah.

Kerri Anderson:
So then you can help each other and support the team.

Larina Burke:
I think, too, people really respond to being recognized in that way, right? Like who doesn’t like to feel like other people know what they are good at, right? So not only does it benefit the company, I think it benefits individuals as well to have that recognition of like, yeah, I’ll come to you about this because you’re really good at it, and not being afraid to kind of lean on your team and look to other members of your team and to constantly learn from each other, yeah.

Kerri Anderson:
So something we’re seeing often, especially as new technology is emerging and we’re able to do science a little faster, what’s something that you’ve seen or heard that can make a difference in producing faster and just something in LabOps that can help speed up?

Larina Burke:
Oh, I guess, to be honest, the thing that has helped me the most, in recent months, is just this LabOps Unite community. I can’t say enough about how much it’s already helped me and how much I’ve gotten out of it, and the support from hearing from other LabOps community members and being able to learn from their experiences and just bounce ideas, or even sometimes just like the peace of mind or however you want to call it, of hearing from other people in this in this industry and in this kind of role, and hearing from them saying that they’re doing things that are similar to what I’m doing, which is very comforting, of course, or, you know, hearing from them of things that they’re doing different in ways that I could maybe incorporate that at our labs and how that could help improve things. So I think the LabOps Unite has been one of the most useful communities and tools for me in the past couple of years just from being able to connect with that community. Of course, in a LabOps role, you might be maybe the only person, especially in a small company like mine, you might be the only person in that role or one of a very small team. So being able to connect with a broader community and learn from them and not have to constantly feel like you’re kind of reinventing the wheel, I think has increased my own personal efficiency and effectiveness, which I hope in turn trickles down to the efficiency of my team because I’m able to provide them better support and more infrastructure and things like that.

Kerri Anderson:
Oh, I love to hear that because that really was our goal in starting community. It’s just to be able to create a place where we can all come together and kind of share our struggles and share our best practices and not feel so siloed in this career.

Larina Burke:
Yes, exactly. I was so excited when I first heard about this community just a couple of years ago. And every time I got the opportunity to join in on a webinar or take in the monthly newsletter and stuff, I always learn something new and I always get that kind of sense of satisfaction that like, maybe I’ve learned something new, but I also learned that there’s some things that I’m doing that other people have come to the same conclusion that this is the way to do it, right? So I love the LabOps Unite community, really excited to be part of the Leadership in-person Conference that’s coming up in Boston as well, so maybe I’ll meet you guys there.

Kerri Anderson:
Yeah, absolutely. So from this conversation, it’s obvious that you’re passionate about LabOps and you’re a driven individual, and I’m just curious, what are your goals for your future in your career?

Larina Burke:
Oh, my goodness. I mean, everyone always wants to be, I guess, advancing or improving or refining and honing your skills. So for me, I’m very passionate about kind of new experiences, and to be honest, this podcast is one for me, a bit out of my comfort zone to be recorded on an interview, so kind of pushing myself to continue to seek out new opportunities for me to learn new skills or to get a bit outside of my comfort zone and try new things, it’s definitely something I want to keep going. I’m also looking for, I guess, opportunities where I can have the opportunity to make mistakes, right? So that was kind of one of my goals for this year was to make more mistakes. So hopefully I am making mistakes because I feel like when you make mistakes, it’s kind of a side effect of growth and trying new things, so that was my own goal for this year. I’ve also been taking part in the LabOps mentorship program this year as a mentee, so I’ve found a lot of value in that as well, just with a few short meetings with my mentor. Yeah, I guess I’m just kind of looking forward to what’s next and to finding out more from the LabOps community and all these things that you guys have in place, like the leadership conference, the mentorship program, and then also I know that there’s talk about a career ladder, so very much looking forward to that. And I think a lot of us are maybe in the same sort of position as I am of wondering like, this is where I am and this is the role that I’m doing, but there’s not really a structured career ladder for our role the way that there is for many other scientific roles. So I guess I’m a little bit wondering what’s next as well, to be honest.

Kerri Anderson:
Yeah, absolutely, and that’s something we’re excited to put together because I think that is a big thing in our industry, and a lot of people just kind of fall into being a lab manager and therefore it hasn’t really been a set structure as to how you develop. So we’re really excited to kind of develop that ladder, but it’s exciting to hear because I can tell you you have an incredible growth mindset and it’s going to get you really far. So we look forward to seeing where you end up.

Larina Burke:
Thank you so much, Carrie. Yeah, I definitely feel like I fell into that category of like, LabOps chooses you, right? It’s not where I had necessarily pictured myself or had targeted, but it’s funny when you can start to recognize not just the things that you’re maybe more naturally geared towards in terms of interest or in terms of skill, but also the things that you can do in your role that bring you job satisfaction and bring you a feeling of success, right? So for me, that really is being able to look to my team and see if things that I’m doing can positively impact them in their work. That’s kind of like the job satisfaction that I get and how I measure a lot of my success so, so yeah.

Samantha Black:
That’s awesome, I think you’re on the right track. I think you’re doing all the same things that anybody in any other field would do. I think just like identifying what you’re really passionate about, what you’re good at, and where you want to grow in specific areas, and then you’re just being open to the opportunities, I think that’s huge from a lot of the other LabOps folks that I’ve spoken with, that is usually how it happens, so I think it’s great to have this structure in place, but I think you’re doing all the right things and I think the future is very exciting for you, so looking forward to seeing all the great things that you’re doing.

Larina Burke:
Well, thank you so much, Samantha.

Samantha Black:
Yeah, of course. I think the last question that we will close with is, and I think I’m going to frame this a little differently than some of our other guests. We usually ask where people can find out about what you’re doing and the work that your company is doing, so please share that with us, but also like if people are listening to this and they have advice, like where can they find you and share their advice with you? Because I think that you’re really open to it, and I hope that people have some really positive, encouraging things to say. So where can people find you?

Larina Burke:
One of the challenges that my mentor for the LabOps mentorship program has issued me actually is to work on my LinkedIn network and presence. So I’m definitely trying to take him up on that challenge, so I invite people if they’re interested in speaking with me, or I’d love to hear any advice from any other seasoned lab professionals, of course. So please reach out to me on LinkedIn, Larina Burke, hopefully, you’ll be able to find me. And you know, like I said, if you’re interested in finding out more about Hyasynth or connecting with me through the company itself, Hyasynth does a really great job of keeping their LinkedIn profile current and posting interesting updates on events, and I believe there is actually some new news posted just maybe yesterday or today so you can find out what to, what’s coming up most recently for us by following us on LinkedIn.

Samantha Black:
Awesome, thank you. So folks, that will also be posted in the show notes. So just click through and you’ll be able to see all those links there as well, but Larina, thank you so much for joining us. This has been an amazing conversation, and Carrie, thanks for co-hosting. Best of luck, I’m really looking forward to seeing what great things you’re going to do.

Larina Burke:
Thank you so much, Samantha and Carrie. Thank you for having me.

Kerri Anderson:
Yeah, thank you for joining us.

Samantha Black:
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the LapOps Leadership Podcast. We hope you enjoyed today’s guest. For show notes, resources, and more information about LabOps Unite, please visit us at LabOps.Community/Podcast. This show is powered by Elemental Machines.

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Things You’ll Learn:

  • Hyasynth Bio is a sustainable biotech company that engineers and ferments yeast to produce a pure CBD isolate that’s used as an ingredient for personal care industry products.
  • Hyasynth Bio’s CBD product is naturally THC and heavy-metal-free as it’s fermented, not grown.
  • Hyasynth Bio is currently the only company that produces CBD through this process.
  • People respond to being recognized; it benefits companies and, most importantly, individuals.
  • The LabOps Unite community provides professionals a place to learn from others’ experiences and bounce ideas with them.
  • You never know where you’re going to meet influential people.

Resources:

  • Connect and follow Larina Burke on LinkedIn.
  • Follow Hyasynth Bio on LinkedIn.
  • Explore the Hyasynth Bio Website.
  • Learn about the LabOps Unite Annual Leadership Conference here.