Employee Spotlight: Erin Washbon
Who is Erin?
I am a person of many loves. I often find myself thrown into the midst of an interest, only to be distracted by another. At my core, I am still that kid who believes that I can be anything I want to be when I grow up – because I’ve done it before. I started my professional career as a chef working in various kitchens for nearly 7 years. Feeding people will always be a passion of mine because it allows me a platform to create while serving others, but it also taught me time management, organization, accounting, and an enduring work ethic. I went back to school to get a degree in Nutrition because I wanted more breadth to my understanding of food and accidentally fell in love with entrepreneurship and innovation. This led me down a path to working at Systems Imagination where I get to continuously push my limits of understanding. I have learned that I am in my element when I can connect new ideas while working across contexts.
What does a typical day look like for you?
The best part about my job is that no day feels typical! While I have static responsibilities such as project management and market research on grant opportunities, I also get to explore new solutions to operational problems within the organization. The most typical part of my job would be how often I’m learning something new and applying it to various contexts. An example would be when the company decided to focus on grant opportunities, I jumped at the potential of understanding how grant mechanisms work firsthand. I apply my market research experience while searching for opportunities that can allow for anything from funding a project to strengthening a strategic partnership with a University by collaborating on a mutual scientific endeavor. Once an opportunity is defined and agreed upon, I get to project manage the application from inception to submission. On other days, I’m focused on operational opportunities for improvement. Currently, I’m leading two projects which require a range of skillsets, some of which are my own and some come from the expertise of my diverse colleagues. This is secretly my favorite part about the job, I get to talk to anyone I want to and have a reason for it.
What drew you to work for Systems Imagination?
My first introduction to SII was at an event I was working through ASU called “Hacking the Human”. At the time, I was one of two members of the HEALab, Nico was the other. Nico introduced me to SII because he had already snagged a spot in the internship. I was soon greeted by the ever-enthusiastic Kendyl – the mathematician on staff - about joining their internship which she directed. Instantly, I was intrigued by their collaborative attitude. Without really knowing what I’d be doing as an intern, I accepted the offer. I was drawn in by the idea of working with a group of people who knew a whole lot about something I knew nothing about, and comfortable enough to do this because of their encouragement. Through the internship I honed my critical thinking skills with market research in the world of start-ups, and it opened my eyes to prospects I had never even considered.
At the end of the day, Systems Imagination has taught me a lot about technology and its applications but what it continuously offers me is a glimpse at previously unknown possibilities.
What are some of the biggest takeaways from your time at SII?
There is something to learn from everyone you meet. It doesn’t matter if they’re a PhD or an intern. The strength of our team comes from the diverse perspectives and unique interests of each individual. The equality of SIIs culture allows members at any level of the organization to speak up and offer solutions when they’ve come up with an idea. That idea can then be built upon by the others, so everybody is invested in the process and gets the chance to move the concept along. This dialogue allows for better ideas to surface while building the confidence and knowledge of its employees. There are many versions of this quote, but SII really embodies the principle that ‘we are all smarter than any of us are.’
What advice would you give to a driven college student?
Some people know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. Some people don’t. It’s ok to be in either camp. The world is constantly changing and the perfect position for you might not even exist yet! Maybe it’s up to you to create it... When researching for future careers, try reframing your focus to ‘why’ you like certain things, rather than ‘what’ things you like. This might open the door to unknown opportunities and versions of yourself that you didn’t know existed!
If you had a billboard on which you could post a single message to the whole world, what would it say?
Be curious and stay open to the unfamiliar.
September 23, 2020