Helix CFO Sarah Bobulsky Shares How She Reached the C-Suite & 3 Key Pieces of Advice for Potential Applicants
Before starting her journey at population genomics company Helix, Sarah Bobulsky worked in strategy consulting, most often with pharma and biotechnology clients. She accumulated a wealth of experience very quickly: “One of my managers always said ‘one year in consulting is like seven years in a regular job’,” Sarah jokes.
In spite of her rapid exposure to so many different projects and clients, she was a bit hesitant when her firm wanted her to branch out into diagnostics. “My reaction was, ‘I don't know anything about diagnostics! I don’t want to do diagnostics,’” she laughs. “Yet, here I am CFO of a diagnostics company.”
“I would not have guessed that I would be a CFO,” she confesses. “I always hoped my career would advance, but I don't think CFO was where I was starting my thinking.”
But thanks to a lot of hard work and encouragement from current and former managers, Sarah took on the CFO challenge and is thriving in her new role.
Now that she’s settled in, Sarah’s looking to expand the finance team at Helix. We sat down with her to learn what interested candidates can do to stand out in the application process.
The Road to Helix
Sarah ultimately said yes to the project with the diagnostics company and that led to three years of consulting frequently with diagnostics clients. “I ended up being pretty well-versed in that space,” Sarah says, explaining how she heard about Helix when they got their first round of funding. The company immediately caught her attention.
“I thought their business model at the time was really interesting. It was a departure from what other companies in the space were doing, with a lot of opportunity for innovation,” she says.
Sarah also happened to know one of the cofounders of the company through her previous consulting experience. This led to some organic conversations about opportunities at the company.
“I was interested in joining a startup, but also somewhat risk-averse,” says Sarah. “So finding a startup that had strong backing was appealing to me.”
She was also reluctant to lose the diversity of experience afforded to her by consulting, but she felt that Helix was dynamic enough to ensure that she’d still get to tackle lots of different kinds of challenges. So she took a leap and accepted a role focused on corporate development and strategy.
“I accepted the position without a job description,” Sarah reminisces. “When I first started, I worked on a lot of different projects, many of which were very much outside of my comfort zone,” Sarah says. “Over time, the number of projects kept expanding, and as the company grew, the role expanded and got more operationally focused.”
Working instrategy involved a lot of long-term planning and scenario analysis. But as Sarah’s role became more operational, she found value in better understanding the day-to-day operations on the ground. “I think getting my hands dirty was really important [in understanding] how little things can influence the company's strategy,” Sarah explains. She worked closely with Helix’s customers as well as with numerous cross-functional teams which helped her better understand the ins and outs of Helix’s product. This proved to be a great foundation as she moved into the CFO role.
Journey to the C-suite
Although she didn’t originally set out to be a CFO, Sarah spent much of her career working closely with her finance counterparts — both in her consulting days pre-Helix and during her time at Helix. It was Helix’s former CEO, himself a prior CFO, who initially raised the idea of moving fully into finance though. “He was the first person to tell me I’d make a good CFO and honestly I was very surprised at first,” Sarah explains. She was initially concerned that she didn’t come from a traditional finance background. “But he was thinking more about the strategic side of the CFO role, from being able to tell the story of the business to investors and to our board, and being able to understand different nuances that drive a forecast and long-term value.”
Helix’s former CEO wasn’t the only person supporting Sarah through the transition. “Our current CEO and co-founder has never hesitated to give me new opportunities. It’s always a bit of a risk to give someone something they’d never done, but I’ve always found leadership at Helix willing to take that risk” Sarah explains. “That's been a hallmark of my time here and what has kept me here as long as I've been here. I know that there's the opportunity for growth.”
Nearly 7 months in the CFO role, Sarah has spent a significant amount of her time focusing on a long-term value perspective. “We spend a lot of time on our annual budget, our forecasts,” she explains. “I spent a lot of time in the first couple of months painting a picture of 2024 and 2025 — What does that look like? How do we get there? What are the things that drive value?” She’s now looking for mission-driven finance professionals to bring their diverse perspectives and experiences to her team.
3 Essential Attributes in Finance & 3 Tips for Interviewees
While role-specific experience is important, there are three main attributes that Sarah looks for in any potential members of the finance team at Helix, regardless of position.
- Intellectual curiosity. “Even if you're not necessarily involved in the day-to-day on-the-ground operations, it's still really important that you understand how our business works. It influences everything we do on the finance team from invoicing customers to recognizing revenue to long-term forecasting,” Sarah explains.
- Creative problem solving ability. Problem-solving isn’t always about the solution itself, but more about how you created the solution. “I always look for examples of how someone solved the problem creatively or did a lot with only a little,” Sarah shares.
- Detail-oriented. “I'm a fairly detail-oriented person, and I think that's important in lots of roles, but I think it's particularly important in finance,” Sarah reiterates.
If that sounds like you, you might be a good tip for Sarah’s team! Keep reading for Sarah’s advice on how to display the attributes above during your interview (if you want to learn more about the interview process at Helix, click here!).
- Highlight Your Impact. “When you’re giving an example or answering a ‘tell me about a time’ question, make sure to highlight how what you did had an impact on the company – whether it’s optimizing a process or uncovering a new trend in the data – make sure that stands out,” Sarah says.
- Frame the narrative upfront. When explaining previous work, Sarah suggests using roadmapping language for your interviewer such as, “This was a big project. Here are the three things I'm going to tell you about it. And then walk [the interviewer] through each of those three things.”
- Be selective. While providing depth in your responses is important, be judicious about what you share. “Interviews are usually only 30 or 45 minutes, so it's not about describing every little detail. Acknowledge all of the things you had to consider, and then choose a few critical things to highlight,” she explains.
Interested in working alongside Sarah at Helix? Check out their open positions here.
💎Looking for a career in tech? Calling all software engineers in all career stages! Watch the video till the end to learn about Helix’s open engineering jobs.
📼If you’re developing a career in tech, whether in software engineering, data, DevOps, or test engineering, the engineering team at Helix might just be the place for you. Meet Jim Chou, VP of engineering at Helix, who’ll tell you all about the team and why Helix is a culture where you can thrive.
📼A career in tech with Helix means aligning with their mission of empowering every person to improve their lives through DNA. The engineering team at Helix builds the expansive software platform that delivers clinical care, research, and data analytics to health systems around the USA. They also integrate genomic data into patient care and public health decision-making. In response to COVID-19, Helix has launched a high-scale COVID-19 test system, performing tens of thousands of tests every day. Additionally, as part of their viral surveillance program, Helix provides reporting on COVID-19 viral sequences and surfacing variants of concern to the CDC and state-level health departments.
📼If considering a career in tech at Helix, it's essential to understand the languages the team employs. As Jim explains, their backend services are written in Golang, and their infrastructure lives in AWS. A common pattern they leverage is API gateways, fronting lambda indications, as they increasingly take advantage of serverless paradigms. The engineering team at Helix builds frontend applications in React and uses technologies like Redshift and Airflow in their data engineering. That said, Jim stresses that having prior knowledge of these languages and frameworks isn't an absolute requirement to apply! They value language-agnostic engineering experience and believe that a successful candidate can learn quickly on the job.
A Career in Tech at Helix - Career Growth Opportunities
For all of their roles, the engineering team at Helix offers progression to increasingly senior career stages based on the engineer's performance and potential. As engineers advance in their careers, they're responsible for increased scope and responsibility. And for those interested in people management, Helix also offers opportunities to hone necessary skills and transition to a management path.
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Helix? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Jim
Jim Chou leads teams in building products that can positively affect the lives of millions of people every day. If you are interested in a career at Helix, you can connect with Jim on LinkedIn!
More About Helix
Helix is a personal genomics company with a simple but powerful mission: empower every person to improve their lives through DNA. Helix is dedicated to making DNA learning-accessible and actionable for everyone. They’ve been working hard to achieve their vision: create a world where every person benefits from their biological information and help all of humanity lead better lives. They are collaborators—scientists, engineers, designers, marketers, and more—working across two offices to solve complex challenges locked within the human genome. They are biased toward action as they strive to uphold integrity in sequencing, science, and communication. At Helix, transparency, collaboration, and empowerment drive team members in all that they do.
💎If a career in business development is something you’d like to pursue, this video is for you! Watch till the end to learn how you can join the life sciences and growth team at Helix and be part of the healthcare transformation this company is spearheading.
📼Helix is hiring for business development and account management roles. Meet Daniel Lee, the senior vice president of life sciences and growth at Helix, who’s looking to expand the team with people who will not just make sure customers are happy but who can also grow existing accounts!
📼So, before you apply for a business development role with Helix, you may wonder what the life sciences and growth team does there? Well, Helix understands genomics. They utilize various genomic and electronic health record data to help pharmaceutical and biotech companies discover and bring new drugs to market, specifically tailored for individuals.
They’re also incredibly involved with the COVID-19 response across the United States. Not only do they do testing, but more importantly, they work very closely with the US government and other agencies to develop and implement a nationwide viral surveillance infrastructure. This tracks new COVID variants as they emerge across the US, plus whatever may be coming in the future. As Dan notes, they like to call it “Finding Pathogen X.” Sounds exciting or what?
📼And what's the day-to-day like for a business development role at Helix? One thing Dan guarantees is that no day is similar to the next! You may find yourself responding to a customer inquiry, developing a new product, or figuring out how to scale a product and bring it to market. Dan's team attempts to understand the effects on patients because, at the end of the day, that's where Helix is trying to make an impact.
Business Development at Helix - What About Career Growth?
Startups are fantastic for career growth because you get your hands involved with everything. And at Helix, they have a real passion for growing people. Plus, Helix is going through hyper-growth! That can only be achieved If they simultaneously grow their employees to meet the challenges they face. And so, not only do they implement formal training, but they also supply a significant amount of mentoring. They want to ensure that every employee is put in a position to succeed!
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Helix? They have open positions! To learn more, click here.
Get to Know Dan
Dan is a senior executive in the healthcare industry who seeks out challenges to build, grow, and transform businesses. He enjoys unraveling complex problems and issues both domestically and internationally. Driven by intellectual curiosity that has led to a multi-disciplinary background in strategy, business development, finance, commercial, R&D, and operations, he leverages high learning agility, systems thinking, and business savvy to lead through disruptive change. Dan thrives in fast-paced, fluid environments and has a passion for cultivating leaders. He devotes special attention to building cultures where people can thrive and is known for developing talent. If you are interested in a career at Helix, you can connect with Dan on LinkedIn!
More About Helix
Helix is a personal genomics company with a simple but powerful mission: empower every person to improve their life through DNA. Helix is dedicated to making DNA learning accessible and actionable for everyone. They’ve been working hard to achieve their vision: creating a world in which every person benefits from their biological information and is able to help all of humanity lead better lives. They are collaborators—scientists, engineers, designers, marketers, and more—working across two offices to solve complex challenges locked within the human genome. They are biased toward action as they strive to uphold integrity in sequencing, science, and communication. At Helix, transparency, collaboration, and empowerment drive everybody in all that they do.
📼 Watch the video to get super valuable interview tips from Suzanna Earle, lead recruiter and DEI co-lead at Helix—the leading population genomics company working at the intersection of clinical care, research, and genomics.
📼 Wondering what the application process at Helix looks like? Get ready for three steps: first, a recruiter screen, second, a hiring manager screen that can include a technical challenge for tech roles, and third, a virtual onsite where you'll meet various stakeholders at the organization and get a feel for the role. For senior and sales roles, candidates will go through a fourth step consisting of a presentation. What kinds of skills is Helix looking for in candidates? Watch the video and you'll find out!
📼 In this day and age, virtual interviewing has become a part of the new normal. Listen to Suzanna's advice on the most common challenges of virtual interviews and how to deal with them. She even shares a great tool for answering behavioral questions: have you heard about the SAR acronym? Watch the video and learn how to use it!
🧑💼 Are you interested in joining Helix? They have open roles! To learn more about them, click here.