Have you had any setbacks in your career and, if so, how have you dealt with them? During my PhD, I had a very challenging time. I had two different advisors in two different locations with two different projects, and somehow I was magically meant to pull it all together into a coherent thesis. I reached the point where I honestly thought I wouldn't be able to graduate.
At the same time, I had just come out to my family as gay and it did not go well initially so I felt isolated and alone. I was very fortunate to have had some amazing people around me, to hold me up until I could get myself together and chart a new path.
What I learnt was that you need to eliminate the noise and focus only on what you need to do to take your next step.
You are not born with resilience, you build it over time. There are always challenges in every career, whatever people might want you to believe.
You need to have supportive people around you through that period, knowing that you might be blindsided for a while because you're so overwhelmed. And, then knowing that you can learn and grow from adversity, you can become a stronger person than you were before. Suddenly, the challenge has become a blessing.
I no longer have a fear of failure in the traditional sense. I have a fear of heights and I don't like spiders, but the idea that I might start something and fail at it, doesn't stop me.
If it fails, it's fine. I have people who love and support me. I'll figure it out. I've trained my mind to not focus on whether I might fail but rather on how do I make something succeed.
I give lots of public presentations and speeches and I often get complimented on them. I never prepare in advance. I always speak from the heart. But when I was young I used to have paralytic stage fright, even just raising my hand in class.
I couldn't stand up in a crowd to save my life but I forced myself because I knew that if I wanted to accomplish certain things I would have to be able to do it.
I made myself speak at as many opportunities as I could until now it's like second nature. But people only see me as they see me now: I want them to know that I didn't pop out like this. I worked hard at it. I have had my own challenges and still do. I'm always growing, I get support and I'm constantly trying to improve.
What would you say you are most proud of in your career so far? Getting Start Codon up and running because it's the culmination of so many things that I've been through and it's driven by my passion for helping others be their best.
Do you have a piece of advice for someone wanting to start a new venture? It'll be better if you do it with other people. You don't get extra kudos or points for doing it on your own.
What would your colleagues say is your greatest strength? You know the expression, you can't see the forest for the trees? I'm kind of the reverse. It's like I can't see the trees for the forest.
For example, a company might pitch you story a, but the opportunity I see is story b or even stories c,d,e and f. That's the way my ADHD brain works: I see how things can move together and synergise in ways that are not always obvious to other people.
What's next? I like to do things in five year plans. Anything shorter doesn't make sense. Anything longer is a bit too far out. I want to have as broad an impact as possible and everything I'm working towards is around diversity and inclusion which, I believe, will be the most disruptive innovation in the history of humankind.
I am spreading my wings to make sure that I have as big of an impact as possible. For example, I'm supporting organisations like Cambridge Science Centre because it fits with that ethos and I’m passionate about STEM education. Increasingly, I'm also undertaking a lot of strategy and policy work.
What do you do in your spare time, if you have any? Spend time with my husband and our two energetic young children.
It's a weird thing, but I've never had hobbies. I'm really into people and passionate people in particular.
I would never go swimming, say, or jogging on my own. But if a friend phones me up and says, "Hey, Jason, do you want to go on a bike ride?" The answer is: "Sure. Let's do it!"