You don’t have to be a technical wiz to have a successful career in information technology (IT)—just ask Jai Chandarana, Director of Information Security at InterVenn Biosciences. “During undergrad, I looked at various career paths in governance, risk, and compliance, mostly because I was terrible at programming,” he says.
Since then, Chandara has grown his IT and security career in different industries, from accounting to software-as-a-service—and now in biotechnology. In his current role, he protects InterVenn from any cyber threats. “Our mission is that ‘no one should be blindsided by disease,’ and my own personal mission is that the company should never be blindsided by cyber attacks,” he says.
Here, Chandarana talks about his unique experience when interviewing at InterVenn, why he never cuts corners in his role, and how working out in the morning has made him better at his job.
You recently joined the company. What was the interview process and onboarding experience like?
The interview process was straightforward, which was nice because having many unnecessary interviews can lead to fatigue and does not add any value to the conversations.
I understood the role and expectations so I already knew I was going to excel at it. What I did not understand, however, was the science. Luckily, my wife is a hematologist/oncologist, so she translated it for me. In fact, she joined me on one of my interview calls with one of the company’s distinguished scientists, and he gave us a great presentation. That a person in such a high position was willing to explain the science to us solidified my interest further.
During onboarding, what helped me the most is that I didn’t meet anyone who said ‘no’ when I asked questions as I was navigating my way. Everyone was willing to help.
What are your core responsibilities as the Director of Information Security?
My mission is to build the security program with the chief information security officer, with a focus on maintaining integrity. I believe cutting corners has landed many companies in a front-row seat for regulators to question deceptive and unfair practices. There is a difference between working fast and hurrying, and I will see to it personally that InterVenn always does the right thing.
What are your short- and long-term goals in this job?
My short term goal is to create a blueprint for any risks within the company. My long-term plan is to keep the risk away from our doorstep.
Why is InterVenn Biosciences an exciting place to work?
InterVenn is an exciting place because of our “One InterVenn” culture: It does not matter if you reside in Detroit, MI, or Kuala Lumpur, we operate as one. We all are striving for the same goal, and unity is the best way forward. This feeling resonates from the top down. I also admire the company for being respectful of people’s time off. Even though this may not seem a big deal, there have been many instances in my past where I had to open my laptop and crank through a report or support a project because there was urgency labeled without a proper cause.
What has been the secret to your success?
It’s simple: Learn at least one thing from each of your colleagues that will help you develop a better you tomorrow. And when you have mastered that one thing, find another one and repeat the cycle.
What’s one positive change you’ve made to your workday routine since COVID-19?
I have made working out a top priority in the morning. This is important because I feel much more refreshed and energetic to tackle projects right after. I have been working remotely since 2019, but made these key changes during COVID-19 when gyms shut down.
How would you describe what it means to work in IT to someone who’s not familiar with the field?
I hear a lot of people say IT is too complicated, and I disagree with that. IT is broad and evolving with many subcomponents. Take blockchain and artificial intelligence, for example. Very few people were talking about them when I graduated from undergrad in 2014, and look where we are now. And then there is a whole different non-technical side where I built my career, called business IT. This focuses on governance, risk and compliance.
What advice do you have for people applying for a job in IT?
We live in a world where information is at your fingertips. You don’t have to leave your couch, drive to a library, and find a book anymore. You have YouTube, Google, and high-quality online courses such as Coursera. We live in the most technologically advanced era ever, so use it to your advantage as a way of learning.