Alinta Furnell is the co-founder & COO at Synbiote, a startup focussed on improving the biomanufacturing pipeline for biomaterials produced using synthetic biology.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I’ve always been interested in natural processes and understanding how the world works so a career in science seemed like an obvious choice. The first time I ever heard the word “biotechnology” was when the world’s tallest vertical garden was unveiled and affixed to a new high-rise building in the city.
The impact of this living wall to decrease fluctuations in temperature, filter the air, and even reduce ambient noise – all by using plants, was single handedly enough to convince me that some sort of career in harnessing these natural processes was what I wanted to pursue.
However, as a science degree is wont to be, the absolute breadth and depth of career options was always very daunting to me as I was starting university. It wasn’t until I stumbled into entrepreneurship and the world of biotech startups that I started to find my place in the scientific realm.
I co-founded my first startup with a group of my friends from university and was welcomed into the startup ecosystem with open arms. Being so hands-on and having the ability to really immerse myself in the community and development of an early-stage biotech venture made me realise that scientific enterprise and research commercialisation was where I wanted to be.
Currently, I am the co-founder and COO of Synbiote – a startup focussed on improving the biomanufacturing pipeline for biomaterials produced using synthetic biology. Reminiscent of my first ever run-in with biotechnology, our mission is to increase the accessibility and integration of biotechnology in our everyday lives.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Being in an early-stage startup, no two days look the same. I used to be very much into pre-planning every second of my day but have since come to appreciate the importance of flexibility and the fruits of spontaneity.
Typically, my workdays are structured around meetings, with time in between to develop aspects of our company from our business strategy to our technical development. The variation and interchangeability to my schedule are super refreshing to me and are what keeps my role exciting.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Thankfully, yes! As a founder, I’ve been very fortunate to have the ability to set my own schedule and work outside of the traditional 9 – 5. Over the span of the pandemic, there’s also definitely been a shift in promoting flexibility and adaptability in routines, as well as the importance of prioritising wellbeing in daily life.
My days are typically structured around working from home in the mornings, heading into the office during my lunch break, and then working in the office until heading back home at night for dinner.
I’ve found that this structure allows me to fit more into my day by avoiding the early-morning and late-afternoon peak hour rush and is the best combination for a balance between being remote and onsite.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
To me, work-life balance has always been more about finding personal fulfilment and using my time purposefully, rather than creating a strict divide between work and life. Especially now that my work directly correlates with my passions, somewhere along the way, work and life have somewhat melded into one.
One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received is to define your own personal mission and to build your life around reaching that goal. With this in mind, work-life balance then becomes about being able to take the time for activities or tasks that work towards achieving a sense of personal fulfilment, whether that be work-related or not.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I recently started learning the saxophone! This will be the fourth instrument that I’ve learnt and it’s one that I’ve always dreamt about but never thought that I could actually learn myself. Having a creative outlet has always been very fulfilling for me and allows me to approach my work with a broader state of mind.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I think I’ve subscribed to just about every startup community newsletter in Sydney. I love keeping up to date with all the wins and announcements and I really enjoy the sense of community in the startup ecosystem.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Teleconferencing! As much as face-to-face is an effective way to connect, the art of teleconferencing has opened the world up to so many more opportunities. While international audiences were once a 12-hour flight away, we can now connect right from our very rooms.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
As someone who has a very intertwined sense of work-life balance, I’d love to hear from others who are also doing their life’s work in an area that they are passionate about.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Discovering your passions and defining your personal mission is an iterative process! It’s likely that throughout our careers the goals and ambitions that we have will shift and change with the circumstances, and it’s important to keep an open mind and take opportunities and obstacles as they come.
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