Building the Future of Data Engineering with GSK’s Onyx Research Data Platform

Dec 07, 2023
hackajob Staff

How does a global biopharma powerhouse like GSK conquer disease with a fusion of science, technology, and talent? Dive into an exclusive interview with Senior Director of Data Engineering, Shubhangi Agrawal, as she reveals her unconventional journey from biomedical engineering to the captivating world of data. 

Explore the impact of GSK Onyx's groundbreaking work, why a pharmaceutical background isn't essential for success in this tech-driven domain, and how you can make a real difference to billions of lives. Let's dive in!

Meet Shubhangi Agrawal 

When did you first realize that you wanted to pursue a career in tech? 

I had a rather unconventional journey into the world of technology. My background is actually in biomedical engineering but I quickly discovered my true calling amidst the beakers and test tubes. It was the data that fascinated me. Have you ever seen the power of insights that can be extracted from a humble PCR instrument? It genuinely blew my mind. 

In my second year of undergrad, I made a bold decision to ditch the stethoscope and embrace the world of data. I knew right then and there that this was my path. I recognised that I could make a greater impact on innovation and shape business decisions by conducting experiments and generating results using data, similar to my academic work but from a data science perspective. 

What attracted you to working at GSK Onyx? 

I was actually contacted directly from GSK Recruitment. The combination of a startup mentality and a larger organization intrigued me. GSK Onyx seemed different because of the focus on reducing processes and inefficiencies to enable faster innovation and access to data 

Here, it's the perfect blend of agility and the backing of a well-established company. I can move fast, fail fast, and still benefit from centuries of experience and technical expertise. It's about building on what works and pushing boundaries. 

Another thing is that the people here are amazing! Approachable, friendly, and exactly the kind of environment I was seeking. Plus, the opportunity to build a team from scratch and drive cultural innovation was very appealing. We're currently on a mission to become the Data Engineering Centre of Excellence, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it.

Can you give us an overview of the projects you are working on and the technologies/tools you work with at GSK?

We tackle diverse user groups and customers at GSK. From a data engineering perspective, our projects empower users to extract valuable insights from a multitude of data sources. We seamlessly integrate public and internal data, leveraging cutting-edge technologies like LLM models and knowledge graphs. 

We’re building a semantic layer to enable users to ask complex business questions without delving into the underlying data infrastructure. We're building a robust data engineering pipeline that fuels these inquiries, unveiling intricate relationships across technologies and taxonomies. For instance, we connect drug development discovery with long-term patient outcomes, tracing their data's journey. 

That's not all—Onyx is a fundamental element of GSK's strategy, which is transforming the drug discovery process by utilizing the power of AI and ML. Our mission is to accelerate and enhance the way we uncover life-changing solutions. 

How does the work you do at GSK impact billions of people? 

At GSK, we pride ourselves on the positive impact our work has on billions of people worldwide. Our focus lies in accelerating the drug development and discovery process, which ultimately leads to the creation of more and better medicines for patients in need. By leveraging cutting-edge data engineering techniques, we enable scientists and researchers to access untapped data sources and streamline pipelines to deliver critical insights with unparalleled speed. Our mission is to eradicate data access headaches and empower our users with smooth, semantic-level queries, allowing them to dive deep into the scientific questions that matter most. At GSK, we're committed to making a meaningful difference in the lives of those who rely on our medicines. 

Can you shed some light on how GSK supports you holistically and from a career progression standpoint?

At GSK, they've got your back, holistically and from a career progression standpoint. They're all about self-development and learning, giving you the support you need to climb the ladder. It's not just your managers, but everyone around you, creating a flat hierarchy

where you can explore any direction you want. They allocate dedicated time for learning and training, and you work with your manager to make sure it aligns with your career goals. 

Being part of the startup-like culture at Onyx while also being part of a larger organization like GSK has its perks. We work closely with various engineering teams, giving us a unique opportunity to see how different teams operate. 

This exposure allows us to identify areas for individual growth and development. Personally, I've been pleasantly surprised by the insights gained from connecting with people outside my immediate engineering group. At GSK, it's up to us to take charge of our own career path, with support if we're willing to seize it. 

Why is a pharmaceutical background not necessary for success at GSK Onyx? 

At GSK Onyx, having a pharmaceutical background is not a prerequisite for success, but that doesn't mean we don't work hand-in-hand with scientists. Our focus is on being the Data Engineering Centre of Excellence with a technology-first mindset. 

We believe that by leveraging technology, we can drive business insights and make data-driven decisions. We are all about solving problems, framing scientific questions in a way that technology can tackle head-on. 

At Onyx, we recognize the value of having diverse backgrounds coming together to create something amazing. Whether your expertise lies in data, cloud, or programming, we want you on our team. If you're talented, we're confident we have a place for you. If you have a specific engineering niche, even better - we encourage and welcome it. 

Tell us more about the types of roles you are hiring and the skillset you are seeking? 

We’re hiring Data Engineers - looking for both highly experienced individuals, as well as more Junior Data Engineers who may have recently graduated from university. I am primarily looking for programming expertise, particularly in Python, but if you have Java skills or a knack for Scala, you're more than welcome. Cloud experience is a must, and it doesn't have to be limited to Google Cloud. Tableau and Azure experts are also in high demand.

We're not just looking for technical expertise, though. We want ambitious individuals who thrive on challenging the status quo and pushing the boundaries of what's possible. If you've got a vision for the future and a drive to make it happen, you'll fit right in. Collaboration is key in our diverse and dynamic environment. 

So if you're a team player who loves working towards a common goal, join us in revolutionizing the world of data engineering. Together, we'll deliver products that make a real difference in patients' lives. 

Ready to join GSK? 

If you’d like to join the team at GSK, then create a profile on the hackajob platform, where they’re currently hiring for a variety of roles or log in to your profile here. You can also keep updated with them on GSK Onyx Page and check out their hackajob profile. 

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