Today we continue our blog series profiling the great talent behind Biosero. We caught up with Rob Harkness, who joined the company last year as our Director of Customer Success EU/UK. He has worked in laboratory automation for years and earned his bachelor’s and PhD degrees at the University of Surrey.
Q: What do you do at Biosero?
A: I work closely with our customers in the EU and UK to ensure they enjoy success with their laboratory automation system or platform. My relationship with them can start very early in the presales process, and then continue through delivery of the system and beyond. My goal is to build trust with them and help them get the most out of what Biosero provides. In the past we typically had a team dedicated to presales and then a separate team for when the product is ordered, but we’ve seen the value in ensuring continuity all the way through the customer journey.
Q: How did you get on this career path?
A: I was doing chemistry with computing at university. One of the guest lecturers was involved in a laboratory automation company here in the UK that needed some work doing over the Christmas holidays. Out of all the students, I lived closest to the office so I got the job, which involved integrating a Hamilton 2200 Liquid Handler. I really enjoyed the work, and when the offer came to stay on, it was either that or continue in my other part-time job, clearing tables at a local restaurant. In the end, it was an easy decision! The job gave me the opportunity to play with robots so I was the envy of a lot of my friends.
Q: What brought you to Biosero?
A: Seventeen years ago I worked with Biosero CEO Tom Gilman, and we remained friends over the years. I noticed in recent times that Biosero was pivoting more towards being a software company and that really resonated with me. I also knew and respected the team here. When the opportunity came up to join the company, I jumped at the chance.
Q: What’s one thing you wish more people knew about laboratory automation?
A: You should not be scared of using automation! People new to automation can worry that they’ll break what appears to be complicated machinery. Mistakes do happen, but it’s extremely rare that it causes any form of damage. I also wish people knew that automation isn’t all about robotic arms, despite it being the most exciting part. Robots or plate movers are just a means to an end for moving samples and consumables around. At the heart of all this is data. Laboratory automation is essentially about using or generating data and simplifying the handling of it.
Q: If you could automate anything in your life, what would it be?
A: I would love to have a machine that would sort socks when they come out of the dryer. That is the bane of my life! With a family of five, we have odd socks everywhere around our house.
Q: What’s your best career advice?
A: Go with something that you enjoy. You can follow where you think the money would be but at the end of the day it’s about doing a job that you really enjoy. If you’re in a job where you don’t get a buzz from what you do on a frequent basis, that’s a problem. You need to experience the highs and that only comes from having a job you have a passion for.
Q: What was the first thing you ever wanted to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a civil engineer like my dad, as building bridges looked cool. I did some work experience whilst at school, working alongside him, and discovered that he worked within a team that got overly excited about the most mundane engineering topics, such as the composition of concrete. Only 13 at the time, I knew this was not for me and I decided a change of direction was required.
Q: What’s something your colleagues don’t know about you?
A: I once nearly beat the former Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button in a race. Admittedly, it was not in a sport he’s renowned for — it was a marathon — but still a valid claim to fame.