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Head of Automation


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Job Details

Location: Emeryville, Alameda County, California, USA Posted: Apr 03, 2020

Job Description

Job Description and Specific Responsibilities

Zymergen is hiring a Head of Automation to lead our automation engineering and support teams. The Head of Automation is responsible for ensuring the velocity, quality, and fitness of the development of our entire wet lab hardware automation platform. The ideal candidate will work closely with senior leadership in product management, automation engineering, and the CTO to deliver a sophisticated system for DNA manipulation, microbial transformation, high-throughput screening, fermentation, and lab orchestration on a scale not achieved in other microbial engineering wet lab facilities.

As Head of Automation, you will join a team including automation experts, software engineers, and biologists designing, building, configuring, operating, maintaining, and continually upgrading an integrated, end-to-end system supporting the automation of DNA design and assembly, microbial testing, and data analysis. Our automation team includes approximately 35 engineers, support personnel, and managers.

Automation partners closely with Software Engineering to integrate this platform with their in-house data collection, workflow management, and analysis tools. A services group within automation maintains and troubleshoots our systems to ensure a high-uptime production environment.

The Head of Automation is a high impact engineering leader who sees the whole picture and acts to optimize it. The ideal candidate brings to the table both broad engineering skills and hard-earned experience that will factor into decisions that impact the work of our engineering team. The Head of Automation develops and leads teams to innovate and has a strong track record of technical delivery.

Finally, the Head of Automation is an ambassador for Zymergen automation engineering internally and externally: recruiting critical talent, telling our story at conferences and meetups, and sharing a culture of automation engineering excellence that others want to join.

The Automation vision:

The Automation Department is charged with delivering a customized robotic hardware automation platform that serves as the foundation for the company’s scalability in the years to come. In particular, there are significant opportunities for automated lab systems integrated with a custom software platform and advanced data science analyses to fundamentally change how biology is performed at scale and provide outsized leverage for our business. We aim to make our wet lab as “hands-off” as possible, using walk-away systems integrated through a novel reconfigurable, modular “cart” platform developed at Zymergen called RAC. Through software and automation we are able to achieve lab throughput orders of magnitude greater than traditional wet labs of similar size. Your leadership is key to ensuring our continued successful delivery of these department and company-wide goals.

Our primary projects involve:

  • High-throughput DNA assembly and microbial host transformation, cultivation and picking platforms that support a variety of distinct organisms and projects across broad segments of the tree of life.
  • High-throughput screening platforms that support multiple assays across optical, HPLC, and LCMS methods.
  • Integration with our Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) that collects and organizes large volumes of raw and analytic data from a variety of sources and formats, and enables scientists to analyze this information in the context of the genetic designs.
  • Integration with orchestration software for the high-throughput workflows that empower our scientific staff to construct and test new microbes at large scale.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Enacting a strategic automation vision: delivering a platform that enables all members of Zymergen operations to perform high-throughput workflows at production quality; facilitating integrations that support a variety of client teams in ways that dramatically increases our technical leverage for scale.
  • Setting technical direction and engineering goals writ large: working closely with the head of Product Management to ensure that technical direction and product requirements can be put into automation practice in a way that makes the rest of the organization successful. Collaborating with the CTO to identify areas for further investigation or design.
  • Managing all aspects of the automation engineering department including supervising engineering management, platform support, and creating and managing processes for engineering work.
  • Recruiting to bring in leaders in management and engineering to extend our world-class engineering team.
  • Working with hardware vendors to influence technology development in line with Zymergen’s automation goals.
  • Mentoring others: empower our automation engineers and engineering management at every level to reach their full potential, and advance the state of their craft.


We favor candidates with the following credentials:

  • B.S. or higher in biology, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, process engineering, robotics, physics, or related fields (M.S. strongly preferred)
  • 5+ years relevant work experience, including engineering management experience
  • Strong organizational skills, ability to prioritize, and initiative
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Track record of increasing engineering velocity and quality across an organization or large team; improving system quality and reliability, and accelerating feature delivery
  • Strong analytical skills. Demonstrated expertise in problem-solving and technical innovation.
  • Strong technical leadership; ability to discuss and understand technical problems and provide mentorship in a modern automation environment; understanding of engineering best practices and tools.
  • Prior experience in a fast-growing startup environment

Legal authorization to work in the U.S. is required. Zymergen may agree to sponsor an individual for an employment visa now or in the future if there is a shortage of individuals with particular skills for this job.

In compliance with federal law, all persons hired will be required to verify identity and eligibility to work in the United States and to complete the required employment eligibility verification form upon hire.

Founded in 2013 and based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Zymergen is a technology company unlocking the power of biology. We deliver better economics for products made from biology that are used across industries, bring new products to market faster, and develop novel products. Our proprietary platform uses robots and machine learning to engineer microbes faster, more predictably, and to a level of performance previously unattainable. These microbes, and the products they produce, have broad applications across industries such as chemicals and materials, agriculture, and healthcare. For more information visit .

About Zymergen

Zymergen researches, develops, and manufactures microbes for Fortune 500 companies.

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