When a door opens, you go through it: In conversation with Enakshi Singh
We sat down with our new CFO Ena Singh to discuss her career highlights, experience with Zymergen to date, and her plans for taking the company to the next level of commercial success.
What is the most memorable point in your career?
The most memorable point in my career is definitely when I took the leap to join Zymergen. I came from a big company background and they were a very small group – five people when I interviewed and approximately ten when I started. But I was hooked from the start. They clearly knew what they were doing. They had an amazing vision for reshaping the world using biofacturing to make better products, a great team, and a very clear strategy for generating revenue and profits. Unlike most early startups that were simply looking for someone to manage their financial records, they were looking for someone to help them shape and grow their business. A lot of people said I was crazy to take such a big risk in joining an early start up, but the challenge was too great to pass up. Mostly, I believed deeply – as I still do today – that they were onto something that could change the world.
What is the hardest professional lesson you ever learned and what do you do differently now?
It’s not any single moment for me, but rather I recognized that to be successful one needs a combination of patience and perseverance. It starts with having a clear sense of why you are taking on certain challenges, and making sure you are in it for all the right reasons. This gives you a bedrock to stand on when things are tough. I find that having the strong foundation also makes it easier to take the long view, which is particularly important at a startup like ours.
How have you grown in your time here?
While I’ve grown in many different ways, including learning new industries and technologies, I’d say I’ve grown most as a manager. I’ve been privileged to be able to build and lead strong, diverse teams. Understanding what makes teams work best has been a huge mental unlock for me. Building successful teams across functions requires a true self awareness – knowing that I don’t have all the answers. I know to ask my teams what they need rather than just telling them what I want. They’re the experts. I need to give them clear goals and expectations and get out of the way. And that last part is critical. Expectations. I tell my teams that I will hold them to the same standards I hold myself to, and at the end of the day, I expect them to lead me and not the other way around.
What are the top 1-2 highlights from your time with Zymergen?
Our first real orders for Hyaline will always stand out as a true highlight because it’s a threshold that very few startups get to cross. We built the leading – or maybe the only – biofacturing platform and are using that platform and expertise to build real products in record time. Of course, in my role as head of Finance, the fundraising that we have accomplished is something I’m incredibly proud of as well. Our investors think in terms of years not quarters, they understand the challenge and they believe passionately in making better products a better way.
What are your plans to move us even faster to commercial success?
It goes back to the highlights – we have created an incredibly powerful platform and product development engine and we already have a product in market today. For me, the big goals are deepening the pipeline of products and opportunities across multiple industry verticals, and getting more products to market faster. Again, it’s the proof that what we are doing is real. Along those lines, I think our momentum gives us a great opportunity to make biofacturing ‘the way’ many things are made.
To close, what advice would you share with the people in our organization?
An old friend and mentor gave me some invaluable advice that really helps me navigate challenging moments. He said: “act in goodness, lean into every moment, and when a door opens, go through it.”