Getting to know us: Marc from Ensembl Production

After a little hiatus we are back with our Getting to know us blog series! Meet Marc Chakiachvili who joined Ensembl back in 2018. Keep reading to find out about his diverse work experience and that you don’t have to do an undergraduate degree in bioinformatics to work in the field.

When did you join and what is your job in Ensembl?

I joined EMBL-EBI back in May 2018, I am currently the project leader for the Ensembl Production team. Our team is responsible for processing data produced within Ensembl to deliver to the Ensembl Web team. 

What are you currently working on (e.g. any particular projects, datasets, species)?

Our main goal in Production is to enable the Ensembl releases to happen via working on pipelines, and handle databases, files and tools to ultimately deliver to the Web team for online release. One of our principal objectives is to automate the processing of production as much as possible, allowing Ensembl to deliver new and updated data in a continuous manner. But also taking into account the increasing amount of data we would like to process, and the number of projects, such as the Darwin Tree of Life, expecting to produce thousands of genomes in the near future. 

How did you get into bioinformatics?

I worked initially in the IT industry, having participated in very diverse projects with the Électricité de France (Electricity of France; EDF), telephony companies, online payments, and even TV channels. I entered the bioinformatics field in my late 40s, after reaching a point where I couldn’t really find real purpose in my job. When I got the opportunity, I rebooted my studies and passed a Master’s degree in bioInformatics in 2015. It was funny to go back to school alongside my daughter – who was nine years old at the time – and do our homework together! After my Master’s, I worked for the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (French National Centre for Scientific Research; CNRS) for three years, applying my industrial experience to develop new services for the research community. At this time I started to apply to the EBI – quite a lot of times to be honest (if I remember well, 18 times!), after a few interviews, I eventually got the position I have now. 

What surprised you the most about Ensembl when you started working here?

What I like the most about Ensembl, is this permanent feeling that everyone is working together to achieve our goals, no matter about our origins. Everyone is extraordinarily supportive. I always tend to say that, if you find a work you love, you never feel like you ever work, and that’s exactly what I feel about Ensembl. Another aspect is the fact that I found a position where I can reuse my previous industrial experience to apply to our workflows and methods here. 

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your / your team’s way of working?

We moved quite easily into a remote working pattern in my team. However, remote on-boarding of new recruits proved to be more complicated than expected. I had some people in my team with some big time differences – for example working from Australia and India. I think after the first lockdown, we settled in quite well, most of our day-to-day tasks only requiring a screen and a terminal.  

What do you do when you are not working?

Since arriving in the UK, my family and I have spent some quality time together, visiting every part of the UK as much as we can. This country is full of surprises and we did some hiking in almost every place we went to. I do a bit of mountain biking as well, and Wales and the Peak district are fantastic places to do so. We enjoy our time here, while it lasts, and before returning back to France at the end of my contract in 2024. 

A photograph of Marc and his wife hiking in Scotland.