CASE STUDY

Ginkgo Bioworks

COACHING HIGHLY SKILLED SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS

Ginkgo Bioworks is the organism company. Using the power
of biology, Ginkgo Bioworks builds sustainable products in
food, pharma, manufacturing, and more. Using sophisticated
software and state of the art automation, Ginkgo’s powerful
platform for genetic engineering makes biology easier
to engineer, enabling new products to be renewably
manufactured with biology

Ginkgo Bioworks is the organism company. Using the power of biology, Ginkgo Bioworks builds sustainable products in food, pharma, manufacturing, and more. Using sophisticated software and state of the art automation, Ginkgo’s powerful
platform for genetic engineering makes biology easier to engineer, enabling new products to be renewably manufactured with biology

The Challenge

When Sudeep Agarwala first started at Ginkgo Bioworks
five years ago, there were only 30 employees. Now,
there are close to 500 employees. He was brought
into the organization in a scientist role and now with
this growth, his role has evolved to a Program Director
where he is required to manage his own team and also
manage larger-scale projects. “As Gingko grew very fast,
there were more shifts that happened on the teams, and
there were some more difficult personalities to work with
during this transition,” says Sudeep. These topic areas
around management and working with different types of
personalities were never something Sudeep had studied
in school or had been trained on in the past, so Sudeep
knew he needed more support.
First, Sudeep and his manager had some conflicting
views and struggles in their working relationship that
he needed to navigate more productively. Additionally,
there were some organizational challenges facing him
around his personal life he wanted to work through.
Sudeep knew he needed to address these topics
with someone, and he viewed all of this as a growth
opportunity. Gingko soon offered him the option of
working with an executive coach.

When Sudeep Agarwala first started at Ginkgo Bioworks five years ago, there were only 30 employees. Now, there are close to 500 employees. He was brought into the organization in a scientist role and now with this growth, his role has evolved to a Program Director where he is required to manage his own team and also manage larger-scale projects. “As Gingko grew very fast, there were more shifts that happened on the teams, and there were some more difficult personalities to work with
during this transition,” says Sudeep. These topic areas around management and working with different types of personalities were never something Sudeep had studied
in school or had been trained on in the past, so Sudeep knew he needed more support. First, Sudeep and his manager had some conflicting views and struggles in their working relationship that he needed to navigate more productively. Additionally, there were some organizational challenges facing him
around his personal life he wanted to work through. Sudeep knew he needed to address these topics
with someone, and he viewed all of this as a growth opportunity. Gingko soon offered him the option of
working with an executive coach.

The Solution

Sudeep started working with a coach through AceUp in
July 2019. It was his first time working with an executive
coach. Soon after kicking off, he developed a rapport
with his coach and started to feel very comfortable
bringing up a variety of topics. “It was so helpful to
talk through these subjects with someone who has HR
experience but who is not at Gingko,” he says. “There
was an openness I felt.” He and his coach focused on
a few different areas covering conflict management,
managing a team, mechanisms of providing feedback,
supporting members of his team on their career growth,
holding senior leaders accountable, and focusing on his
own career growth at the organization.
Around conflict management, Sudeep acknowledged
that “as with any position, there are going to be people
who you naturally find easier to work with than others,
and then you just need to figure out how to work with
them better.” He realized he needed to work on getting
another perspective on what a person might be thinking
as well as how to approach them to determine ways
to have better relationships with some of these team
members.

Sudeep started working with a coach through AceUp in July 2019. It was his first time working with an executive
coach. Soon after kicking off, he developed a rapport with his coach and started to feel very comfortable
bringing up a variety of topics. “It was so helpful to talk through these subjects with someone who has HR
experience but who is not at Gingko,” he says. “There was an openness I felt.” He and his coach focused on a few different areas covering conflict management, managing a team, mechanisms of providing feedback,
supporting members of his team on their career growth, holding senior leaders accountable, and focusing on his own career growth at the organization. Around conflict management, Sudeep acknowledged
that “as with any position, there are going to be people who you naturally find easier to work with than others,
and then you just need to figure out how to work with them better.” He realized he needed to work on getting
another perspective on what a person might be thinking as well as how to approach them to determine ways
to have better relationships with some of these team members.

As it related to management of his own team, Sudeep has
been discussing how to provide feedback to those on his
team who may not be performing well in their roles and how
to best communicate clearly to help them gain awareness
as well as support them in their next career move. “A lot of
what I discuss with my coach is how to best give feedback to
underperformers and how to build consensus on what the
future should hold for them. Being able to talk this through
and be clear about my expectations has been very helpful.

The Results

As he worked more with his coach, Sudeep noticed a few specific areas of impact. First, he noticed very early on that his coach was able to call him out on some assumptions he was making. “My coach has been really good at calling me out on certain things and helping me think in a different way,” he shares. This self-awareness has been the first step for him as he worked with his coach.

On an individual level, Sudeep has been able to better help guide his team’s career path and share with them where they can improve in performance in a much clearer way. He has focused on his relationship with his manager and has been doing “a lot of work around how we work together”
focusing on what his manager does that is effective, and sharing this feedback with him. “We have also worked a lot on clearly defining our roles,” he says.

IT HAS BEEN AN INVALUABLE WAY TO LEARN HOW TO
GROW INTO THIS MANAGERIAL ROLE, HOW TO BECOME
A VALUABLE MANAGER, AND MY TEAM HAS BENEFITED
SO MUCH FROM MY WORK WITH MY COACH.

In his team, he has noticed several areas of impact. They have most recently been involved in developing COVID-19 testing, and as one can imagine, this has become pretty
stressful for his team. “I have worked on creating a space where my team can come and talk to me about this project openly, and my coach has helped me think through this
vision.” Sudeep has also felt proud around what he has done with their career development. As an example, one of his team members shared with him that she did not want to be a scientist anymore and Sudeep had to think through how to discuss this with her and help her navigate her next
steps. After some conversations together, “she moved to a different role at the organization and from what I have heard, she has been exceeding expectations. This has been
quite gratifying, to have helped her with this.” At a larger scale, there are other peers of his that are also
receiving executive coaching. Sudeep has seen that “the coaching propagates into other conversations we are all having around management styles at Gingko and how we should approach management at the company.”

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About AceUp

AceUp empowers professionals at all levels to maximize their impact through transformational coaching enabled by technology, empowered by science, and backed by data. We combine the power of one-on-one executive coaching, group training, and behavioral technology to foster a culture of coaching within organizations that drives systemic change, and enables top talent and leaders to master essential business and leadership competencies.impact. AceUp’s coaching is enabled by technology and backed by data. Our mission is to help employees develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed in their roles today and tomorrow and to thrive within their organizations. Our company is
informed by leaders from Harvard, MIT, and Yale with a growing community of vetted executive coaches, certified by ICF, iPEC, CTI, Hudson Institute, Harvard University, and in partnership with the Institute of Coaching.