Meet Arun Pai

Arun, newly promoted CISO and VP, Cloud Operations shares with us his career journey and what makes Syapse a great place to work.

2021/09 6 min read


What brought you to Syapse?

My motivation to join Syapse was to take on scale and complexity. I have been in healthcare technology for over a decade and had previous experience dealing with challenges in wrangling healthcare data towards improving patient care. I’ve also learned that great companies are built by great leaders and I knew a few of the leaders at Syapse — which made the decision easier.

Although at the time of joining I did not know anyone in my immediate circle of friends and family who have dealt with cancer, since joining, I’ve now had the humbling experience of working with colleagues who’ve gone through personal cancer journeys. We also recently lost our family dog to cancer which makes my job here much more meaningful and real.

You’ve been at Syapse for a number of years. What has made you want to stay?

When I joined, I used to tell folks that my role was Director of Getting S*** Done (my recruiter, Grant, remembers that line fondly). And it sounds right because we were doing a number of different initiatives and I wore a lot of different hats. I continue to do that today. Those scaling and complexity challenges that brought me to Syapse are not slowing down. I’m fulfilled by those every day. Also, I have the ability to help teams and individuals around me grow, scale, and face those opportunities as well, which keeps me engaged.

What have been some of the most important changes the company has made in your time here?

The pivot from being a product and feature-focused company to a data company was arguably the most pivotal moment for Syapse in the last few years. The entire organization adapted to a new way of thinking on how we serve our customers and patients. This required not only a cultural change but also required reconciliation of our roles and the ways we get work done. I think it has led many folks to truly understand why they’re here, why their work matters and how they contribute to the company’s mission by putting their roles in perspective.

There’s a consistent theme at Syapse of “I’m motivated to work at Syapse because they solve hard problems and answer the difficult questions” Does that ring true to you?

We lost our dog to cancer earlier this year. My 10 year old son doesn’t know exactly what I do but he knows I work in the cancer space and I remember him saying, “Dad, can you work a little harder so you can find a cure for cancer?”

It was such a touching moment. I wish he knew how hard this stuff is. At Syapse we find innovative solutions but cancer is smart and elusive. So when we say that we answer tough questions or tackle hard problems, that’s not an understatement. It is a reality of what we do at Syapse today.

What has surprised you the most since joining Syapse?

Having been in healthcare technology for several years, I knew coming into Syapse how “messy” healthcare data is. We aggregated data across health systems and other care settings in my previous experience but cancer data turns out to be even harder to wrangle to generate meaningful insights from the data. The ability of the Syapse team to be resilient and adapt to change has been inspiring. We continue to adjust our ways of thinking and approach to problem solving.

How do you explain your role to your relatives?

It’s hard. I tell them I lead an operations team for a healthcare startup. That seems to take care of 90% of that audience. The other 8% I tell them that we are a cancer data analytics company that is improving the lives of patients by helping accelerate drug development, access to clinical trials and identify the most effective therapies. For the last 2% of the audience, I get into the nitty-gritty of what my day-to-day job entails, the problems we solve, the technologies we use.

Congrats on the promotion! Can you talk about your career journey at Syapse?

From my perspective, growth is not linear. I find it immensely rewarding to help the people around me grow. I pride myself in making investments in developing teams and people, as much as I invest in my own growth and development. Part of what brought me to Syapse is that I have the support of our leaders. It’s helpful to work with people who trust you, and ultimately people with whom you can have a laugh at the end of the day. You have to carve out time having fun in what you do, and who you do it with.

I’ve worn a lot of hats at Syapse and been a part of many teams but it’s the building journey that interests me. I consider myself a “builder” in and outside work. Syapse has given me the opportunity to do that. I believe that you don’t need to be a manager to be a leader.

What are you most excited about for the next year?

I am excited about getting back to some form of normalcy in our lives as we adjust to the current pandemic. My professional and personal lives have blended even more in the last 18 months emphasizing the need to spend quality time with family. I’m looking forward to getting our kids vaccinated and to being able to travel and take a real vacation. Camping for a few days in the wilderness is great, but I’d like to get out there and find new places to see.

If you could become an expert in anything, instantly, what would it be?

I’d like to be a craftsman or woodworker. I’ve been at it for a few years now. Like I said, I like to build things and wood-working gives me lots of opportunity to push my creativity and capabilities.

Is there anything new you’re learning right now?

Yes, when the pandemic started I started to learn to play the guitar. It’s unsurprisingly hard to play a string instrument if you’ve never played one before.

If you could switch roles at Syapse for a day, what other job would you like to try?

I’d love to be in the shoes of our Clinical Abstractors here at Syapse. Extracting valuable information from patient charts sounds tedious but interesting!

Post pandemic, where is the first place you want to travel?

I have always wanted to do an African safari. I think the kids would love it too!

What has been your favorite movie that you watched and favorite book you’ve read during the pandemic?

I enjoyed watching TV shows over movies through this pandemic. We binge-watched ‘Money Heist’ (with English subtitles) last year and look forward to the next season. On the movie list, I rewatched Gravity — one of my all-time favorite movies. I can’t wait for space travel to be more accessible!

As for a book, I just picked up Bob Iger’s book — The Ride of a lifetime. I love personal and business journeys and Disney is such an amazing company, so I am keen on learning more about his journey.