Sandra Moreno, an executive assistant for CZI’s science program, puts her family values to work in her role. | Photo and artwork courtesy of Sandra Moreno
The people closest to our society’s most pressing issues should be the ones to inform solutions and drive change. Our teams partner with diverse educators, families, community leaders and organizations, scientists and more to ensure the voices of those most impacted are always heard. So when we say to “stay close to the work” at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we mean it.
Get to know Sandra Moreno, one of CZI’s science executive assistants, in this edition of Stay Close to the Work. Learn about her journey to CZI and how the organization’s values guide her work as an integral part of the science team.
Reading Priscilla and Mark’s letter to Max resonated with me as a parent, and my hopes for the future of children. I believe we need to work within our community to start making a difference.
Tell us a little bit about what you do at CZI.
As an executive assistant, I support our vice president of science and leaders in our Neurodegeneration Challenge Network and single-cell biology programs. The focus of my days varies from project to project, but includes weekly team meetings with the science administrative group. We schedule collaboration meetings, establish the new hire onboarding process, update meeting documents, and plan employee milestone celebrations. I also work with the admin team to streamline operations with workflow and guideline documents for our Biohub location and create vacation coverage plans.
One of my favorite responsibilities is arranging small and large team-building events that help bring our science teams together and foster camaraderie. I collaborate with third-party vendors on branded merchandise that supports small businesses and organizations whose missions align with CZI values. The memories we create during these events help us bond because we learn what other teams do through conversations and interactions that don’t usually happen during day-to-day work. I’ve had the opportunity to plan events such as making Brazilian chocolate truffles, completing escape room challenges and scavenger hunts, attending painting and virtual cooking classes, and so many more!
How did you come to be a part of the CZI team? Tell us about your journey.
I stayed in touch with an executive assistant I worked with at a previous startup tech organization. She would talk about how much she loved working for CZI and the meaningful work the organization was doing. She mentioned the science team needed an executive assistant and thought I would be a good fit. I applied for the position and got an interview! I remember this positive energy in the office; everyone smiled and greeted me. I thought, “I really want to be a part of this.” And here I am four years later!
We know balancing the demands of work and life can be challenging. What are some of your favorite ways to prioritize your self-care?
I love being creative and making things with my hands. After a full day of work on my laptop, I enjoy painting at my easel. I would describe my art as magical realism. I get to travel in my imagination and put my thoughts and feelings into images on a canvas.
I recently bought my first home, and I’ve been painting a mural inside my closet. Every evening after dinner, I spend about an hour on the mural. Soon, getting dressed in my closet will feel like I’m on a tropical vacation with bright flowers, tropical birds and foliage.
How does your work at CZI relate to who you are and your values in life?
Reading Priscilla and Mark’s letter to Max resonated with me as a parent, and my hopes for the future of children. My family and children are my top priority and I want to give them the best future possible. I believe we need to work within our community to start making a difference.
My favorite time of the work year is late summer when the Community Fund team invites CZI staff members to review applications for grants in the local community. I have had the pleasure of being part of this project for four years.
I enjoy the way the science team comes together and supports one another. We listen to each other and provide support. The science program team has excellent leadership — they live CZI’s values and honestly care for team members.
The science team is also an ambitious group with a great sense of humor. We recently put together a virtual scavenger hunt that took a competitive turn. The team’s feedback was that they had so much fun Slacking and sharing comments and pictures of their findings for the activity.
What’s a project that you really enjoyed and why?
Last year for Latinx Heritage Month, I worked with Unidos, one of our employee resource groups, to plan events to celebrate CZI’s Latina/o/x community. We collaborated to create some great social events on Zoom and brought education to our non-Latina/o/x peers while celebrating our communities. We sent out a box with some great treats from local vendors, including Latin American ones. Working on this project meant a great deal to me, and it was special since I was able to make a small impact on local, Latina/o/x-owned businesses by introducing their work to CZI.
How do you hope to see CZI evolve and grow over the next five years?
I am excited to see how the Biohub Network develops over the next few years. One day, I hope the network extends to all the major research universities.
What does staying close to the work mean to you?
A lot has changed since 2019, especially with our new hybrid work model. I am excited to see how CZI evolves to ensure we don’t lose the volunteer- and community-driven aspect of our roles. I love that we have volunteer time off hours to use. This has helped me get to know my new community and volunteer with local women’s shelters. In the past, I have volunteered at women’s safe houses throughout the Bay Area.