An Ex-Scientist’s Road to Content Writing at Amplitude

It certainly was not a straightforward path, but here I am now at Amplitude – and how glad I am, indeed.

Inside Amplitude
December 7, 2015
Image of Archana Madhavan
Archana Madhavan
Instructional Designer
An Ex-Scientist’s Road to Content Writing at Amplitude

On my fifth or so day of work as content writer at Amplitude, I turned to my neighbor Jason Kuhlman and asked him how he’d ended up as a graphic designer here. “It wasn’t very straightforward,” he said with a laugh.

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone these days who couldn’t say the same thing about their own career trajectory. After chatting with some of my new coworkers and doing some poking around (it’s amazing how great LinkedIn is for e-stalking), I realized that pivoting is not uncommon among the employees at Amplitude. Suddenly, it didn’t seem so strange that I was a biosciences PhD dropout from Stanford, now writing content for a tech startup. (In fact, I’m not even the first person at Amplitude with that claim to fame.)

It certainly was not a straightforward path, but here I am now at Amplitude – and how glad I am, indeed.

Starting out in academia

I spent most of my life thinking I wanted to be a scientist. As an undergrad, I majored in molecular biology and worked as a research assistant, studying a phenomenon called quorum sensing – a type of genetic regulation in bacteria that’s triggered when they reach a certain population density. After I graduated, I did a 180 and decided I didn’t want to study microbes anymore, I wanted to know how the body fought them.

That’s how I ended up at Stanford, in the PhD program in Immunology, where I studied proteins involved in calcium ion signaling in immune cells.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t excited by the questions other scientists were asking. I cared far more about the fact that all the information that scientists were generating wasn’t reaching the classroom or the general public at all. STEM education and communication was completely broken. In an effort to fix that, a team of Stanford researchers and I founded Goggles Optional, an informative and humorous science podcast for the lay audience. I was one of their first writers.

Three years into the PhD program, I decided I wanted to make communication and writing a central part of my life – not a side project. So I quit.

Transitioning to a start-up

Coming straight out of academia, I rather serendipitously ran into a startup founder who was trying to solve the problem of health misinformation through curated scientific research summaries for the consumer. I joined him as Chief Scientific Officer, specifically to create and manage a content creation pipeline and foster partnerships between ourselves and other health/research institutions.

The 8 months I was with Truthly was a complete whirlwind. I learned an incredible amount about entrepreneurship and business development. We graduated from an accelerator, launched our alpha product, and secured a significant partnership. In between flying to Boulder, CO (where the company was based), I was also writing and managing grants for several departments at Stanford to pay the bills.

In retrospect, going from science academia straight to startup cofounder was a prodigious mental leap. But I thrived in the environment; in every moment in that role, I learned something new and challenging about what it meant to build a good product and a great team.

I learned a good deal about myself too.

I kept coming back to the fact that I wanted to create content that educates. One of our core operating principles at Amplitude is to always strive to solve customer pain. Likewise, in Spenser’s words, I wanted to solve the pain of misinformation and lack of information. And I wasn’t doing that as a scientist (too much benchwork) or as CSO (too much managing). So, I pivoted yet again.

The road to Amplitude

After leaving Truthly, I was supporting myself as a full-time grants/program administrator at Stanford. But it was tying me to a position that didn’t teach me anything new or offer me any room to grow. I knew what I wanted to be doing, but putting a job title on it was difficult.

When I stumbled across the content writing job posting at Amplitude, it instantly clicked that that was what I wanted to be doing.

Why specifically Amplitude for me?

For one thing, I had already heard about the company. Alicia Shiu, who does content and product marketing at Amplitude, and who pretty much single-handedly generated the bulk of the fantastic content found on our blog, was an acquaintance of mine from Stanford. When we first met at a mutual friend’s post-defense celebration, I had just left the PhD program and she was just about to leave graduate school to work at Amplitude as one of their earliest hires.

Starting out in the right environment goes a long way towards success, and Amplitude lay right at the crossroads of a critical career transition. I knew from talking to Alicia that Amplitude would be a fantastic place for me to hone my writing skills and grow into a content strategist role, because it had these special components:

A fantastic team. ** It was clear even during my brief interview day lunch, what a dynamic and diverse group of people comprised Amplitude. There were others, like me, who had pivoted from different educational backgrounds and careers and were successful and enthusiastic in their new roles. **One of the things I craved after I left Truthly was the sense of team camaraderie; I instantly felt that everyone at Amplitude cared about each other’s personal and professional success, and the company’s success as a whole.

A product I can stand by. I love data. As a scientist, running experiments and collecting data was already incredibly familiar territory. Initially, I knew very little about the analytics market aside from the fact that, well, it was a thing. After my first foray into the tech world, I came to know how critical data – specifically user behavior data and analytics – is for businesses, in driving growth, engagement, and retention. With its incredible ability to scale and dig deep into user behavior, I knew that Amplitude is going to be key in enabling business to make better data-informed decisions. It’s not hard to get behind a company that you know is capable of great things.

**An opportunity for personal growth. **Writing about analytics and growth is more different and challenging than anything else I’ve written. And because of that it is exciting. I love that being at Amplitude means I can learn about a market and a product that’s new to me and that I can then take that knowledge and translate it into useful, engaging content. In just my few short weeks here, I’ve learned a ton about content and social media marketing at a pace that I wouldn’t be able to experience elsewhere. I look forward to growing into my role and creating stronger, deeper content that educates the world about analytics.

I’ve been here at Amplitude for one month, as of today. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy that my coworkers occasionally goggle at me saying, “It feels like you’ve been here forever!” There’s nothing like being at a new job and feeling like you’ve been there all along.

Interested in joining us at Amplitude? We’re hiring!

About the Author
Image of Archana Madhavan
Archana Madhavan
Instructional Designer
Archana is an Instructional Designer on the Customer Education team at Amplitude. She develops educational content and courses to help Amplitude users better analyze their customer data to build better products.