The Faces of Luminex: Rachel Yarger, Project Management
The Luminex team doesn’t undertake new product development without lots of information to support it. A key step in the process is facilitated by Rachel Yarger, Senior Director of Strategic Program Management, who works with cross-functional teams to build the case for each new project under consideration. She joined Luminex in 2010 and earned her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and her MBA at the University at Buffalo in New York.
Q: What are your responsibilities at Luminex?
A: As a project manager, I lead cross-functional teams, assist in resolving issues that come up during development, and facilitate communications with the executive staff. In addition to this, I’m also responsible for portfolio management of all R&D projects. This includes developing cases for new projects and products. For each new project, we pull together all of the financial information plus input from R&D and other relevant departments and present that to the executive team to help them make a decision about which projects to pursue. Not all projects get approved. We end up not pursuing or killing projects early in their development because they don’t make financial sense, they’re technically too complex, or there’s not a current market for them.
Q: What drew you to Luminex?
A: After spending 26 years in upstate New York, I was sick of the snow and wanted more sunshine. I knew that we wanted to end up in Austin, and I was looking for something a little different from what I’d been doing in aerospace and defense contracting. I had always been interested in biology and biochemistry, so when I saw the opportunity at Luminex, it seemed like a great fit.
Q: What did you do before this job?
A: After college, I became a product engineer at Moog and worked on actuators for military aircraft. Later, I worked for Northrop Grumman as a project manager for their Electronic Warfare Division.
Q: Was it difficult to make the leap from defense contracting to biotech?
A: The hardest part was learning the new technology. The culture here was very welcoming, and I already had a pretty good skillset for project management. I was able to leverage what I’d learned in defense contracting, where there is an extremely rigorous project management style, so the transition was actually not bad.
Q: If you weren’t in project management at Luminex, where would you be?
A: I probably would have gone into law. I’m fascinated with the Supreme Court, and I enjoy all the logic that’s required for arguing cases.
Q: If you could solve any clinical or genetic challenge, what would it be?
A: Right now there’s no real way to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease until a post-mortem test. I’d love to see very early detection of Alzheimer’s and then an effective way of stopping its progression.
Q: What is something about you that no one at Luminex knows?
A: I do a lot of volunteer work within the animal welfare community in Central Texas, and in January, I co-founded the Round Rock Texas Pet Food Bank. We supply pet food to clients of Meals on Wheels. Clients of Meals on Wheels can’t always leave their homes to purchase food for their pets, so we make sure they will always have food on hand.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do in Austin on the weekend?
A: I love going hiking in the Greenbelt and on the trails around Austin. I also enjoy wine tasting. There are a bunch of great wineries west of Austin and quite a few starting up north of Austin as well.