Illumina Geneticist Janina Jeff Wins Spotify’s “Sound Up Bootcamp”

Janina Jeff, bioinformatics technical sales specialist, Illummina

In April, we reported on Spotify’s “Sound Up Bootcamp,” a weeklong intensive program for aspiring female podcasters of color. Recently, we learned that Janina Jeff, bioinformatics technical sales specialist at Illumina, was one of three participants who took home a prize of $10,000 out of a class of 10 women who were selected to be in the program.
The 10 women were chosen out of a pool of 18,000 applicants.

“There were 10 winners of diverse backgrounds. Five women were African American; three were Asian, one was Hispanic and one was Middle Eastern. The boot camp helped us learn everything there is to know about podcasting from marketing to sound to actual editing, which was great because we all had zero background in podcasting!” she told
Taught by two instructors and a representative from Spotify, the boot camp serves as part of Spotify’s ongoing messaging that Black History should be celebrated year-round rather than within the designated month of February. “This boot camp is a part of Spotify’s ‘Black History is Happening Now’ initiative, so they gave three of us $10,000 to start our podcasts,” she shares.

According to Spotify’s website, the boot camp was launched “in partnership with creative collective Saturday Morning, to celebrate and amplify the voices of black artists, creators, and organizations year-round. With the launch of volume two of the platform, Spotify will continue to tell the stories of and raise topics that are important to black artists and creatives through video, podcast, and music curation.”

For Jeff’s part, her podcast, “In Those Genes,” is specific to genetics and focused on her expertise. “The title is an ode to Ginuwine’s 90’s song ‘In Those Jeans,’ so, yes, it’s a play on words!” she explains. “And it’s aimed at helping African Americans uncover their lost identities. The idea came about from the number of times that people ask me about Ancestry .com when they learn that I’m a geneticist. They want to know about DNA. Largely, we, as African Americans, have no idea about our DNA because our entire genealogy was erased due to slavery. So, I think genetics is an unbiased way of telling the community information to help them understand who they are.”

She continues, “When you think about other cultures and communities, especially globally, they generally have a good idea of where they’re from. But we just have no idea.”

Jeff’s podcast is co-hosted by Ashley Huderson, a PhD who is the manager of engineering education at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

And even better, the podcast will be hip-hop inspired. Notes Jeff, “When you’re talking about science, it can be boring! So we’re gonna use hip-hop to entertain the audience, so that they are equally interested in the subject matter.”

The other two young ladies to take home the $10,000 cash award were Titi Shodiya,  scientific auditor at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, accrediting science labs in Washington, D.C., whose podcast “Dope Labs,” looks at the intersection between science and pop culture with cohost Zakiya Whatley; and Kristina Ogilvie, secretary for a disaster aid nonprofit in Washington, D.C., whose podcast “Your Job Seems Easy” is an interview show which explores the working lives of women of color.

(Jeff is featured on the cover of The Network Journal’s December 2017 issue.)