Since choosing South San Francisco as our headquarters more than 40 years ago, we’ve watched the economy of “The Industrial City” shift from meatpacking facilities and steel mills to the thriving biotech hub of today—all while maintaining its small town charm. As our company has grown, we’ve worked closely with the city to be good neighbors, connected to the people, businesses, and schools that make up this vibrant community. For 26 years, we have dedicated two weeks every September to encouraging employees to visit downtown businesses and shop local, and our employees have been volunteering and raising money for local non-profits during our annual charitable giving week for the past decade. In addition, more than 1,300 employees volunteer annually as mentors and coaches to South San Francisco students, inspiring a love of science through our Futurelab program. But our employees don’t just work and volunteer in South San Francisco; more than 400 live here too. We asked a few of them to share what it is that they love about living and working in South City.
Senior Talent Partner, Human Resources
I was in the Air Force for several years and got used to living close to where I work, which is why I moved to South San Francisco about 15 years ago, two years after I joined Genentech. The location is great – near the airport, since I travel for work, near public transportation, and close to the Bay and Oyster Point where you can take a walk outdoors. It’s a place that’s good for my family, with a small town vibe and a diverse community. I love my neighbors. There’s an older Filipino couple next door who look after our family and house—I call them “uncle” and “auntie.” I participate in a lot of community activities with my church, for families in need, and visiting senior centers. At work I’m in our Genentech Veterans Diversity Group, and we do lots of projects with local veterans. Genentech’s support of the community has been unbelievable, with Futurelab, Genentech Goes to Town, and our annual Gives Back Week. The impression around town is that the company has really helped the community—everyone asks me how to get a job here. My son went to Westborough Middle School, which participates heavily in the Helix Cup science competition every year. All the schools in the district compete against each other doing experiments, which is exciting. Genentech has made science fun for my son. We are rooted in this community and we intend to grow old here. I feel gratitude toward the company and the city, and we’re here to stay.
Head of Partnering Quality, Pharma Technical Operations
I grew up in South San Francisco from the ages of 10 to 18. Now I live in Redwood City, but still consider myself a “South City kid.” Back then, the industrial park was barren except for U.S. Steel and a few other companies. I remember visiting the wind chime near the Genentech campus and riding bikes with my cousin around the point—you’d bump into a lot of buildings today! At the time, Genentech had a small building, with less than 100 people working there. All the employees went to our family doctor on Grand Avenue for their physicals. Like a lot of South City kids, I grew up in a working-class family. My mom’s dad was a fisherman at Fisherman’s Wharf and my dad’s father was an ironworker. I was the first person in my family to go to college. I will never forget the moment in my sophomore year of college when someone from Genentech came to talk about developing new medicines for cancer. That opened a door for me that I had no idea was available. I had lost my mother to cancer less than 18 months before, and learning about Genentech’s mission galvanized my desire to work there. I got an internship in 1982 and have been a full-time employee since 1983. I like to return to my alma mater, Alta Loma Middle School, to help kids understand all the different, rewarding roles there are in the world using science, technology, and math. I do a lot of coaching with middle schoolers participating in the Helix Cup, and when I walk into a classroom wearing jeans and a T-shirt, I think it makes being a scientist feel less foreign to the kids. People from South City are hardworking and resilient. I try to let the kids know that kind of resilience can turn into a lot of opportunities.
Yenny Webb Vargas
Principal Statistical Scientist, Product Development
I grew up in Mexico, where my dad thought it was important to live close enough to work to be able to come home for lunch and a nap. That’s why, when I got a job with Genentech in 2015, I decided to move to South City. I don’t go home for lunch, but after commuting three hours a day in my previous job, it’s great to be able to get to and from work in ten minutes. I like living in South City because it’s a town, but doesn’t have a frenzied pace. There are also strong Latin ties here, with lots of Mexican restaurants and food stores—even places where people make their own tortillas! I love Asian cuisine too, and South City has it all. I was a mentor with Gene Academy, part of our Futurelab program, for three years but am currently taking a break because I just had a baby. I love being a role model, showing the kids that here’s a Mexican woman who gets paid to do math, which is fun. I know how important that is, because I myself went into biotech after taking a high school course that showed us all the cool things you can do with genes. It’s great to expose the kids to Genentech, because they see that scientists don’t look a particular way—there’s diversity in every corner.
Lactancio De Souza
Principal Business Operations Manager, Genentech Research & Early Development
I’ve lived in South City since 2010, before I joined Genentech two years ago, because I wanted to be close to San Francisco. I like the mix of cultures. I grew up in India, where it’s very hot, so I even like the fog here. I get on my bike, feel the wind in my hair, and I’m at work in 20 minutes, refreshed. I enjoy the give-back culture at Genentech—we’ve taken being good neighbors to heart. I mentor at Gene Academy, helping kids with their homework and science experiments. I also coach a lot of the kids that I mentor in baseball and soccer outside of Genentech. I get to know them and their families very well. A lot of the kids’ parents don’t speak English, so they need some extra support. I’ve seen a great deal of progress—they start out shy, afraid to talk, and then with a little encouragement they’re excited and making an effort—whether it’s in soccer or math. Aside from Gene Academy, I’ve mentored middle school kids in the Helix Cup, volunteered to help paint the high school, and am part of the team that facilitates Job Shadow Day at Genentech for local students. When I make a donation to a local charity, Genentech matches it. Once a year, through Genentech Goes to Town, each employee gets $25 to spend at local businesses, and everyone piles on a trolley to go downtown for lunch. Local merchants really appreciate that. You hear a lot of companies talk about giving back, but Genentech really lives it. Since I live in the community, I see the effects every day.
To get to know more of our employees and the ways they're making an impact through their work at Genentech, visit Our People hub.