When it comes to the early detection of cancer, the boundaries between work and charity are blurred for the employees at GenoLogics Life Sciences Software.

The Saanich-based company develops specialized software that is sold worldwide to help research and medical facilities organize vast amounts of data in the fields of proteomics and genomics, the baselines in much of the cancer research today.

So it’s no surprise that company culture encourages employees to volunteer, raise funds and make other contributions in the gigantic struggle against the indiscriminate disease.

“There isn’t a single person in this organization that hasn’t lost a person close to them to cancer,” said GenoLogics human resources director Brandie Yarish, whose father died a little over a year ago.

“People are passionate about what they do here. We’re a company that develops lines of code for a product that helps in the detection of cancer, and everyone knows we’re playing a part.

“We realize we can’t leave it to government to solve. We all have a role.”

GenoLogics has just raised more than $10,000 for the high-tech community’s annual Canary Derby, a soapbox race between companies to raises funds for early-detection research through the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

Staff beat the bushes to produce everything from their own baking to persuading friends and businesses for contributions ranging from artwork to helicopter and sailboat tours.

Staff also staged their own version of GenoLogics’ Next Top Model, held hockey pools and rented out their personal video collections.

The workforce was divided into four teams to feed on the competitive nature so common in high-tech firms, says GenoLogics chief executive Michael Ball.

He says the company benefits in the long haul by giving employees free rein for ideas. In fact, GenoLogics holds a quarterly Hack Day, where employees “innovate in their roles.” There are cooking classes, a book club, regular outings for recreation, Lunch and Laughs every Friday and GenoPalooza, a yearly professional development day.

“We get it back,” said Ball. “There’s an open range of ideas and it creates a bond to the organization. We aren’t just here to make software. We’re here to make a difference with each other, our community and our industry.”

GenoLogics employs 51 staff, an increase of 30 per cent from a year ago. It will grow by another 12 this year, according to Yarish, who says the company is looking for several software developers.

And remember: Everything you put on your resume is important.

Consider that Ryan Hobbs was hired last year not only for his professional qualifications as a quality assurance analyst, but because he put rally racing and cars as hobbies on his resume. Ball hired him on the spot and put him in charge of building this year’s soapbox racer for the Canary Derby.

“We really want to win,” said Ball, who will be driving the GenoLogics entry. “Any edge helps.”

Last year, the derby raised $47,000 and attracted more than 500 spectators. The goal this year is to reach $100,000.

Darron Kloster Times Colonist