Mamas of SF: Seven Questions For Amy Sheng

Editor's Note: I met Amy Sheng after I discovered the nifty OtoHOME that helps you detect ear infections at home with your iPhone!  Amy is a Bay Area native with deep local roots AND a mom balancing a young family (two boys!) and a hot startup. She's a wealth of information for families living in San Francisco! —Lesly

Name and Age
I’m Amy Sheng and I’m 36. 

What neighborhood do you live in, and where is your hometown?
I live near the Glen Park and Sunnyside neighborhoods. We’re about a mile west of Glen Park. I’m a Bay Area Native, my hometown is Saratoga, CA. 

Tell me about yourself.
I stayed here through college and grad school. I studied mechanical engineering and human biology at Stanford, and met my now husband who was also at Stanford. We ended up moving to Boston for almost eight years while he went to grad school there. I was working for medical devices doing product development. I started out at an artificial heart company and then went to a hematology analyzer company, an analyzer for looking at blood smears.

I really loved my Boston experience but our hearts were always back in the Bay area. My husband is from Santa Cruz so we wanted to come back, and our families are all still here. So we came back about five years ago and got married. 

I took a job as a project manager at a bio engineering lab at UC Berkeley. We were working on cell phone-based microscopy—this was back in 2009. It seems really obvious now, because phones are so ubiquitous and everyone’s doing these attachments to do better imaging, but this was pre-iPhone when we started. I was really inspired to join the lab because I found the work to be totally revolutionary. It’s amazing that you can take a phone and then add on all these additional capabilities. 

At the time we were looking at remote diagnosis for tuberculosis and malaria in developing countries, so that was really the focus in the lab. I started my part-time MBA at Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. There was so much interest and excitement around the work that we were doing that we ended up spinning out the startup that I’m working on now at the very end of 2010.

Tell me about your family! 
Yeah, sure. My husband’s name is David Merrill. We’ve been dating since 2002, so we dated for a long time and got married a little bit later. He’s also a startup founder and works on hardware. He’s one of the founders of Sifteo—originally they were making interactive cubes for kids for education and learning, and then they were acquired by 3D-Robotics in Berkeley. Now he works on building quad-copters, flying helicopters. We have two kids, two boys. Arlo is almost four and Kian just turned one! We’re excited to have made it through his first year. It went really fast, especially with the second one. 

What tips do you have for parents raising kids in San Francisco? 
I subscribe to all the local Yahoo parent email lists. I’m on the Glen Park list and some of the surrounding ones, because we used to live in the Mission. I find those to be great because its like the Next Door app, except it’s specifically for kids. A lot of the things as parents that you are wondering about are neighborhood based. Having access to those parent lists means you hear about nannies that are available or daycare options, or even fun activities like Halloween events at a neighborhood school.  So it’s a great way to get targeted information very efficiently. 

What’s your favorite stroller friendly restaurant in San Francisco, and your favorite family activity? 
There is an Indian restaurant called Roti in West Portal that we really like and we’ve gone there several times. The food is amazing, it’s never crowded which I really love. It’s like this undiscovered gem and they’re very accommodating with our kids. Also in West Portal, we like going to La Boulange for breakfast or to pick up treats for a playdate. 

We love going to the zoo, especially my older son, he’s a huge fan of trains, so we ride the train at the zoo, and we love looking at the animals. Before we lived in Mission Castro area—we don’t do it as much as we used to, but we love riding the F train along Market, to the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry building on Saturday morning. We do love riding cable cars—you’ll see a theme here, a lot of transportation! We love taking advantage of the seasonal things in the city, like seeing the Blue Angels or the amazing hotel holiday decorations in Union Square. It’s free and it’s fun for grownups too. 

A little gem that I would say a lot of parents don't know about is the Randall Museum. It is amazing—there's no membership, it’s not expensive, it’s perched on this hill and the views of the city are unbelievable. They have animals inside and the volunteer docents bring out the turtles and the owl and show kids. They even have an amazing old train room.

In one word, how would you describe raising children in San Francisco? 
Challenging (but worth it).