2019/10 6 min read
What brought you to Syapse?
I had a job at an insurance company in Philadelphia doing data analysis for the Medicare member experience. I really enjoyed working in member experience because I got to conduct focus groups and hear directly from the members what they needed and what they would benefit from. I really liked the job, but not the industry. We cared about our members, but there’s always a bottom line. I wanted to get away from a business model where everything has a price tag. I came across a job posting for Syapse, and remember reading it and thinking, “This is meaningful.” I went through the interview process and was elated when I got the job!
Was there an ‘Aha!’ moment during the recruiting process when you knew you wanted to join Syapse?
I had that moment just reading the job description. I was like, this would be so cool. I loved my interview process. Everyone was laid back and welcoming. Insurance is all suits and ties. Very reserved. When I walked into the Philadelphia office, everyone was so friendly and welcoming. It felt like I would be working with genuine people at Syapse.
How do you explain your job to your friends and family?
I lead a team that takes big, complicated data sets after they’ve been ingested, normalized, and cleaned up, and we make it easier and faster for executives, researchers, and busy oncologists to understand them. And we try to do it in the most effective way possible to improve user experience.
When I started, I thought I’d be doing general analysis like my previous job. But here, I was actually going to be making new tools. I had to change my frame of mind. I’d never developed anything for an external customer, so I had to teach myself. I found areas where I needed to step up and make things happen that wouldn’t have gotten done otherwise. I had to train myself to think like that because I wasn’t managing anything before. I’m so thankful for that opportunity because I found I really liked managing. It was definitely “trial by fire”, and there were failures, but the successes outweigh them at this point. It can be hard, but that’s the reason you come here everyday and fall asleep excited about what you’re going to do the next day.
What motivates you day-to-day?
The mission is incredible. My sister is in medical school right now, so giving clinicians tools that help them provide better care is a huge part of that motivation. Just looking at EMRs alone, the data is a nightmare. The fact that we can take that data from any health system, figure out how to normalize it, and give people a simplified tool to use for research and eventually, treatment — it’s incredible. I’m also excited to work with life sciences to help companies make better and cheaper therapies with insights derived from health system data. We can save so many people’s lives. And not just in the United States, but also in Korea and beyond.
There’s challenges involved, but if it wasn’t challenging, it’d be boring. Someone has to do it. These are complicated problems that we don’t have the answers to. But that’s the exciting part. You have to put in the work to figure it out. I’m blown away by the amount of intelligent people here. There’s some days I’m just in awe of the people I work with. I think that’s how it should be — it brings everyone else up.
What are you most excited for in the upcoming year?
We’ve got a good handle on the tools we can make and the look and feel of how we want to do things. Now we get to refine, and I think that’s where the value starts coming in. We’ve shown what we can do with prototypes and early versions, and now we’re getting to the in-depth, complicated analysis. I’m just really excited to input all the clinical feedback we’ve gotten. Nothing is more valuable than customer feedback.
Two products we’ve been working on are a patient cohort builder that can be used to filter a customer’s data set by certain clinical and molecular criteria and generate clinical trial matches, among other things, as well as a dashboard that provides insights into molecular testing trends for health system executives. What tests are being ordered? Which doctors are ordering them? What outcomes are we seeing? It’s been a huge feat to combine such massive amounts of data and rewarding to iterate and collaborate with customers. If people can start using this data and acting on it clinically, it was be huge strides in the right direction.
What do you think is special about the Philadelphia team?
I went to the University of Pennsylvania and have been in Philly for almost seven years now. One thing I love about Philadelphia is how honest the people are. When something’s good, you know; when something’s bad, you know. We’re all willing to get lunch together every day, have meaningful conversations, clean up together, etc… We’re good at putting ego aside and being human towards each other. I’m always trying to be genuine in any environment, but it doesn’t feel forced here. It’s a great group of people from different backgrounds. Everyone is warm and welcoming and smart. It’s awesome.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you wish we had?
One thing to get across culturally is that we’re all on the same team trying to accomplish the same thing. When I find myself getting frustrated with someone, I step back and think, why do they feel like that? Let me try to understand and then re-approach. It’s easy (and human) to get frustrated, especially if it feels like we’re wasting time and delaying processes. At the same time, you need to stop and think, why is this happening? Taking that time to understand each other and be more patient has made it easier for me to work through difficult situations. We all signed up to work on the same mission.
If you could become an expert in anything instantly, what would it be?
I really like Jane Eyre. Or anything by Kirk Vonnegut.
What’s something new you’re learning right now?
Playing the banjo
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
Right now — Ethiopia
If you could switch roles at Syapse for a day, what other job would you like to try?
Ken’s [Tarkoff, CEO] or Jon’s [Hirsch, Founder & President]
What’s your favorite thing you own?
A picture of me and my twin
The Royal Tenenbaums
Favorite snack in the office kitchen?
Oh man. Dark chocolate covered raisins or these little oatmeal raisin cookies. You can eat like 12!