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An Interview with Flavia Goncalves: The Promise of Healthcare for Mission-Driven Engineers

Apr 4, 2019 By One Medical

Flavia Goncalves is a One Medical engineering lead. Her team focuses on leveraging innovative technologies to improve the experience for members. On a rainy March morning in downtown San Francisco, One Medical digital lead Mark Gopez sat down to talk with Flavia about why healthcare is hot, the value of mission-driven engineering, and how good it feels to work at a place where you’re using technology to improve something so essential to our society.

#1 Working at One Medical: A mission-driven workplace

Mark: What attracted you to One Medical?

Flavia: I've always tried to work in industries where I could make an impact, I could make a difference. Before One Medical, I was at a company called Prosper. They do peer-to-peer lending, with an emphasis on small loans. You are trying to help people who have credit card loans with the really high rates.

Mark: I love it. It's very mission-driven.

Flavia: It is very mission-driven.

Mark: Okay, so that's really important to you?

Flavia: Yes.

Mark: Which is why you probably ended up at One Medical.

Flavia: So I had been a member and I received an email from a recruiter. I thought to myself, "Yeah, I actually really like One Medical, so I'm going to check out, see what they are all about," because my doctor's awesome, super nice, and the offices were super nice, I thought, "Great service. This is interesting."

So I came here, I talked to a bunch of people, and the people were really smart and kind. I guess it was fairly easy to make a decision. I was working in a mission-driven company. But at One Medical, the combination of talent, the mission of the company, and the growth path that I could see for my career were very important in my decision to come to work at One Medical.

People seemed really, really smart. You always wanna work at a place where you're collaborating with smart people. Unfortunately, in this industry, you can be supersmart, and you can also be a jerk and be in a culture that rewards success at all costs. That’s not what I’ve experienced at One Medical.

There were no egos, no nothing. It was just people being truly themselves, and

actually caring about helping people and putting those people, our patients, in

the forefront. That is something, right? Because it's selfless.

I'm not just working here because I'm making tons of money or whatever. It’s not about my title, right?

Mark: Yes, you are.


Flavia: Well, yes. But it's more about actually applying my skills for something good.

Mark: Can you actually unpack that a little bit? What I want to know is, is the perception of Silicon Valley: kind of work with jerks and you get stuff done, or... Have you experienced that yourself or is it more like anecdotal from your friends and circles.

Flavia: No, I have experienced that. I think it's been changing a lot. You know, there's always that perception, like people are jerks, people are really smart first of all. People are really smart, but there's a lot of jerks and you’re working 60-plus hours a week and all that kind of stuff.

I think it's changing, maybe eight years ago it was like that. The culture is slowly changing, and yes, I have experienced that. I've worked at places where there was a lot of ego. Not everybody, but there were some people who were very toxic. I haven’t experienced any of that at One Medical.

#2 Working at One Medical | Why healthcare is exciting for an engineer

Mark: Let’s shift gears. You mentioned your experience with Prosper, which sounds more like a traditional start-up in the FinTech space. When you came to One Medical, and now your experience at One Medical, as an engineer do you see the health tech space as exciting? Do you get just as much chance to work on innovative technologies and challenging problems that you were doing at the FinTech startup?

Flavia: I think it's actually more exciting to be in the healthcare industry. Healthcare in this country is pretty broken. And there haven’t been many trying to fix it. Of course, today there are more companies, start-ups, trying to solve it.

But three years ago, there were not very many. So I think it's actually more exciting because of that. It's becoming a crowded space, but it's still not super crowded.

Right now, the impact that you can make in healthcare is significant.

Mark: So the thing that allures the most is that we're doing it specifically for healthcare.

We're working in the same stack, we're not as behind as everybody thinks we are because we're healthcare. In your opinion, does that resonate with you? Is that a big reason why you joined? Or is it more about our mission? What do engineers really care about when they decide to interview at One Medical?

Flavia: I think it depends. A lot of engineers are looking for the latest, shiniest technology, right? Are you using React or are you using Node?

There is that group of people, and then there's a group of people like, "You know, the technology isn’t the end-all be-all. I have more, I don’t know, aspirational motivations, I want to work with the latest technologies. But that's not the only point, and certainly not the main reason I get up in the morning and come to work. For me, the main point is how can I use technology and my knowledge to do good in this world?”

I think I see myself a lot more in that second category than in the first one. Sure, I really like the shiniest and greatest, latest technology. That's fun, but that's not the main thing that I look for when I'm looking for a job.

#3 Working at One Medical: Why diversity makes us better

Mark: Can you talk about diversity at One Medical?

Flavia: So there is a diverse group of people, and I think that's important. A diverse group really helps drive a diversity of ideas. I see it at work here at One Medical, a great commitment to inclusivity and openness.

Mark: Can you unpack diverse? Are you talking about skill sets or something else?

Flavia: Yes. There's a diversity of skill sets. Senior developers, more junior developers, developers from a range of verticals who have seen similar problems solved in unique ways. We all collaborate to come up with the right solution. And that collaboration is really important and everybody's really open to it.

There is, I think the openness to ideas and openness to listen to your peers. Managers aren’t saying, "Let's do it this way, because I'm the boss."

People are going to challenge my ideas, which is a good thing. People are going to say, "Why do you think that's a good way?" There's not that idea that just because you’re senior to me, you're going to come in, and we're going to obey. And I think nurturing these core values are very healthy. And I think it helps everybody grow in their careers.

Mark: I want to unpack a little bit of that. Can you explain some of the challenges that your team has solved collectively?

Flavia: Yeah. I think there's a big one right now that actually involves the entire team. So we have different teams. Access. Growth. Mobile team. To give just a few examples. We also have what we call “Coalitions,” which are groups of people from different teams who get together to work on something they see as a problem that needs to be solved. It could be more of a technical problem, or it could be like a process that is broken.

There's several examples of those, and I think a big one is everybody got together and said, "We want to move toward a service-oriented architecture." [Editor’s note: Known by the acronym SOA.] But this is not a challenge that a siloed group of leads should solve. So we’ve set up a coalition with several people from different teams. We’re working really well together to actually figure out the best approach to reach a SOA.

People are super interested in this work, super invested in it, even outside of their day-to-day work. I think it's amazing. I think it's really getting everybody together and trying to solve a big problem.

Mark: This might be a provocative question: Does a diverse team make the work better?

Flavia: Absolutely. Yeah. I come to work knowing that there's acceptance, and that's huge. That's really big because that makes me feel comfortable. I can actually be myself. I don't have to hide a part of myself while I'm at work.

#4 Working at One Medical: More on why being an engineer in healthcare is different than other engineering jobs

Mark: How is working at One Medical different than working as an engineer in another industry?

Flavia: For me, I guess it's the impact we have on people's lives.

Mark: So you truly believe we're still on that path?

Flavia: Yes I do.

Mark: Give me some of your biggest tech challenges that face healthcare, not specifically us, but healthcare.

Flavia: I think one of the biggest things for me right now, and I think that's why I'm moving teams, is how we can empower our patients, our members, to take control of their health by surfacing their health information in the right ways at the right times. I’m like everyone else: If I have some symptoms, I’m immediately scouring the internet for answers. And the answer is always: "Oh my god, I'm going to die." [Laughter.]

So how can we actually empower people and show them helpful information at the right time?. I think that empowering people like that to take control of their health is really important.

This is technically very complex. For example, let’s say I went to the ER. Later, I'm at my primary care provider. How do these records get exchanged in an efficient way? Many health organizations use different systems for their health records. It's not one integrated system where everything talks to each other seamlessly. It's not like that, and that creates a big challenge.

Mark: Have we even begun to crack this surface of how to marry databases and still be HIPAA-compliant and keep health records safe? Have we really started to crack the surface of this challenge?

Flavia: We definitely have, I'm not the best person to talk about this, but there's a whole team of engineers working on this at One Medical.

We’ve made a lot of progress. It's not ideal though. We are thinking about the way to exchange data. What’s the best way? How do make sure it’s correct? And how do we validate that this data that we got is correct? Do we show it to the patient? How do we do that?

We're working on all of this at One Medical.

Mark: Can you talk about some of the most exciting things you're working on? What are they? Why are they exciting?

Flavia: We just recently released our brand-new appointment booking incorporating ML

Mark: Is this the more conversational one?

Flavia: Yes. The more conversational flow for booking appointments, and now we’re looking at how we can make this better.

I think the most, in my opinion, the most important thing is we all care about our members and the population that we serve. You should not come here just because you want to work with a specific technology. You should come here knowing that you want to make a difference in people's lives. I think that's the most important thing, because everybody here cares.

You should come here and geek out on the latest technologies. People are going to talk to you, and they're going to be excited about it. But you're going to be missing a big part of the mission and why we're all here.

Mark: So if I spent a lot of my time talking about the technology stack on our engineering page, you're suggesting that's probably not going to be enough.

Flavia: If you can, you should. But also emphasize that a lot of people are here because they care about making a change. So if somebody's going to come here and be like, "Oh, I think we should do this latest, I don't know, chat-thing because we can use this latest technology." People are going to challenge that. This person could like "Yeah, but how does that benefit the doctor or the user?"

We're not going to do things just for the sake of technology. We want to actually make healthcare better because it’s the right thing to do for the greater society.

One Medical

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