What’s it like to work at PatientsLikeMe? We are continuing to reveal just that with our monthly blog series “A Day in the Life,” which features various employees from different departments. Last month, we featured an interview with Research Scientist Mike Massagli, PhD, and today, we share our interview with User Experience Engineer Cris Necochea, who holds the distinction of being the very first PatientsLikeMe employee. Find out what convinced him to join PatientsLikeMe as a fledgling start-up…and why he’s stayed for the long haul.
1. You’re a User Experience Engineer at PatientsLikeMe. Tell us what that involves.
At PatientsLikeMe, we use a methodology called Agile Scrum, where our focus is on the quick turnaround of short, attainable goals, usually in a two-week period. It’s fast-paced and never boring. Our engineering team is made up of around 10 Engineers, a Product Manager, a Designer and two User Experience Engineers, all under the direction of our Director of Engineering, Steve Hammond.
My focus is on translating the visual designs into a usable and accessible user interface. However, at PatientsLikeMe, we all have a lot of shared responsibility for driving the direction we take with the user experience. Given our short cycles of releasing website updates every two weeks, it’s invaluable to have every member of our team focused on what is most important for the patient. We don’t always get it right the first time, but we take the feedback we get from our members to constantly improve the user experience.
2. What kind of projects are you working on right now?
Currently, we’re wrapping up a long project that will allow our members to describe more about their health experience in the context of the information they already share. We have been testing this for a while with patient volunteers, and the feedback we have received is very positive. We believe it will encourage even more sharing, which, in turn, will build the body of medical knowledge. That’s our ultimate goal.
Aside from that, I’m working on some features to improve the accessibility of the website. Based on feedback of a patient who uses assistive technology (AT), we’re trying to cut down the number of steps to access the essential features on our pages.
3. What do you like best about being a part of the PatientsLikeMe team?
Our team environment, like our entire company culture, is highly collaborative and based around lots of direct communication. Our weekly Journal Club presentations with outside speakers are a highlight, but we also have regular company presentations on what we’re working on, as well as informal “brown-bag” presentations on technical subjects and the like. Sharing is a focus even for the employees at PatientsLikeMe. It helps that the people we have are the smartest I have ever worked with, and they are passionate about the company’s mission.
On a more personal note, our team keeps it witty and light-hearted. It’s always fun to be in the office, but even on days when we work remotely, the laughs keep rolling over our team collaboration tools. As an aside, I’d like to point out that PatientsLikeMe is hiring. If you enjoy working with hilarious and talented folks that are trying to help people, maybe you’d like to look at our Careers page.
4. As someone who’s been with the company since the early days, what’s the PatientsLikeMe milestone that you’re most proud of?
That’s a very interesting question. I think being the very first employee at PatientsLikeMe is what I’m most proud of. When I received the call from Co-Founders Jeff Cole and Ben and Jamie Heywood about what they were putting together, I had little hesitation about joining an effort that was aimed at helping improve the lives of patients.
Through that time, we have contributed legitimate scientific discoveries and built a team of people who excel in their fields in the service of a mission that is bigger than any one of us. I couldn’t have predicted that we would succeed when I started here in 2005, but I believed enough in the goals of PatientsLikeMe to make the leap. Seeing what we have accomplished in that time is the most gratifying thing of all.
Interested in joining our engineering team and making a difference in patients’ lives? Check out our Careers page to see our current job openings. Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, PatientsLikeMe is looking for a Senior User Experience Designer and Experienced Ruby on Rails Developers at the moment.