13 posts from March, 2012

A Day in the Life of PatientsLikeMe Office Manager Alison Dutton

Posted March 22nd, 2012 by

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.  So far, we’ve featured people like User Experience Engineer Cris Necochea and Research Assistant Shivani Bhargava.  Today, we share our interview with Office Manager Alison Dutton, who’s been keeping things running smoothly – and hilariously – for the past two years.  Find out what we learned from Alison about life at the epicenter of a startup.

alison-photo-2

1.  What’s it like being the Office Manager of a growing startup?

I have heard this particular question many times before and each time I give a different answer – all depending, of course, on how the previous day has ended. It can be incredibly exhilarating and at the same time exhausting mentally as well as physically. The important thing to note is that it’s never, ever dull.

Although this can be said for most positions in a startup, for me, I relish the spontaneity and craziness that ensues on a daily basis. I have had experiences with established companies that had more of a corporate culture. It is Groundhog Day all over again. Since I have a few startups under my belt, I am familiar with the energy, which is so addictive.  Everyone should try it once in their lifetime.

2.  You have such a great sense of humor.  Is that a requirement in your position?

The humor isn’t just a prerequisite for the job but also for life in general. I grew up the only girl in a household of boys, so I probably had to develop a sense of humor and thick skin a little quicker than most. As far as it coming in handy for my job – things change quickly in a startup environment and specifically with a job like mine, where one day you’re preparing for a board meeting and the next day you’re planning a company field trip to the local pub. You must be able to roll with it and maintain a smile throughout.

I find that being able to laugh at life – and at myself – helps me make the most of every day, whether I’m having a good one or a bad one. It also helps others relax when things get tense. It’s helpful that I tend to see things in a more positive light. After reading some of the patient profiles on our site, it reminds me of how lucky I am. I can stub my toe 10 times during the day and at the same time realize that I am wickedly overdrawn on my bank account and still laugh at myself.

What it boils down to is appreciating what you have – I am so dang lucky to come to work every day and be with the most remarkable people I have ever known.

3.  Give us a slice of life at the office.  What’s a typical day like for you?

I can always try to schedule my day, but it never truly goes according to plan. Today started with a call from someone trying to find our offices – she was driving from Logan Airport and had no experience with Boston drivers. She did eventually make it, although a little beaten up.

Learn More About the PatientsLikeMeInMotion Sponsorship Program for Disease-Related Run/Walk Fundraising Events

The remainder of the day would probably go something like this…first, check in with our amazing 3-Star and PatientsLikeMeInMotion programs for members. While monitoring that, start in on another job, which may entail booking travel for 3-5 employees, setting up a new employee or managing a build out (we have expanded our offices a couple of times). All the while I am answering random but important questions from employees.

At the same time, I try to maintain incoming invoices, scan resumes, work with marketing on our t-shirts, manage employee expenses, bark at people who don’t clean up after themselves, pay our software licenses, mail tax documents, submit expense reports, cancel expense reports, run to the Apple store for supplies, order food for the tired and hungry and, in between it all, try to grab that first cup of coffee.

4.  What would you tell someone who’s considering working at PatientsLikeMe?

We do important work and require 110% every day. You must be on the ball and able to take little direction and run with it – in other words, if you need someone to dictate your every move, this is not the place for you. We work very hard and at times play very hard, but most importantly, we do it together.

Everyone here is on the same team and, believe it or not, there are no cliques.  People genuinely care about each other. I chalk this up to Team Heywood. Lastly, we have a fairly rigorous interview process, but if you make it through and join the company, you will never look back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Interested in 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 Research Scientist, Senior User Experience Designer, Marketing Associate and more at the moment.


Recognizing Multiple System Atrophy (MSA Parkinson)

Posted March 20th, 2012 by

In observing Rare Disease Day at the end of February, we talked how there are 7,000+ conditions that are categorized as rare diseases due to their lower prevalence (less than 200,000 people in the US).  Today we’d like to spotlight one of these lesser-known conditions:  multiple system atrophy (MSA), which affects 536 PatientsLikeMe members and approximately 50,000 Americans.

A Snapshot of the MSA Parkinson Community at PatientsLikeMe

There are no celebrities with MSA, nor is there a high-profile nonprofit organization driving awareness of the disease.  Instead, MSA patients have organized themselves through a “Miracles for MSA” Facebook page and determined grassroots efforts.  They’ve also designated March as Multiple System Atrophy Awareness Month.  Their goal?  “We want to reach everyone affected by MSA and have them join us here to make our voices even louder next year.  Together, we can make miracles happen for MSA.”

What can you do to help?  Learn about MSA and help spread the word.  Previously known as Shy-Drager Syndrome, MSA affects middle-aged men and women and advances rapidly with a progressive loss of motor skills.  It is very rare for someone to live 15 years with MSA.  One of the common symptoms is stiffness, similar to what’s seen in Parkinson’s disease.  As a result, MSA is considered a “Parkinson’s plus syndrome,” but it does not typically respond to Parkinson’s treatments.

See MSA’s devastating symptoms firsthand – including losing the ability to speak and swallow solid foods – in this moving YouTube video made by the daughter of a MSA patient.  It’s been entered in the 2012 Neuro Film Festival from the American Academy of Neurology, with winners to be announced April 22, 2012.