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 employees from different departments. So far, we’ve interviewed User Experience Engineer Cris Necochea, Research Assistant Shivani Bhargava, Office Manager Alison Dutton, Research Scientist Timothy Vaughan and Biz Dev’er Arianne Graham. Today we’d like to introduce you to Product Manager Maureen Oakes, or as she’s affectionately known around the office, “Mo.”
1. You’re the Product Manager at PatientsLikeMe. Tell us what that involves.
A little bit of everything! I read in an article that product managers are like “embedded CEOs” because you drive the core decisions to improve and change the product, which in this case is the PatientsLikeMe website. That means different things depending on the circumstances. Sometimes my job is getting all the right people in the room to make a decision, and sometimes it is making a decision myself. In all cases, it involves listening, asking good questions, weighing all the options and following up to make sure what needs to get done actually happens.
Each day I split my time between planning ahead for enhancements we could make to the site in the coming weeks and months and ensuring the things the engineering team is building now are going smoothly. For example, when we are trying to decide what to work on, we have to ask, “Is A more important than B? What is affected if we choose to work on C instead? Who benefits most from each of those options and how much work is it to accomplish?” It’s my job to tee up those questions so that we are working on the right things at the right time.
The same goes for things we are building now – there are tradeoffs and decisions to be made all day long.
2. As a longtime employee, what milestones stick out to you?
There are so many! But I think the first would be the launch of the mood conditions community in 2008. I joined PatientsLikeMe in 2007 so it was the first time I participated in building out a community – hearing the research team’s thoughts on disease measures, showing examples to get feedback from patients, and being there to welcome the first members. There was a New York Times Magazine article about PatientsLikeMe around the time we launched, so several thousand people joined that first week. It was amazing to see the community take off so quickly.
In 2010, we started work on another milestone – a project to open up PatientsLikeMe to anyone with any condition. That was a ton of work, but it was great to have the whole company focusing on a very clear goal and working closely together to achieve it. I was especially motivated because my mother was undergoing treatment for lymphoma at the time, and every day I wished we had had PatientsLikeMe members and tools available for her condition. In 2011, she went into remission and PatientsLikeMe opened its doors to anyone with any condition, so that was huge, both personally and professionally.
3. You’re also the resident baker at PatientsLikeMe. What treats do you make?
I’m a big fan of celebrating birthdays so my standing offer is to bake whatever a PatientsLikeMe employee requests for his or her birthday each year.
I’ve made all kinds of things – Oreo and whipped cream desserts, carrot cupcakes, brownies, apple cake, triple chocolate cake. But the biggest challenge has definitely been Boston Cream Pie. It is not easy to make, but it’s a huge hit, so now lots of people keep requesting it.
Want to make a difference in patients’ lives? Maureen is currently searching for a Senior User Experience (UX) Designer to join her team. “This may be my biggest project right now!” she says. “We already have one great designer, but we need help to keep improving the site at a faster pace.” Learn more about the benefits of working at PatientsLikeMe on our Careers page.