CultureHappy CustomerSoftware Development

What I Learned After Spending a Day at a Tech Consultancy

By June 5, 2018 No Comments

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Justin Johnson, a Fort Collins-based physical therapist who spent a day at our office as a way of learning more about the tech industry.

I’ve worked as a physical therapist for over a decade. Over that period, I’ve noticed technology increasingly facilitates my daily patient interactions. I turn to apps to look up medications, rare diseases, and durable medical equipment for patients. I’ve used just about every Electronic Medical Record (EMR) out there.

But many of my experiences with healthcare technology leave me wanting a better product. As a generally curious person and a healthcare provider considering a transition into computer technology, I wanted to learn more about the business of tech. I recently spent a day at Radial Development Group to get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to build apps for a living. Below are a few key takeaways from that day.

The Vocabulary Gap Is Real

Prior to my day at Radial, I took a short online coding class and watched a few YouTube videos on app development. This is where I encountered the terms Agile, Scrum, and other unfamiliar words and phrases. When at the office, I noticed the books at Radial had titles such as “Python,” “C sharp,” and “Javascript.” In contrast, my medical offices are full of books about anatomy and physiology, and most of the language is based in Greek or Latin.

That difference means during my day of shadowing, even simple conversations around the office contained phrases totally unfamiliar to most health care professionals. I heard things like “what’s your next sprint” or “where are you on the customer story?” Using these words and phrases in healthcare circles would probably get you many perplexed looks from your coworkers and patients.

Luckily, tech lingo is not totally foreign to me now. If you would have asked me six months ago if I knew what SaaS stood for, or if Agile and Scrum are just management techniques, I would have said no. There is a real language gap between people in technology and healthcare.  This may be an opportunity for growth for those of us looking to bridge the two industries.

Healthcare is vertical, Tech can be flat

Traditionally in health care, the physician is “in charge” of a patient and they are known as the gatekeepers to health care services. This hierarchical approach is used because the physician is seen as having the most knowledge. Although this approach is commonplace today, whether it will be in the future is anybody’s guess. There could be benefits in taking a different approach, like the one I saw in use at Radial.

The software consultancy used a flat organizational structure, where colleagues were literally changing seats with one another to help solve coding issues. Ben, the owner, was helping another coder review some recently written code.  Occasionally, all of the team members would take a few minutes to discuss a potential issue or problem as it came up. It was impressive to see a truly open-door policy when it came to the owner working with everyone and the freedom that this offered the employees.

Collaboration with the Customer

At Radial, continuous collaboration with their clients was the standard. The employees stressed that working with their customers throughout the process of building software resulted in a higher quality product than checking in at the beginning and end of development. I observed this when two developers on the team were pairing on a project and would intermittently discuss the project with the client. In other words, the team was able to update their approach as the customer gave direct input in real time.

This is an area of overlap, as collaboration with customers is also key in healthcare. Following up with your physician, surgeon, therapist, or any other provider is essential in getting the best outcome for your condition. There are obvious differences, as working on an app is different from working on a human, but continuous communication with customers is crucial in either case.

After my day with Radial Development Group, I determined that I was even more interested in technology than I was before. It was refreshing to see this collaborative structure and intimate teamwork taking place.  I enjoyed seeing the close communication between developer and customer, something I myself am familiar with from a healthcare standpoint.

There is no doubt that the tech and healthcare sectors will continue to collide. For the collision to be beneficial for all parties involved, these two sectors need people who can speak both languages, collaborate, utilize varied management techniques, and team-build across both industries.

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