Every month, we hold an all-hands meeting for engineering, product, and design. The agenda always starts with a cherished tradition, “MeetMe’s.” Each newly-hired team member introduces themselves, including what we can’t find on LinkedIn and a special talent. These introductions consistently do not disappoint. As a way of sharing this fun tradition with folks outside of our company, we launched this virtual version.
Welcome to our MeetMe web series. In each episode, we interview someone on the engineering, product, or design team to learn more about them and their team’s work. We talk about what matters most to our team members and how they bring their best selves to work every day. We hope that through this series of peer-to-peer interviews, you get to know our team, as individuals and as a group of people with shared goals and values.
Our fourth MeetMe is a conversation between JP Patil, our head of Data Products, and Richard Garcia, one of our senior data engineers. Watch the full video of JP interviewing Richard or see highlights from the conversation below.
Hey everyone and welcome to our MeetMe web series. My name is JP Patil and I lead the data products team at Grand Rounds. We find novel insights from data and use that information to improve healthcare experiences for our covered members and our employers, and to improve healthcare for anyone in the United States.
Today, we’re talking to Richard Garcia to learn more about him, what he does, how he got here, and what he’s aspiring to do in the future. Richard is one of my favorite people here, not only because he’s an awesome senior data engineer, but also because he started on the same day as me about six and a half years ago. So with that, Richard, introduce yourself.
Hi, I’m Richard, and I’m a member of the data engineering team here at Grand Rounds. I’ve worked on many initiatives, most recently focusing on data ingestion work and making sure that we keep track of the health status of various data sources, both internally and externally. Within that scope, I’m responsible for what we call the provider pipeline, which includes anything related to doctor information such as where they practice or the different types of insurance plans they have.
Awesome. You’ve had a really interesting start to your career as an engineer. Not only did you start as an intern at Grand Rounds and grow to a senior engineer, but you also moved to San Francisco from the Dominican Republic as an intern. That was a big bet on yourself and where the company was going. During that time, the company grew from less than 20 engineers to more than 100, and we’re now at close to 1,700 total employees. Can you tell us a little bit about your path, including how you got here, what you hoped to achieve, and what your career arc looked like?
I was referred by a friend from college, Michael Romano, who was an engineer at Grand Rounds. At the beginning, I wasn’t familiar with the stack at all, but I had a hunger for learning. After my internship, I took on a full-time position where I steadily progressed through promotions and levels. When we formally introduced an engineering ladder at Grand Rounds, I was labeled as a strong contributor, and most recently, I was labeled as a strong owner, which is what we consider a senior engineer role.
I’ve had many managers throughout my six and a half years, but I’m especially supported by my current manager who knows how to ask the right questions to probe my interests. Whether I know the answer or not, it gets the ball rolling to figure out where there’s an interest to pursue and where I see myself in the next quarter, year, or multiple years. What have you seen in terms of how the company has grown on your side?
As I look back at the history of Grand Rounds, I think there’s a lot we knew and a lot we didn’t know. The thing we were certain of, is that the healthcare system could be better. By focusing on putting members first and always thinking about what’s right for them, we look for what we can do as a business to make that happen. At the beginning, we didn’t know how to predict utilization. And since we have physicians and care coordinators on staff, that was a big problem. We didn’t know how the cases would fluctuate over the year, or what would actually drive members to engage with us.
From an internal perspective, getting exposed to people like Wade Chambers, our CTO, who is very conscientious about career growth and putting people in the right projects with the right people, has also taught me a lot and helped create opportunities for employees. Balancing many aspects of growing a company, along with the people in the organization, while always being focused on what we’re trying to accomplish for members, has allowed us to overcome many of the struggles we faced.
Data has also been a focus and growth area for us, which has been important and at times challenging. Healthcare data can be messy and has many restrictions on what you can do with it. Richard – what are some of the challenges you’ve faced when dealing with healthcare data?
Hearing you talk about that made me reflect on how much we’ve progressed from our early days. For the provider pipeline specifically, I used to be the person who manually constructed the dataset of different CSVs and pushed it out to the older services that depended on it. It was very stressful work because you’re dealing with provider information that is eventually used in the user interface. Now, we have an automated system that requires minimal input from users. Being part of that growth from doing something manually, to automating individual pieces, to fully automating the whole thing and everything that comes with it, has been really exciting.
You touched on healthcare data being messy. That is very true. In order to be able to utilize data from different sources, we need to come up with ways of cleaning up and joining the data, finding common information and then further enhancing the insights we can derive from the data. That specifically has been some of the most challenging and stressful work I’ve done here, but it’s fun once you achieve your objective. The complexity and challenge of data engineering has been exciting and I look forward to continuing this work now with our merger with Doctor On Demand.
I completely agree. There are many journeys when dealing with healthcare data, and we’re about to embark on another one as we bring two companies together with different products and services. You and the data engineering team will play a critical role in doing that.
For those who don’t have context, Grand Rounds recently merged with Doctor On Demand, which I’m super excited about. Going back to what I said earlier, engaging with members and getting them the right care is what gets many of us most excited. Doctor On Demand has, to a large degree, figured out how to engage with people at the right moment in time, when they’re not too sick or necessarily super healthy. Generally, when someone has a cold and needs to see a doctor. If you look at Grand Rounds services, most of the time we support members when they’re healthy or when they’re really sick. By introducing Doctor On Demand as part of our offering, we now have a more complete suite of products to support members wherever they are in their healthcare journey. We have the ability to engage with people and help them understand what Grand Rounds and Doctor On Demand can do for them – not just in these different moments and times, but over the entirety of their healthcare journey throughout their lives.
In the U.S., we know there are pockets of healthcare deserts, or underserved areas. If we can use the clinical power of Grand Rounds and the delivery mechanism of Doctor On Demand to reach them, we can do really good things. It’s not only application engineering and how we develop the right product experiences for people, but how do we power that through data and data science?
I could talk about my excitement around Doctor on Demand and Grand Rounds for a long time, but I’m going to end this conversation right here.
Before I do, Richard, we’ve had a fun history of naming different systems inside of Grand Rounds after Marvel characters. Within that theme – as the Marvel Universe enters into this next phase, what are you most excited about in terms of the new content?
It has to be the upcoming Eternals movie, mainly because this group of individuals has allegedly been living on earth for thousands of years now, which means they’ve been there for all previous phases of the Marvel movies. What were they doing this whole time?
What are they doing?
Hopefully we can find out in the upcoming movie.
I’m excited for that, too, especially because it was filmed in part in San Francisco.
And with that, I think we’ll end our session. Thank you, Richard, for sharing a little bit about your history, what you work on, and some of the challenges you’ve faced. Thank you for joining us for this episode of the MeetMe web series, and make sure to stay tuned for future episodes to get to know more of our team members. See you!
Thank you for joining us on our MeetMe web series. Stay tuned for more of these episodes as we get to know more members of our EPD (Engineering, Product, Design) team.
And if this sounds interesting to you, check out our open roles. We’re hiring!