What It’s Like to Be an Engineer in Healthcare Tech

Natalie Perpepaj
Natalie Perpepaj, Software Engineer II, Product Development

In the latest blog post from our Product Engineering team, Natalie Perpepaj, a Software Engineer at Sema4, talks about her experience in the health intelligence sector. Click here to read our previous product engineering blog post.

You might be familiar with the phrase “move fast and break things”. It is so widely used now that it has even become a book title. If you are unfamiliar with this popular Facebook motto coined by Mark Zuckerberg, it is the idea that to be innovative, one must move quickly and competitively. In other words, “unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough.” This idea stems from the notion that mistakes are outweighed by the discoveries and advances made. A motto like this has worked incredibly well for companies like Amazon, Google, and many others but when we are talking about science and healthcare, should this same mentality apply?

In short, this phrase breaks down in the healthcare industry. If a clinician used that same motto, we would think twice before visiting their office. It could even be said that healthcare standards serve as the antithesis of Zuckerberg’s words. That is not to say that healthcare is approached slowly and with fear, but that greater time, care, and compassion typically need to be folded into each decision and choice, and the same can be said for the engineers in this space. At Sema4, we have a strong commitment to these values by putting innovation, quality, and dependability at the forefront of our decision making and as part of our mission to develop patient-centered health intelligence that advances healthcare.

When dealing with sensitive personal health information (PHI), engineers are greatly concerned with data integrity and infrastructure. Because of these concerns, engineers and collaborating teams spend a significant amount of time planning end to end processes to ensure data quality and the safe keeping of information. It is an integral part of each step in the life cycle of a project.

For example, at Sema4, software engineers set up robust testing environments along with mock data closely representing the production dataset to guarantee quality. We work hand in hand with dev-ops and data engineers to establish secure data pipelines for ease of consumption and use of information. Strict access controls and following core data governance principals allows Sema4 to identify and satisfy the data needs of our various stakeholders effectively. Engineers work closely with product teams to ensure projects are forward thinking and in addition to identifying ways in which data-driven insights can solve some of the problems currently evident in healthcare today. Later in the project lifecycle, engineers will often work closely with user experience design teams to ensure that this complex information is presented in clear, digestible, and direct ways. Engineers in healthcare tech work efficiently at solving complex problems keeping the end users’ needs at the forefront of design and use creative thinking and problem solving to arrive at solutions. They work together with other teams to develop the best approaches and solutions to everyday problems.

The world of science is a vast and complex one and given the values engineers need to strive for on a day-to-day basis, being an engineer in healthcare tech can be one of the most rewarding experiences. The care, compassion, and attention to detail that goes into the Sema4 products is a reason why I love being an engineer in healthcare tech. Although greater care is needed in this space, the opportunity for creativity, innovation, collaboration, and exploration is still in abundance, which is what can make being an engineer in this sector that much more fulfilling.

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