Sunday, September 5, 2010

California Dreaming

After close to five years of trying to move to the west coast I'm finally following the advice of Horace Greeley and heading west.  Prior to leaving Manhattan for Darden I was emphatic about working for a small start-up on the west coast where I had control of my own destiny.  Over the course of my 2 years in business school that plan shifted and bent at times but when I returned for my second year in VA I had a firm resolve to make it out West.  One characteristic that has defined who I am is perserverance - my path to a healthcare technology start up demonstrated that quality ten fold.

At the start of b-school there were two career paths I was considering, both slightly non-traditional for a post-MBA career.  I was trying to decide if my skills and passions were a better fit for socially sustainable international development or if following my love of athletics and wellness along with the nerdiness I bring to data analtyics made healthcare technology a better fit.  Since my resume is pretty strong in financial services it was easier to figure out if the buy side of finance would let me pursue a msision that satisifed me both professionally and personally - by the end of the summer that answer was a resounding no.  So when I returned to Charlottesville I was hell bent on getting into health and wellness no matter what.

Over the course of my second year at Darden I tried to start my own healthcare technology company that could be implemented in a corporate envrionment.  I did this with a small intent of getting funding but mainly to gain experieince in the industry.  Creating my business plan and value concept gave me enough cache to get on the schedules of executives at various healthcare firms around the country and demonstrated a passion to actually work in the field.  The hours I spent laboring on my idea proved to be one some of the best time I spent academically at Darden.

From September until August I talked to anyone who would listen about my ideas behind health and wellness and what I could bring to the table.  There were tons of bumps in the road, a start up that had flirted with me lost their funding, a large medical group misled me during the recruitment process, a research grant was refused (still slightly bitter about that one), and I turned down a couple offers that wouldn't have let me fulfill my career aspirations even if the I loved the personality of the companies.  Then this summer hit and I had informational interviews with Microsoft, in person interviews with Amazon.  Those discussions continued to fortify my desire to work for a small start-up who got my ideas so our mutual passions could create growth.  My continued outreach finally paid off in late July.

On a whim I e-mailed the head of the Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to pick his brain about the industry and to find out if they needed an intern for the summer (I was starting to need cash in a bad way!)  The Pioneer Portfolio is RWJ's investment arm that funds disruptive technologies in healthcare innovation - totally the type of stuff I wanted to be doing; although my ultimate goal was to get on the product side of things.  After pitching my ideas behind Perform Wellness and asking Paul about his thoughts on the industry I swung for the fences and asked him to name some firms he thought were really pushing the envelope on healthcare innovation.  One firm he named was Keas.

After doing some google searching, Keas seemed like a totally kick a** place to launch my career or hell to become a lifer at.  At its core Keas is a technology platform that transforms content from healthcare experts into actionable care plans that are personalized for the patient's disease, lifestyle and personality needs.  Keas and my ideas behind Perform Wellness had so many similarities that I thought I was dreaming when I first read their product descriptions.  Not only is the product awesome but when the company launched they made the front page of the NY Times and were recently recognized by Time Magazine as one of the 50 best consumer websites out there - tops in healthcare.  At this point I was pretty much salavating like Pavlov was ringing a bell in my ear then I came to learn that their founder was the previous head of Google Health. 

I calmed my nerves, collected my professional thoughts and shot an e-mail to the career address for Keas.  Within a few hours I heard back from HR asking some clarifying questions; our dialogue led me to the Director of Business Development.  After a quick e-mail the DBD and I had a close to 2 hour conversation about our thoughts on healthcare technoogy, my ideas on corporate strategy and on competitive intelligence - by the end of the conversation Ms. DBD asked me to come out for an in person interview.

The following Wednesday I was on the first flight I could find to San Francisco, had my game face on and knew it was now or never to break into the industry I was dying to get into for a firm that I thought I could really crush it at.  From 9am until 3pm I met with the CEO, COO, DBD, Head of Product Management, and HR.  Each conversation had me more impressed with the firm, not only did I love their thoughts on the industry but I felt like it was a fit; I felt like the people involved in this company really wanted to create change, not just talk about it.

The wait that weekend was agnoizing, I had sent them my references and knew they had contacted at least one, but I was dying to know if I had finally landed the gig I was dreaming of.  All signs were pointing to yes but after more than 9 months of hard core job searching I was starting to lose faith in the process and confidence that I would ever find a job outside of finance.  Then finally at 7:30 pm on Thursday August 26th, Ms. DBD called me to offer me the position of Manager of Business Development!  I started on Monday remotely from NY and spent the last half of the week working in San Francisco for what was without question the best first week of work I have ever had.  Working for a start-up is totally different than the buttoned up culture I come from, but I freaking love it; I'm free to think how I think, be creative and just get after it - there aren't floors or ceilings to navigate, simply a hunger to get the job done lets you feel empowered to take on the challenge. 

It's funny, without having been diagnosed with type 1 in 2007 I'm not sure I would have ever realized that health and wellness was the way my career should go.  I had always thought I had so much freaking fun playing football because I was pretty good at the sport and loved the competition.  It turns out helping my teammates become better and challenging myself to be a better athlete were the things that got me going.  As I continued to write this blog and continually applied my analytic geekiness to sports nutrition and blood sugar management that I was deveoping some intresting ideas on how to help people become healthier.  Since 2007 I've been on this crazy quest to figure out what stuff meant for me, where I fit in and how to become succesful not defined by the amount of money I had in my bank account but by the level of personal satisifaction I felt from my job.  I think that quest got alot more clairifed on August 30th, that whole perserverance thing turned out to be pretty important in all of this.  The next chapter begins in San Francisco, I have no idea what this book will look like but if it's anything like the journey I went on the past 4 years I'm in for one hell of a ride.


Gilad Buchman said...

Welcome to Keas. Great write.

Queenie said...

Congrats, Ed. San Francisco is such an awesome city to live in.

JulyDream said...

Congrats congrats!! I'm starting to be envious of all the Darden folks in SF! Let me know if you need anything. I had a BBQ last week when I was home and will be sure to do it again the next time I visit. :D Enjoy the city by the Bay!

Bernard Farrell said...

Ed, I've been using the Keas product for a while and think it's great so far.

You'll bring a great perspective to the company and I'm sure you'll also use the same passion that's made you compete successfully in all those Ironman tris. Have a blast in San Francisco.

Jen said...

Reading this right now at this moment in my life, couldn't have come at a more perfect time. Your words just confirmed a few decisions I've recently made in terms of my OWN future and the road I am paving.

THANK YOU! I wish you all the best at your new job and hopefully I'll get to meet you at one of the races. I'll be doing Carlsbad 1/2 in January, maybe then...