One Year on the Job
What I've learned from one year at a digital health startup
I just passed my one year anniversary at my company, and reflecting on the past 12 months has been awesome. My outlook on my career, on business, on US healthcare and many other things have changed since I left management consulting, so I thought I would share a few of the realizations.
Work life balance. Management consulting is fairly well-known for demanding long hours (well beyond the actual hours you end up billing the client, by the way), and it’s a common belief that you will have a better “work-life balance” once you leave consulting and move into “industry” - the umbrella term for working for a company with its own product or service, rather than for a client-services firm. While I’ve never really tracked hours, and still don’t, what I’ve realized is that work-life balance is a silly term to use with anyone outside of yourself because it’s subjective and highly dependent. You may have the same “work” as your co-worker, but you certainly don’t have the same life, so why compare the balance of the two? They should be imbalanced! Anyway, the big difference I’ve noticed in this role is that I actually like working, so if I end up working late or logging some hours on a weekend, or taking on a tiring travel schedule, it isn’t met with regret or resentment, because I’m choosing to do these things. Bottom line, if you like the work, believe in the mission, and are given autonomy, you’ll figure out the right balance.
Interest. When I was in consulting, I was so anxious about staying in my lane, getting my work done, and making sure there was internal approval on my work product. Now, at a much smaller company, I feel much more connected to the company offerings, and as a result, I’ve become more interested in the industry. I never used to read much on the developments in the healthcare space, but now I find I’m carving out time to understand industry trends, read plenty of articles, and take part in discussions and forums to further my knowledge. Seeking out industry knowledge seems to be a good barometer for measuring your happiness with work.
People. It’s amazing how much you can enjoy work if you enjoy the people you’re working with. I’ve been lucky throughout my career to get along with most of my co-workers, but it’s certainly the case today. I’ve also realized that as the company grows, people (and managing them) becomes an even more important driver of the company’s success.
Team building. This is the hardest part of business in my opinion, but the most important. Leadership is difficult, but having a team that is happy, motivated, aligned to the same goals, and highly productive is absolutely essential in reaching ambitious goals. In my current company, I’ve been given the responsibility to lead a team, and I don’t take it lightly. I’m going to continue to ask for feedback and improve in that area.
Digital health is the future. The cost of treating chronic diseases and other common health-related issues is going to continue to rise. Because of this (and other factors), it’s been interesting to see the shift towards digital health solutions to help healthcare companies lower their costs, improve access to care, and make people healthier. Helping people get healthier is not an easy task, but it’s cool that even the largest healthcare companies in the country continue to partner with small scrappy startups who make it their mission.
The benefits of consulting experience. Items one through five on this list might make it sound like I hated consulting and would never recommend it for career growth. That’s far from the truth as my previous posts can confirm. In fact, with the benefit of hindsight, I’m able to see the many advantages that my nearly 3 years in management consulting provided. When you’re in consulting, you’re surrounded by colleagues who are also in consulting (shocker)! Because of this, it’s not until you leave that you realize the many skills that are instilled in you, and accepted as commonplace during your time at those firms - but aren’t actually common in the broader corporate working world. Examples might sound basic or intuitive, like preparing for meetings, following up with next steps, taking notes, presenting on calls, etc. These skills are super helpful in almost any job you pursue - so much so, that it’s become a preferred criterion in our recruiting efforts.
Here’s to year two!