Committed to Personal Growth
We love learning and exploring new ideas.
At HumanFirst, we welcome folks from all backgrounds. In fact, our CEO, Andy, has a BSc in economics and transitioned to engineering thanks to an immersive bootcamp course. She worked as a software engineer at Akili Interactive, a digital therapeutics company, and at Instacart, where she supported at-home deliveries. Combined with her prior work in consulting and private equity, Andy was intrigued by the shifts she was seeing across the at-home clinical trials and care environments to better serve patients. When she left the FDA in 2019, she raised a seed round for HumanFirst to build an MVP of their decentralized clinical trials platform, which the team launched a year later in January 2020. Two months later, COVID hit the U.S., and there was a massive shift toward at-home research. We raised a Series A in 2021, and we’re now scaling our products to support more human-first research and care.
We commit to each and every one of our team member’s personal growth, and this extends beyond traditional professional development. For example, we have an executive coach on retainer for full-time teammates who would like bi-monthly coaching (or they can also choose to work with their own executive coach). We also have 360 performance reviews every six weeks (ask us why!), stipends for conferences and/or training, home office setup reimbursement, and the list continues to grow!
We hold tech talks every Friday, where a team member will share something new and interesting they’ve been learning lately. Recent topics range from parallax animation, to printing a PCB board, to deploying ML models in production. These tech talks are supplemented by a monthly technical reading club, where we read papers or books to do a deeper dive into a specific technical topic. We put all of these ideas into practice with a quarterly hackathon: this is an opportunity to build something fun and new outside of the confines of normal day-to-day work. Often, these projects end up being huge successes for our team and work their way back into our core products.
Last but not least, every quarter, our teammates build individual objectives and measurable goals (OMGs) – which other orgs sometimes call ‘OKRs’ – that align with both professional and personal values. On the professional side, each teammate works with their group to build out their own goals and KPIs (e.g., engineering, product, operations, research team) for the quarter. We also support teammates to build personal OMGs, and we regularly check in with teammates during their 1:1s, which they set with their team leads or Andy every week. (Want more examples of OMGs? We are inspired by the Measure What Matters framework.)
Although our teammates live across the globe, we come together regularly. This has of course shifted during COVID-19, though we plan to continue this tradition when it’s safe to do so.
One of our core values is ‘obligation to speak up.’
Effective larger organizations often focus on the value of ‘obligation to dissent,’ where any member of the team, regardless of rank, is obligated to oppose a prevailing decision if s/he disagrees with it. However, in smaller growing organizations like ours, where there are many unknowns, it’s critical not only to find flaws, but also to build. Therefore, rather than ‘obligation to dissent,’ we find effective team members encourage others to ‘speak up.’
At HumanFirst, listening to all voices and perspectives – particularly when conflicting – is more important to us than achieving a harmonious decision where everyone believes the same thing. For instance, there is often healthy tension between how secure a product is and how convenient (or not) it is to use. Our team encourages opposing viewpoints and often runs test scenarios so we learn where to ‘draw the line’ when decisions are grey. We are committed to leaning into difficult conversations.
Our team at HumanFirst is both mission-driven and metrics-driven. We expect our teammates to speak up internally as well as in external settings with our customers. No one is “too junior” to share their point of view.
Customer Comes First
We take security, data rights, privacy, and governance seriously to live our value of ‘HumanFirst.’
The market for connected sensor products is rapidly expanding and evolving. An article on wearable technologies in healthcare estimates 275 million wearables shipped globally in 2021, with forecasts suggesting near doubling in four to five years. We’re on a mission to advocate for safe, secure, ethical, and effective remote monitoring products. Our platform, Atlas, contains a catalog of over 1,200 connected sensor technologies and uses the open-access V3 Framework to sift through 500,000+ pieces of evidence. This allows our users, including clinical researchers (we currently serve 22 out of 25 of the top pharma companies in the U.S.) to make data-driven decisions about which technologies to use in clinical trials.
Since human health is at stake, we’re extremely intentional about our process. We ask the following about every technology cataloged in Atlas:
- What is the manufacturer’s security policy and does it meet best practices?
- Is there a Disclosure Policy?
- Is there a Software Bill of Materials?
Data Rights, Privacy, and Governance
- Who has access to the data and when?
- Is the information contained in them comprehensible by broad audiences?
We also collaborate daily with patients, security researchers (we were one of the founding supporters of WeHeartHackers.org @ DEF CON), and regulatory agencies such as the FDA (our CEO served in the FDA’s digital health unit!) to ensure that we are building trustworthy products and helping others do the same.
Our team brings together stakeholders from across the industry, from security researchers to regulators at the FDA, and beyond.
An entrepreneurial spirit is required to join the HumanFirst team.
We look for individuals who have an entrepreneurial spirit and not only feel comfortable with a wide breadth of responsibility and autonomy, but also need it. To empower each person on our team, we use asynchronous tools like Notion and Google Docs to ensure that you have the necessary context and support to run with your ideas/project, regardless of your time zone.
We are committed to a hypothesis-driven approach at HumanFirst. For instance:
- When faced with a problem, we ask everyone to state their hypotheses and assumptions explicitly. For example, “The story I am telling myself is that when our customer asks for X they really want Y, and so I think we should run the following test to see if that assumption is correct.” That person will then prototype a solution to test with the rest of the team.
- During your first week at HumanFirst, you’ll draft your ‘user guide,’ outlining how you best collaborate with teammates – check out our CEO’s ‘user guide.’
Wears Many Hats
We believe in leaving your ego at the door.
Part of joining any early-stage startup is getting to wear many hats. We firmly believe in leaving ego at the door and helping out wherever you can. But this doesn’t mean we regularly throw people into the deep end – we work hard as a company to document what is needed from each team and team member.
This way, if someone is stepping into a new set of responsibilities, they have a clear picture of what is reasonably expected and how to succeed in that role. We believe that every moment counts, and building a high-performing team requires a combination of willingness to roll up your sleeves, clear boundaries, and concrete goals.
For instance, in addition to his day-to-day work as a full-stack engineer and eng lead, Tristan is the driving force behind patient panels. He stepped up to create a series of monthly patient panels, where the entire HumanFirst team hears directly from patients with chronic conditions about how they’re using connected sensors in their daily lives. These patient stories and details about what life is like in clinical trials have been invaluable to the company.
Another great example of wearing many hats is James. Along with his regular tasks as a software engineer, he also oversees security and compliance, ensuring our code is safe and sensitive data is secure.
Another hat engineers can wear: Teacher! The team designed and printed these PCBs during a tech talk led by one of our engineers, James.
High Quality Code Base
Code should be an enjoyable place to spend most of your day.
As an engineer at HumanFirst, you will spend most of your time writing and interacting with code. Because of this, we spend a lot of time making the code an enjoyable place to be. We understand that a code base is more than the raw bytes that do the work; we place a strong emphasis on documentation, testing, readability, tooling, and extensibility. We have a full set of unit, integration, and end-to-end tests that give us an average of 90% coverage, with some projects reaching 100%. Our APIs have fully interactive documentation (from endpoints to parameters to responses) and our frontend components are documented both in their appearance and behavior using Storybook.
Additionally, we regularly examine pain points and work toward refactoring for better usability. We keep an account of any tech debt we acquire, and make sure to allocate regular time to pay it off. Our ultimate goal is to make sure the structures we have in place help, rather than hinder, both you as an engineer and our ability to serve our customers’ needs.
We release several times a day, and you can have code live on the site in as little as 20 minutes.
We believe that speed is one of the attributes that sets an organization apart, and we strive to support our engineers in moving as fast as possible. We place a heavy emphasis on automated tooling so we can write quality code and have it live in production without worrying about lingering issues. Our tests and live deployment previews are automatically run and built on every push. This avoids the need to run all tests locally and saves you precious time on your local machine. Our CodeBuild pipeline verifies and builds your changes, while Lerna enables you to deploy after your tests have passed.
We value not only code quality, but also speed. Tasks should take two hours, two days, or two weeks (and it’s never two weeks). This speed helps us remain nimble and fix previous issues quickly, so they don’t fester.
We believe in shorter, more focused days.
We hold ourselves to high standards and consider ourselves to be hard workers. All of our teammates have read Deep Work by Cal Newport. We’re big fans of his methodology and the idea that distraction-free concentration allows you to best maximize your cognitive capabilities. We bring these practices into our work life and have established two meeting-free days a week. Wednesdays and Fridays are our ‘Maker Days,’ and we work to keep all other meetings as efficient as possible. This means defining agendas, setting outcome expectations, and having clear, actionable items (with a default meeting length of less than 45 minutes).
Our daily standups are asynchronous (we use Geekbot!) and can vary depending on the team. Since every moment counts, we want all team members to be able to shape their schedules to suit their individual needs, and create work-life balance. For instance, some of our teammates shift their standard hours so they are available at home when their kids are awake, and then re-join our team after their kids go to sleep.
We’ve found this system means teammates work shorter, more focused days than at other start-ups and we produce higher-quality, more fulfilling work.
Source: Michael Karnjanaprakorn. We pull many of our philosophies from Cal Newport’s Deep Work mindset.