By Charles Platkin PhD, JD, MPH
I went to college thinking I wanted to become a professional software developer. However, after taking a few classes I discovered that computer science, at a large research institution, can be quite theoretical. I understand the motivation behind teaching the theory but I struggled to enjoy it. That is why I eventually fell out of love with software development and ended up majoring in Economics and Information Systems. Yet, I didn’t veer too far from tech, because I wound up helping to build-out the iOS class while at Carnegie Mellon and I was also a TA for computer science, which helped me uncover my love for teaching.
After college, I joined IBM because I wanted to be close to technology, but I didn’t want to directly develop software. While at IBM, I briefly helped companies adjust their accounting software to handle various business transitions. It was a fantastic job, but not quite the right fit for me.
Several years after college, while at a party, I met my friend’s roommate’s friend (quite the connection) who was a student in Flatiron School’s second cohort ever. I greatly missed teaching from my college days, so I reached out to Flatiron School through an email I found on the website. A few weeks later I gave a guest lecture to students, and a few weeks after that I joined Flatiron School as one of their very first hires, where I set out to build the computer science education I wish I had at Carnegie Mellon.
I joined Flatiron School when it was only a four-person company. We had a one-room loft in NYC and everything happened out of that one room, when we wanted to have a private meeting we had to go to the bar next door. Five years later, we were acquired by WeWork, and today we have over 500 employees and eleven campuses. Beyond the very real physical differences, there are also more subtle differences that have happened over time.
As we grew bigger, I initially believed that we were getting slower. It’s the classic narrative of large companies vs. small companies. As I paid more attention, I realized that it wasn’t so much that we were getting slower, but instead the feeling of knowing what to do actually elongated my perceived timeline. For example, when we first started we had minimal knowledge on the steps we needed to take to achieve anything from thought to full formed class. It almost felt as if we were feeling our way through the dark, so every flash of light was both exciting and helpful. Now we, more often than not, know where we need to go but it just takes us longer to get there. Instead of feeling our way through the dark, we have a light at the end of the tunnel and are more aware of our timelines. That awareness has also made me awestruck with how much we get done compared to just a few years ago.
Coding is simply different than it was 5 or 10 years ago. This means that just because somebody may not have loved coding in university, doesn’t mean they may not now. Getting started is easier than it used to be. Coding teaches you problem-solving. Whether someone writes software for their job or just uses the rigorous problem-solving techniques learned from coding in a non-tech role, it will improve their lives and careers. It’s so easy right now to just get started, that anyone avoiding it may be missing out on powerful opportunities.
Great businesses are made on great execution. That’s what sets companies apart from each other. To execute on a health tech idea, a large amount of coding is often required, which is creating an increasing need for more experts within the space. Whether the employee is the one coding, or simply managing coders, they will need to be familiar with the basics in order to execute at the highest levels. Execution is what makes an impact.
NYC is at the crossroads of many disciplines. Health tech, like education, can’t be successful without both the practitioners and the tech working together. Whether that’s healthcare professionals or teachers, NYC has plenty. Less than 45-minute train commute and millions of people can connect in the real world. That real-world connection accelerates the speed of network creation. There is no better place to build the network required to start anything cross-disciplinary. That means great things for the future of NYC.
The internet was built to increase access to information and foster connections between people quickly, and efficiently. To help disadvantaged communities increasing access is key, because health outcomes improve with better healthcare access. For decades, the internet has specialized in increasing access, from Wikipedia with information to Flatiron School and other online educators with education. That should be equally true in the healthcare tech sector.
Increasing access to healthcare will directly impact the lives of many, and will have the biggest impact on the general public by providing people with a better quality of life and economic well-being. Governments all over the world are the largest purchaser of healthcare. Making public access to healthcare cheaper will benefit every citizen by providing better health outcomes, which in turn, will lead to a better bottom line for organizations in the healthcare sector. This aligns public spending with health tech, which may lead to additional investments in the space and increase benefits to all.
Radiate positivity. Negativity doesn’t accomplish anything in the long run.