PODCAST #15. Engineering Leadership: How to Integrate Team Coaching & HealthTech Product Management

Our 15th episode of the Caremind podcast features an engaging conversation with Ali Littman, Head of Engineering at Modern Health. If you’ve been curious about the inner workings of tech leadership, this is an episode you don’t want to miss.

As a respected voice in her field, Ali regularly shares her knowledge and experience in management and leadership at various forums. She stands out for her unique approach, seamlessly combining technical expertise with empathetic leadership, serving as a lighthouse for those finding their way in tech.

But Ali’s role extends beyond her responsibilities at Modern Health. She’s also passionate about nurturing future leaders, offering coaching and mentorship that empowers individuals to set and achieve their career goals, tackle imposter syndrome, and overcome professional obstacles.

In our latest chat, we discuss the multifaceted aspects of coaching, technical product management, and engineering.

The Unconventional Road to Engineering Leadership

Ali Lid’s career path hasn’t been the typical one. It’s characterized by a deep exploration of the healthcare industry and an adept understanding of technology, which has established her as a strategic force within various organizations. This navigation through the sectors helped her accumulate a broad knowledge base, crucial for her to excel in the Technical Product Management (TPM) function and within engineering.

Her responsibilities were diverse, including the design of architecture and organizational strategies. These responsibilities not only drew on her healthcare industry insights but also on her grasp of business operations, fueling the engineering initiatives she spearheaded.

According to Ali:

I definitely have a bit of a nonstandard career path.

As time passed, she was afforded the chance to grow within her roles, gradually taking on tasks that were once the domain of an engineering director. She was entrusted with additional engineering teams, propelling her growth further.

How Technical PMs Can Tackle Career Growth Challenges  in Medium & Large Companies

Ali Lid suggests that roles such as technical project managers and technical product managers can often be less defined in many companies, especially if the teams are small. This can lead to rapid early growth, but as structure is introduced into these organizations, they often remain flat, making further growth more challenging to navigate.

Additionally, if the roles are less defined, or a career ladder is introduced later than when you joined the organization, there may be a lack of alignment around the expectations for each level and what growth opportunities could look like. As such, it’s crucial to establish your growth goals early and communicate them with your manager or mentor to plan your career progression effectively.

It’s really important to as early as possible, establish what your growth goals are and communicate them with your manager or mentor, so that you can start planning for your career progression.

However, in these organizations, you might need to work extra hard to demonstrate your value and impact, especially during the startup phase. This can be even more challenging if you don’t have all the necessary tools to demonstrate your impact, such as product analytics.

Strategic Thinking for Self-Promotion: What are the Core Elements?

Ali believes self-promotion is closely tied to understanding how success is measured in terms of business impact. Aligning your work with business goals demonstrates value, and understanding how success is measured relative to your career ladder can help you have more productive conversations with management about your growth.

The way I think about self-promotion has a lot to do with really understanding how success is measured, which I think a lot of it comes down to impact and what the business is trying to do.

Once you understand these concepts, Ali recommends continually identifying instances where you’re adding value and expressing your skills, and sharing these with your managers. This is the first level of self-promotion: letting your managers know the value you’re adding to the business.

The second level of self-promotion, is at the department level. You should make it clear how your work is benefiting your sub-organization or peers, which makes your value and influence more visible to other management members and peers.

The third level of self-promotion is at the company level. Show how your work drives the company forward and seize opportunities to present this to everyone. This gives you more visibility with senior leadership and the chain of leadership that approves promotions, and it can also help you gain sponsorship and feedback to build your case for growth.

However, when it comes to communicating and influencing upper management or stakeholders, it can be challenging to cut through the day-to-day noise. Aligning your communication with company goals and speaking the language of business value that the leadership cares about can help you stand out and promote your work effectively.

HealthTech Success: Why Technical Product Managers are Essential

Technical product managers are very important for health care because it’s a specialized, highly regulated, and rapidly changing industry. There are all these different recurring players in this complex web of relationships and integrations, and there are constantly new players, resources, and rules. Because of that, we really need people in this role to support the foundations of our systems to meet the needs of the industry and the ability for companies to work within it but also disrupt it.

This requires a lot of focus on ensuring that our systems can integrate with and scale alongside or operate meaningfully differently but still play by the rules. Technical product managers play a crucial role in that, and that’s where you end up getting that same marriage of the techno-functional side of things as well as the health care expertise needing to be well understood. They coordinate across all the different engineering teams and external partners to ensure that our systems operate in a way that scales and makes sense.

Talking about the importance of doing due diligence before going into a new company, career-wise, Ali suggests the following for immersing oneself in the business context:

Factors that Shape Our Choices: Constraints, Values, and More

It’s essential not to overlook the financial aspect of the business you’re involved in. If you’re not familiar with the basics of finance, it’s well worth your time to get up to speed. Start by learning about the customers – who they are and how they contribute to the business’s revenue. Understand how the business earns money and what factors can affect this income.

Make sure to look into the return on investment (ROI) for different business decisions. Identify the areas that consistently bring in money (cash cows) and the ones that seem to drain resources. Get a handle on the company’s budget and runway – or how long the company can keep running at its current burn rate.

When it comes to scaling technical product management teams and engineering teams, combining technology and operations is crucial. The top three components for technology include:

  • Deciding what you want to be core to your business and what your team should spend time on.
  • Finding technological ways to make development more efficient, such as standardized assets or service templates.
  • Standardization across platforms, standards, and processes to ensure consistency and avoid technical debt.

On the operations side, the top three components for scale include:

  • Strong people management, including scaling your hiring function, onboarding, and performance management.
  • Communication flows to ensure that information is shared effectively as the organization grows.
  • Decision-making strategies that allow for distributed decision-making while still maintaining clear accountability and shared processes for cross-functional resolutions.


How Management Principles Impact Personal Growth

The question of what to optimize for in life is indeed a profound one. It’s important to recognize that work and personal life don’t exist in isolation; they merge together to form the totality of one’s experience.

I don’t view work as entirely separate from my personal life. It’s a happy blend of the two that make up the entirety of my existence.

Through self-reflection and life coaching, you can identify the key values, objectives, and emotions that you wish to prioritize in your life. It’s beneficial to embrace emotions in the workplace, as many of our aspirations are linked to the feelings we desire to cultivate.

This approach can be applied to both professional and personal goals, aiming for specific experiences. For instance, if mentoring and fostering growth in others brings you joy, seek a job that allows you to do this regularly. Outside work, engage in activities that you love, such as rollerblading, which may also provide mentorship opportunities.

By employing the same frameworks to your work and personal life goals, you can devise an optimal plan to become the person you aspire to be.

In Brief…

Below are 3 takeaways from speaking with Ali:

  • Non-Traditional Career Paths and Leadership Roles: Ali advocates for the importance of defining growth goals early on, especially for roles like technical project managers and product managers where role definitions may be less clear in smaller companies.
  • Strategic Self-Promotion: Self-promotion should occur at three levels – with managers, at the department level, and at the company level. Effective self-promotion allows for more visibility, sponsorship, and feedback, all of which are essential for career growth.
  • The Importance of Technical Product Managers in HealthTech: In a specialized, regulated, and rapidly changing industry like healthcare, technical product managers play a crucial role. They support the foundations of the system, ensure it can integrate with and scale alongside others, and help the company operate within industry rules. 








The APP Solutions launched a podcast, CareMinds, where you can hear from respected experts in healthcare and Health Tech.

Who is a successful product manager in the healthcare domain? Which skills and qualities are crucial? How important is this role in moving a successful business to new achievements? Responsibilities and KPIs?

Please find out about all this and more in our podcast. Stay tuned for updates and subscribe to channels.

Listen to our podcast to get some useful tips on your next startup.

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PODCAST #16. Behind the Scenes of Healthcare: How Does Product Management Drive Change?

Today’s Careminds series features a special conversation with Russell Taff, the former head of product at Ready. Russell, with his wide range of experience and in-depth understanding, shared his perspectives on the healthtech industry. We had discussions spanning from the granular details to broader insights, as we tracked his journey from being a software developer to ascending to the role of VP of product. The narrative is rich with pointers that could help new engineers pave their path to success. Let’s dive right in.

Choosing Product Development: The Story Behind the Decision

From his formative years at General Assembly in New York, Russell first cut his teeth on web development. His initial technical background was broadened significantly during an apprenticeship at an early-stage EdTech startup, where Russell learned valuable lessons about product management, including the importance of clear communication, vision, and capacity planning.

Russell’s career took a decisive turn when he transitioned into roles as a support engineer and solutions architect at a Series B startup. He found himself at the forefront of the company’s relationship with its user base, effectively translating complex technical concepts into business cases. His experiences there amplified his growing interest in product management.

His first significant role as a product manager was at Rocket Wagon, an IoT consulting firm. A mentor, Alex Casts, provided him with invaluable guidance on incorporating data at the core of their operations. Casts also introduced Russell to powerful project management principles that have since become part of his professional toolkit.

When Russell eventually joined health tech firm Ready, as Director of Product Operations, his key focus was to enhance the product’s scalability and make product feedback more effective. Following a promotion to Vice President of Product at Ready, Russell faced the challenge of steering the company in a new direction as COVID-related demands began to recede. He needed to have both a grand vision for the company’s future and a clear plan for how to get there, requiring precise financial management, astute risk assessment, and a high degree of focused execution.

Transitioning into Product Management: What Qualities Do You Need?

Firstly, having a sense of compassion is key. Having had firsthand experience at the frontline, I’ve developed empathy for users. It’s essential to understand the reasons behind users’ requests for new features or bug fixes. Don’t just see these as new tasks; delve into the core of why these requests are being made. Trust me, this understanding will build trust and create a powerful dialogue with users.

Always be open to learning. Learn from everyone – those above you, those below you. Never shy away from saying, “I don’t quite understand this, could you explain further?” Embrace every teachable moment that comes your way.

Keep your hands dirty. It’s vital to be involved in every step of product development. Before using a new template or an existing one in a new project, test it out yourself. Ensure it’s the right fit. Don’t just try to make things work; ensure they’re the right tools for the job.

Don’t forget to include visual representations of your ideas. It’s not just about words on paper; your ideas need to come to life visually. This approach fosters collaboration and opens up opportunities for feedback.

How Software Engineers Can Get Better at Business Documentation

Trust-building is a must in any work relationship. Be clear about why you’re questioning anything to prevent any misunderstanding about your intentions. It’s all too easy for stakeholders to feel their ideas are being dismissed when they hear “no,” even when the real issue is limited resources.

Communicating with stakeholders to understand their perspective is vital. Gathering insights and helping justify requests ensures a shared understanding.

Cultivate trust by clearly articulating your reasoning, explaining the “whys” and “why nots,” and showing how an idea might work now or in the future. Displaying vulnerability and a readiness to learn can also help create a collaborative environment where everyone feels comfortable admitting when they don’t understand something.

As a leader, it’s vital to create a space where vulnerability is welcome. This kind of open communication can strengthen teams by fostering mutual respect and encouraging learning from each other. Conversely, if communication isn’t transparent, teams can start to fragment.

Product managers need to also demonstrate active listening and meaningful engagement with people’s ideas. Always question and understand the reasoning behind all actions – big or small. This strategy drives progress and helps prevent the team from losing sight of the collective goal.

Consumer Preferences Matter: Why Some Products Win and Others Don’t

In the dynamics of an organization, there can often be misconceptions about the technical or product teams. Particularly among stakeholders, both internal and external, the word “no” is heard frequently. This occurrence is not due to any mistrust or disbelief in the merit of an idea but often arises from the constraints of finite resources and decision-making capacity.

So, it still boils down to trust. Explain why you’re challenging something, so people understand it’s not a distrust in their ideas, but rather a consideration of priorities. Being upfront about your “whys” or “why nots” can help build this trust and foster a collaborative environment.

There needs to be a space where people feel safe to express their doubts, fostering an atmosphere of learning. It’s when communication breaks down and feelings are kept hidden that teams start to falter.

More importantly, you should listen. Understand the essence of people’s ideas, continually questioning why we’re doing what we’re doing. This mindset keeps us focused on our collective goals.

An interesting example from the healthcare sector illustrates how behavioral economics influence consumer decisions. The ‘left digit bias’ concept, where even a slight price difference, like choosing between gas priced at 4.99 and 5.01, impacts choices.

Pre-pandemic, healthcare choices were frequently based on value and accessibility rather than exhaustive comparisons. However, in the post-pandemic world, factors like convenience, safety, and trust in service providers have become paramount. By understanding what elicits positive or negative experiences, we can craft solutions that resonate more effectively with users.

Adding or Improving: When Is the Right Time to Shift Focus in Product Development?

We frequently see companies rush to release new features or products without putting enough thought into tracking their performance or visibility. This common shortcoming can lead to missed signals that are critical to various stakeholders within the organization. It’s crucial to align on the data with all parties involved, ensuring the agreed-upon success metrics are clearly defined and measurable for each project.

Moreover, understanding your audience also helps, whether that’s internal users navigating workflows or external customers engaging with your product. Each product or feature released should cater to a specific cohort and encourage them to perform a well-defined action. This could vary from clicking a sign-up button to entering their insurance information into a workflow. The key is to clearly define these aspects, understand them, and engage in targeted personalization and segmentation to encourage action.

Having a clear vision and articulating it effectively is crucial. Each feature we’re working on must contribute to the meaningful future of the company.

While the idea of testing might conjure images of lengthy processes with numerous steps, the reality is much simpler. By having a defined cohort and a clear action, you can execute simple tests even at the point of release. Changes to words or colors, A/B testing in production, and other modifications can yield insightful data about how to move your target audience over the action line effectively.

This understanding of growth and goal-setting is crucial. Good product management also requires keeping an eye on environmental factors such as economic conditions and current events, which may affect your product or its marketing strategy. For instance, in the healthcare sector, the news cycle can greatly influence public perception. By aligning your message with the current sentiment, you can tap into these fluctuations and use them to your advantage.

Additionally, timing should align with communication, especially in value-based care workflows. The comprehension of environmental factors and patient lifestyles contributes to more meaningful communication. 

The 80/20 principle advises focusing 80% of your time on the most crucial 20% of the work. This strategy guides prioritization and ensures that important tasks get the attention they need.

If you understand your patients or users’ routines, you can communicate effectively at the most opportune times. While it’s essential to grasp the difference between correlation and causation, hypothesizing about potential correlations and reducing noise as much as possible can help you master your data rather than always playing catch-up.

What Are the Essentials of Building a Successful Product Development Team?

The concept of collective ownership is something product managers should be passionate about and strive to bring to each project. Rusell believes that including everyone in the team, from ideation through to solution, cultivates a greater sense of ownership and responsibility. This shared ownership fosters team unity, enhances motivation, and ultimately results in a product that everyone is more emotionally invested in.

For every new project, it’s essential to include everyone in the team from the initial ideation phase through to solution. This approach fosters a sense of collective ownership.

The impact of this approach is significant because teams that feel a sense of ownership, rather than just contribution, are more likely to be driven by empathy for the end-user. This empathy can lead to more user-centric solutions, as team members feel more compelled to question and improve upon aspects of the product that may not provide an optimal user experience, even if they adhere to the original specifications.

Further, incorporating input from stakeholders at all levels and across different teams can strengthen the overall solution. For instance, involving customer service in brainstorming sessions can provide valuable insights from a unique perspective. Such inclusive collaboration not only drives motivation but also ensures a richer understanding of the problem and the proposed solution.

Taking the concept of collective ownership a step further, it’s important to consider the positive habits and associations we want to foster with what we’re building. Using BJ Fogg’s behavior model, which posits that behavior is a product of motivation, ability, and a prompt, we can create solutions that users will find genuinely beneficial and become habitual users of.

A practical application of this model can be seen in the telehealth space, where functionality has been transformative, particularly for those with limited access to healthcare services, such as individuals in rural areas. These tools are especially vital for mental health services, which might be scarce in these regions.

However, while these advancements are promising, caution must be exercised to avoid pitfalls such as overprescribing. In this regard, technology can provide a solution by utilizing artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze comprehensive patient data. Such insights can lead to personalized treatment plans, thereby reducing the risk of unnecessary prescriptions.

Wrapping Up

In our engaging podcast with Russell Taff, we gleaned vital insights for burgeoning engineers and product managers. Here are three distilled points:

  • Product Management Transition: Embrace user empathy, effective communication, and continuous learning when shifting from software development to product management.
  • Engineering-Business Documentation: Foster trust and collaboration with clear, concise communication that encourages openness among stakeholders.
  • Consumer-Centric Product Development: Understand consumer behavior and needs, incorporate data-driven strategies, and establish clear success metrics for impactful product development.
  • Collective Ownership in Teams: Create a sense of shared responsibility to enhance motivation and create more user-centric solutions.
  • Behavioral Economics in Healthcare: Consider behavioral economics and adapt to shifting consumer preferences, particularly in light of significant industry changes, such as those induced by the pandemic.








The APP Solutions launched a podcast, CareMinds, where you can hear from respected experts in healthcare and Health Tech.

Who is a successful product manager in the healthcare domain? Which skills and qualities are crucial? How important is this role in moving a successful business to new achievements? Responsibilities and KPIs?

Please find out about all this and more in our podcast. Stay tuned for updates and subscribe to channels.

Listen to our podcast to get some useful tips on your next startup.

Article podcast YouTube