IMO’s Senior Director, Software Engineering didn’t plan to stay at her first job for 23 years. It just sort of happened that way. The work was stimulating, the people were smart and collaborative, and the compelling technology just kept evolving… much like her role and the organization itself. We sat down with Alina to talk about the early days at IMO, her focus on the customer, and what’s changed (and not) at the company that hired her straight out of undergrad.
IMO: How long have you worked at IMO and what is your current role?
Alina Oganesova: I joined IMO back in 1999 when there were maybe 20 or 25 people at the company. It was actually my first job out of college. My current role is Sr. Director, Software Engineering.
IMO: Wow… that’s 23 years! Tell me what’s kept you here for so long?
AO: The work here has always been very stimulating. From the early start-up days through the many years of technical innovation, process innovation, organizational transformation… it’s all been so intellectually stimulating that I rarely feel tempted to look outside of IMO. At heart, I’m a tech nerd, and have thrived at IMO where there is no shortage of cool tech and product innovation. But what I really loved, and continue to love, is the collaborative nature of the people I work with – really smart, flexible, highly collaborative people.
IMO: Collaboration seems like it would be key to success in engineering. Tell me a bit more about that.
AO: What’s interesting is that things haven’t really changed that much since those early start-up days. Back then, we’d gather a cross-functional group of people – a clinical subject matter expert, a more business-minded colleague, a product person, and a handful of software engineers – and sit around a table with our laptops, brainstorming ideas and trying to prototype quickly. Now it’s the same key players but scaled out… same cross-functional teams at micro and macro levels of the organization, working together to develop roadmaps for the business, for our products, and for the organization to build what our customers want and need.
IMO: So, what is the role of the customer when it comes to software engineering?
I think sometimes we have a tendency to work in silos; to keep our heads down and type away at the keyboard. Don’t get me wrong! Cool things can happen when people hyperfocus and get into a flow, but it can also lead to indulging our own biases. (We can develop this really cool technology, but is it valuable if nobody uses it?) Perhaps it’s the introverted nature of engineers – that desire to spend time alone, thinking and working through problems. But we have to make sure we’re constantly collaborating with people who are closer to customers, whether it’s product management or sales or those in user experience and research. We have to make sure that the voice of the customer is really, really strong in software development.
IMO: In an internal podcast you did last year, the word “resilience” came up a few times. What does it mean in the context of engineering IMO products and systems?
AO: In engineering, we think of resilience in the context of fault-tolerant systems and fault-tolerant design. Essentially, it’s ensuring that the services, products, and systems you’re building are able to continue to function when they encounter disruptive events. Some examples would include surges in transactions that can overwhelm and stress the system, cyberattacks, glitches and other situations you didn’t anticipate. This is particularly important when dealing with point-of-care products like we do at IMO. We have several products that integrate directly into electronic health records (EHRs). They’re in front of clinicians, servicing millions of transactions every day. And it’s our job to ensure that they perform in a consistent manner; that if something unexpected does happen, our systems don’t crash and there is no or minimal disruption to end users. And do note that I didn’t say we should build system that never fail… failure is inevitable, but having systems that are able to automatically adapt, recover, and heal is what resilience means to us.
IMO: What are you working on now that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?
AO: There are a couple of things I’m really excited about. I think of it as something old and something new. We are revamping and modernizing some of our core capabilities that our customers have come to love about IMO. First, there’s a big initiative in progress to develop a new, modern search experience for our customers. Second, is IMO Studio, and I’m super enthusiastic about its launch in July. We’ll have this consistent, visually-pleasing user experience in a single platform – one that ties all IMO products and capabilities together to help customers access and manage clinical terminology, code sets, and data quality.