Tidepool’s success is defined, in part, by those who lead us. We’re fortunate to have a number of women leading Tidepool’s efforts across Support, Training, Fundraising, Marketing, Design, and Product development. Their expertise, experience, and enthusiasm are central to the thriving culture at Tidepool. We asked the women who help lead Tidepool to share their story and offer some advice for women looking to join a nonprofit organization, a software company, a company developing medical technology, or in our case: all of the above!
Janet Kramschuster, VP of People and Finance. Enneagram 3.
What inspired you to pursue a career in nonprofit organization?
My nonprofit career has always specifically been in the diabetes space. Early on, I fell in love with being a part of a community of people that understood. As I’ve grown up and become a professional, it has become more about being connected to the mission and knowing that in the nonprofit world we are working hard to bring greater good at a societal level. I love playing a role in helping to transform diabetes organizations with strong missions and seeing those missions come to fruition.
For me it is about connection to the mission and doing work that is meaningful.
What is your role at Tidepool?
My current title is the VP of People and Finance. I wear two different hats:
- I have my People hat, which involves supporting our team, our human resource processes.
- My Finance hat involves ensuring that we are operating according to the IRS regulations, managing our monetary resources in the best way possible, and understanding the financial health of the organization at any given time.
I play a role in helping determine the strategies and processes of the organization, and helping the leadership team make meaningful decisions about Tidepool’s future.
What drew you to Tidepool?
What drew me to Tidepool was the exceptional mission. Specifically, the monumental effort to shepherd Tidepool Loop through the FDA process and to support people owning and using their diabetes data in the best way possible to manage their condition. I had already worked in the diabetes nonprofit space, and I knew I wanted to stay here - it is the most meaningful work with the most inspiring people. This role was a natural progression in my career.
When I was ready to leave my prior organization, I reached out to Howard.. At the prior organization I reached a point where I felt like I had done everything I could there. I had been there for 17 years and was ready for a change. Tidepool, was that change. At both organizations, I have had the privilege of working with some of the smartest and most dedicated people that are changing the face of diabetes.
What excites you about the things Tidepool is working on?
So much! Being an open-source organization that is working on frontier products, Tidepool is pushing the diabetes industry forward in so many ways. And that, in and of itself, is exciting. Specifically right now I love the work we are doing with Tidepool Loop and the Tidepool Period Project. [As we’re conducting this interview] I have been sitting here in the 200’s on and off for the last 24 hours and I know this is all hormones. Hormones are so underrepresented in healthcare and the impact on blood sugar management and decision making.
The Tidepool Period Project is such an exciting possibility in the face of diabetes management and it gives me goosebumps thinking about the potential impact we can make in this space.
What have you learned working at a nonprofit organization that also makes diabetes software?
The thread that connects other diabetes nonprofits and Tidepool is the grit and determination to move forward to actualize the mission. All of us at Tidepool have to have passion and determination to stick it out along and embrace flexibility, challenge, and innovation. This has been particularly true through the pandemic which has fundamentally changed how Tidepool works. Even though we have almost always been a remote organization, team members were not necessarily used to working with children doing zoom-school in the background. Tidepool, like our team members, is resilient.
I have learned so much about what it takes to bring a transformational software product to market (that requires FDA approval!) More specifically, there hasn’t been a single day at Tidepool that I haven’t learned; whether that’s about a new aspect of software development or a different way to lead or engage in a conversation. It has felt like drinking from a fire hose since day one, especially as the needs of the organization shift and change. I work with brilliant people and for someone like me that does not have a software or engineering background, they teach me every time we engage in a conversation. I am always learning.
What would you change about the diabetes industry, if you could?
Accessibility, no question. Diabetes devices should be available to any person who wants it at no cost and without barriers. It should not matter where you live, the language you speak, your education level, or where you seek your health care. Diabetes devices should be fully accessible and the choice of the person with diabetes. They are an incredible tool not only to help our management but our psychological quality of life. If I could wave a magic wand, it would be for people to easily have access to the technology they need and the tools they want.
Second, everybody with diabetes should know somebody else with diabetes. Community, social support, and connection can make all the difference in survival, maybe even as much as technology. Knowing other people are also struggling and that we’re not alone can be transformative. No one should go through living a life affected by diabetes, alone.
What would you change about the broader medtech industry, if you could?
Same as above - accessibility. There is a wealth of misinformation that we constantly have to battle. The lack of awareness and education around how to manage this disease with or without technology is heartbreaking.
What other women inspire you - personally or professionally?
There are certain professional women that I have been inspired by like Kim Scott, Sheryl Sandberg, Brené Brown, and Glennon Doyle to name a few. But I am not inspired by them to the same degree and not in the meaningful way that my personal connections have impacted me. It is my colleagues who inspire me everyday! Professionally, I am blown away by the women at Tidepool and how they all juggle their personal and professional lives. It is inspiring to know that these women are successfully juggling both the needs of Tidepool and their own personal lives. Some of us are juggling kids (with and without diabetes), zoom-school, supporting aging parents, health challenges, the list goes on and on. And yet they continue to show up everyday and with their whole selves. The caliber of women that I get to work with blows me away. Throughout my professional career I have been inspired by the women I get to sit in the same space with.
What advice would you give to women looking to join a nonprofit organization? A software company? A company involved in medtech?
My advice is to lean into flexibility. It is really important to lean into the idea that each day is different both professionally and personally. Develop interests and activities and social networks outside of work. These are the people that you connect with that will pull you away from the screen or will go to dinner with you or go on a hike or on a run that is completely separate from work. Make sure you build those networks of support outside of the work environment. I recognize that this is not possible for so many and that I have been fortunate throughout my career to have the support and resources to explore life outside of work.
Stand confident and with your shoulders held high, especially when you are in a room dominated by men, which is not always easy to do.
How do you deal with imposter syndrome?
When I find out I’ll let you know! I think talking about it and naming it is helpful as is creating a circle with other women and acknowledging it together. As an Enneagram 3, I appreciate getting feedback from my colleagues on my performance to make sure that my inner dialogue is matching the perception of my colleagues and peers. If I’m not feeling successful or skilled enough l but everyone else validates that I did amazing, I need to identify the mismatch in my internal perspective and sometimes even ask for outside help. There is no shame in seeking a professional coach or therapist to walk through feelings of inadequacy and lack of confidence.
Imposter syndrome is a very real and damaging thing that can happen. It is important to come up with a plan to build up your armor for those environments that allow imposter syndrome to rear its ugly head.
Do you find yourself as the only woman in the room often? What do you do differently in those situations?
I am often the only woman in the room. I have had to work hard—and I am still working on this—to open my mouth and share my perspective. It has been difficult and challenging to share my forthright opinion and to disagree and even to share my support of an idea. There is no question that it is hard.
In those situations I tend to be quiet and speak when called upon. It happened often in my prior role in fund development and I have to be sensitive to the dynamic of the different personalities in the room. I have to be 100% on my game when meeting with donors. As a woman in fund development, the expectations of me can be very different. There are expectations around my appearance and my performance that mean I have to bring my A game to every meeting. And sometimes that’s just not possible.
What makes that particularly challenging for me personally is the duality of also being a mother especially during the pandemic. I also need to balance the needs of my children who might be at home while I am in a meeting with the board or with a donor. I am not beyond putting chairs in the doorways with signs that say ‘Do Not Enter’. There is a lot of juggling that goes on behind the scenes when I am sitting in these roles.
How do you find work life balance and manage your time while serving in a leadership role?
A few years ago I decided that there was no such thing as work-life balance. It’s ‘work-life integration’. How do you integrate both your work and personal life in a way that is meaningful on both ends? Some days I do it really well and other days I don’t do it well at all. It really depends on the cadence at work or the cadence at home.
I have made it a point to have other pursuits outside of work and outside of family as my coping mechanism. The other thing I am working on is trying to put my phone away when I’m not at work. I stop checking Slack and don’t refresh my email during non-work hours. Some days are better than others and this is a work in progress. I am also trying to spend more meaningful time with my kids; for me, it’s about quality not quantity. I am trying to be present at breakfast and after school. I am taking more vacations. There is nothing heroic about not setting time aside to take a staycation or even just a day off. Not carving out time can be damaging to both your work and family life.
Time seems to be going by so fast and I love spending time with my kids so that makes it easier for me to walk away from unopened emails and unanswered Slack messages. Also - I didn’t realize that as kids get older they need their parents sometimes more than when they were younger! This is something I am learning and adapting to.
Having the ability to step away is something wonderful about working at Tidepool. Having the flexibility to swap a work day with a weekend and a leadership team that encourages that work-life integration is so important.
In what ways does your personal life influence your professional work at Tidepool?
I suppose the fact that I have a personal diabetes perspective; I live, eat, and breathe managing a chronic condition in the field in which I’m working, so I take that knowledge and experience with me to work. When I make decisions it is not without that knowledge of what it means to be a person with diabetes.
But I also have to recognize that every one of us experiences diabetes differently. I have to make sure that I am not too emotionally invested and don’t make my work about my version of diabetes instead of what is for the greater good of the larger diabetes community.
I would say that my professional life influences my personal life more than my personal life impacts my professional life. It impacts how I spend time with my kids and how I spend my free time; there is not a facet of personal life that isn’t touched. It even impacts what time I get up in the morning!
What fills your bucket outside of your work at Tidepool?
I love trail running with friends. Getting out in nature and being outside definitely fills my bucket. If I start my morning off having made my bed and completed my run, I feel so accomplished. I also recently started baking and cooking with my daughter Maggie which I have really enjoyed.
Author's note: Speaking of running, be sure to check out our recent blog post about Janet participating in and completing a Half Ironman race!
As a nonprofit organization, we are able to focus on this larger impact on the diabetes community instead of on returns; but we need your help. We invite you to join us along the pathway we’re building to make an interoperable automated insulin dosing system a reality and drive change across all levels of the diabetes industry.
We can Redefine Diabetes together when you support Tidepool with a donation at tidepool.org/donate.