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!
Kelly Watson, VP of Product and User Experience. Enneagram 3.
What inspired you to pursue a career in Product Development
When I think about product development - to me it is all about the unmet needs that people living with diabetes have each day. I am inspired to serve those needs and develop products that serve those people everyday.
I began my career in medical research working in academic institutions, at the FDA and the NIH before I moved onto product design. I fell in love with the design of how we presented data, research and how we think about web development and product development. Before moving into the diabetes space, I met my husband who lives with type 1 diabetes.
What is your role at Tidepool?
I am the Vice President of Product and User Experience here at Tidepool. I work with our engineering, design, human factors, and quality assurance teams to bring our products to market. I focus on both our data management software platform that is in the market today and on new product development with Tidepool Loop which is driving DIY community innovations forward through the regulatory process.
What drew you to Tidepool?
The mission and the people - the people we serve, and the people at Tidepool. We have such an expression of openness and transparency both internally and externally. Our work to accelerate innovation for diabetes management is pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the digital health space as we work with regulatory bodies and industry partners. It's about the people we are serving and the partners we get to work with, and the people here at Tidepool.
What excites you about the things Tidepool is working on?
What excites me about the work we are doing at Tidepool is our work to serve both people with diabetes and healthcare providers (HCPs). In addition to Tidepool Loop, Tidepool has a strong focus on delivering tools that allow HCPs to facilitate care. Unfortunately, clinicians are often forgotten about in product development. There are a sizable amount of new market entrant products for those living with diabetes that allow or require clinicians to understand data and provide insights and therapy adjustments - but the landscape is fragmented which often occurs within the digital health landscape.
Connected care systems exist, but they only support one device or manufacturer. What we are working on with our current Tidepool Web platform is answering how we can accelerate clinicians being able to provide care regardless of what device is being used while reducing the amount of time a clinician spends navigating multiple systems. 44% of clinician time is spent in electronic systems with 4,000 clicks per shift to manage how to get access to that data vs. only 28% is spent with the actual patient. The documentation burden on clinicians is heavy, and Tidepool is working on tools for decision support in the clinician setting to reduce that burden. That is what I am really thrilled to be working on right now.
What have you learned working at a nonprofit organization that also makes diabetes software?
As a nonprofit, Tidepool is able to do more than what we would be able to as a for profit entity.
We are able to engage with different people, with clinicians, product development and medical device companies, and regulatory bodies to push forward together.
That is novel. It is important for us to be open and transparent and communicate with all of our stakeholders, and we are able to do so more easily in a manner that benefits the entire industry because we make it open source.
In what ways does your personal life influence your professional work at Tidepool?
It is an honor to work on something that is so personal for me and my family. Understanding my husband’s daily experiences and knowing what it's like to wake up in the middle of the night because of blood sugar helps drive the grit and compassion for our users everyday.
Having the experience of being a caregiver of someone with diabetes shapes our empathy for our users. For so many of us at Tidepool, diabetes is personal as well as professional. Our stories are the “why” behind the work we do. Whatever path led us to Tidepool, we are here to learn from the experiences of people with diabetes—and to translate those learnings into products that address their needs, and the needs of those that care for them.
What advice would you give to women looking to join a nonprofit organization? A software company? A company involved in medtech?
As a woman at a nonprofit, in the tech industry, in product development - It is important that we not only find our voice and our strength as leaders within our organizations, but also to engage with other women in our organization and our community. It is our responsibility to engage deeply and bring our own weaknesses forward and opportunities to the industry and beyond.
You need to be self driven and lobby for the resources you need. Find the individuals you look up to, and ask questions.
Know that no question is not important enough to ask.
Ask and seek out mentorship and support from people in your field and outside of your field. It is important to take the first step and communicate and engage with people working on similar problems. Ask and lobby for support, you’ll be surprised by what you find.
What would you change about the diabetes industry, if you could?
There are widening disparity gaps in access and affordability that are driven by various socioeconomic demographics like income, gender identity, and race to name a few and products are not able to keep up at the pace needed. There is a widening gap in access to technology and support by clinicians and providers and we as an industry need to be intentional about addressing those needs.
What would you change about the broader medtech industry, if you could?
Fragmentation of care: it is our responsibility to provide better tools and understand all of the audiences impacted by the tools we build. At Tidepool, we recognize the burden on HCPs to understand and access data that is relevant to the care of their patients. They are burdened by both information overload and poor access to data– and there is a huge documentation burden. There is a ton of data that a clinician has to process in a short amount of time. It is up to us to think about delivering tools that will help make clinicians experience at work better so they are able to provide care when the patient needs it and spend less time trying to access and interpret the data they need.
Do you find yourself as the only woman in the room often? What do you do differently in those situations?
Yes. Yes I do. It is a consistent challenge to show up and allow myself to put my voice forward. It is a challenge as the only woman in the room, but it is a wonderful challenge to hold and it is imperative that we use our voices to bridge the gap between what we think is important [and what everyone else thinks is important]. It’s not a scenario I’m afraid of but I do notice it. In those situations, I personally take on more responsibility to use my voice and try to ensure that my opinions are known. I think it is important to ensure that when there are limited women in the room - those voices need to be escalated.
How do you deal with imposter syndrome?
I think everyone deals with this to some extent. I have found that we are all trying really hard to learn about how to best change and innovate within the industry we work in. Could I be doing more? Could I be thinking about something in a different way? Maybe everyone else has it figured out and I'm the only one that doesn’t? We're working in such a novel space and the thing is - everyone is uncertain. And if they're not - then I'm concerned.
I have learned to quiet those voices. When I see others that are struggling, I think it is important to recognize their value and contributions so they can see the progress they are making. And it is just as important to recognize that in yourself to help drive confidence. It’s about taking the growth mindset one step at a time and knowing that it’s ok to not have all the answers.
How do you find work life balance and manage your time while serving in a leadership role?
I think work life balance is a misnomer. It is more about work life integration. I am who I am whether I’m in a meeting at work or if I’m out with a friend. I think it is important to think about how those two integrate. It can be difficult to maintain boundaries for personal time, but [for me] it’s about integrating who I am in my personal life and bringing that into my work life and making the time and effort to put energy into the things outside of work that fulfill me. Things can shift on a weekly basis, but it's about how you manage to tip the scales so that you are well rounded on both fronts.
What fills your bucket outside of your work at Tidepool?
Simple things - Going for a hike in our neighborhood hills. Spending time with my husband, Daniel. Throwing the ball with my dog, Sherlock. Being outside. Going to our local Sunday market and stocking up on good, simple food. That trip can fill my bucket (and fridge!) for the week.
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.