Meet the team: Erin Clayton, Data Engineer

 

What do engineering and Muay Thai have in common?

A lot, says WELL data engineer Erin Clayton. Both require discipline, structure, and repetition before you can put them into practice.

Before joining the WELL team, Erin taught computer science at an all-girls school in LA. Now, the Central Coast native combines her love of technology with a deep passion for improving people’s lives.

What did you do before coming to WELL?

I taught at an all-girls private school in LA. It was a very liberal, feminist school, which was really cool and super empowering. I started there six months out of college teaching everything from seventh grade life science to high school computer science.

I realized they didn’t have a solid computer science curriculum, and it’s a hot thing in education to teach. I had taken a few classes on coding in my undergrad, but I realized I needed to learn more. So I started teaching myself and taking classes online. Eventually, I built out a full computer science curriculum for grades six through 12. This was over the course of three-and-a-half years. I was and still am super passionate about empowering girls in computer science.

How was the school an empowering experience?

In a co-ed classroom, often girls are not speaking up. They’re not sharing the more profound ideas — the ideas that they definitely have in their heads. At an all-girls school, all of those walls are down when they’re in the classroom. You’re able to get into deeper learning because they aren’t afraid to say the wrong thing in front of boys.

What are you most proud of from that experience?

Honestly, having some of my former students go on to major in computer science really made me so proud. If I hadn’t been there with them, perhaps no one would have taught them these things. Knowing that I could in any way help them towards that is awesome. Even if they didn’t go on to major in computer science, the skills they learn, the logical thinking they learn from it, could help them in college and beyond. That just makes me really proud.

What brought you to WELL?

After teaching in LA, I wanted to move closer to my family. I grew up in Carpinteria, and all of my family is still in the region. I had seen WELL on LinkedIn and thought it was a really cool piece of technology. I saw a position available as lead technical support and thought it was a good fit given my experience in teaching computer science. I have both the technical expertise and the ability to communicate complex concepts with a broad audience. And, I genuinely like helping people out.

What about the WELL technology piqued your interest?

I hate going to the doctor, and I hate trying to book an appointment. I hate the whole process. Any piece of technology that can make it easier, I was all for. I’m a relatively healthy person, but I literally don’t go to the doctor because of the inconvenience of all of it.

What was it like on-boarding at WELL?

Within three days of getting my computer set up, the software, and all of the access I needed, I was already on the phone and helping customers. It was literally test as I go and answer questions immediately, which was good. I learned the product super quickly. Within two months I felt like a product expert. That felt pretty good.

You started in tech support but moved to the engineering team, what was that like?

Last November, even though I was still on the CS team, Thor gave me a few tasks to see how I would handle them. The goal was to eventually move me over to the engineering team. I was essentially tackling two jobs at once.

In April, I moved fully into an analyst position. And soon we realized we needed more than me on the team. Now we’re hiring for a data analyst, and I’ll focus on the platform and helping internal teams use the tool.

What are you excited about in your work right now?

I’m excited about getting our analytics to a place where we can do predictive analytics. For example, we could focus on a patient who consistently confirms their appointments at the seven-day mark but then consistently no-shows, and set up automations to reach them. A final push to really get them in to receive the care they need. We’re working toward that point. I’m really interested in data science.

As a woman, what is it like for you being a minority in tech?

When I was in my undergrad at UCLA studying materials engineering, it was obvious I was a female in the classroom. My experience was one reason I didn’t go straight into an engineering job out of college. I was really turned off by the environment. Most men were fine. They were not treating me any differently than they would another man. But there were always enough men who did treat me differently as to make it uncomfortable.

For example, as a woman in a group project, you would receive more questions about your idea than guys would. What would be even worse is that some other women acted the same way — they wouldn’t question other guys but they would turn on the other women. It was challenging.

How has your experience at WELL influenced your perspective?

When I came to WELL, I was really concerned. I wondered whether the other engineers would trust what I was saying. Would I have to prove myself? Initially I felt as if I needed to have all of the facts to back up any statement, but it was not due to pressures from within the company.

Now, I’m at a point where, the other day, for example, I was on a call with several other engineers on the team. We were discussing a potential issue and a colleague posited an idea that was incorrect. I interjected and corrected the idea, which went over just fine.

What’s great about this engineering team, even though there are only three women, is that everyone has trust in each other and in their opinions. If I’m in a discussion with other engineers, I don’t have to keep proving myself.

What do you do in your free time?

If you had asked me when I was 20 if I like martial arts, I would have told you absolutely not. But I started doing it when I started dating my husband who’s a personal trainer. I started with strength training and moved into Muay Thai. I just fell in love with it. It’s given me so much confidence that I can carry into every part of my life.

Something I like to tell myself if I’m going into a meeting that’s making me a little nervous is “Erin, you let people punch you in the face for an hour straight, nothing will be as harmful as that.” So going into a meeting where someone hurts your ego will be nothing in comparison.

Also, I’m not afraid to walk around at night. I’ve gained so much more confidence in myself and protecting myself, for sure.

I’ve had four Muay Thai amateur fights. I work out five or six times a week for an hour to two-and-half hours each evening. It usually involves running for a few miles a few times a week and sparring with people a few times per week. The rest of the training is literally the repetitive work of throwing the same punches a hundred million times. That’s the only way to get better.

Is there any crossover between fighting and engineering?

In Muay Thai, you practice a jab, you practice a cross, and you practice various combos over and over and over again on a heavy bag or with someone who’s holding pads for you. But that doesn’t mean you know how to fight. You get better at fighting by putting those pieces together when you’re sparring. Then, if you want to compete, you just have to have those pieces ingrained in you. It has to be subconscious at that point, so you can throw that stuff without even thinking.

With engineering, with coding especially, you learn all of these specifics, like how to write a four loop or how to write a function or how to do all of these basics. As in sparring, you practice by putting those pieces together and writing full programs. But, you don’t really know or learn until you’re putting that stuff into production and other people are using it. You need to be able to do all of these basics without thinking so that when you’re putting something into production you know you’ve done your best.

Meet the Team: Stephanie Trujillo, Integration Engineer

When WELL’s integration engineer Stephanie Trujillo works late nights and weekends, she says it doesn’t feel like work.

She opened up with us about where this passion comes from, what she does when she’s not working, and how she launched a thriving healthcare initiative in Panama.

You grew up in Panama, what brought you there and now back to the United States?

My dad and all of his family are originally from Havana, Cuba and my mom and all of her family are originally from Panama City. They grew up in an era when socialism was pretty heavy in Latin America, and they both had this desire to have a more peaceful life. They moved to the US in the 1980’s, and I was born here.

When I was two, I moved to Panama and was raised there by my grandmother. At 14, when I was approaching high school, my family and I decided it probably made sense for me to return to the US. I had to adapt to the language, to the culture, to the food, and to the weather. For the first time I saw snow. That was challenging but exciting at the same time because I was constantly learning and life became like an adventure.

What did you do before WELL?

My educational background is in biomedical engineering. I went to North Carolina State University where I was introduced to the blend of technology and biology. I was really passionate about finding work that combined both fields. So I began as an integration engineer at Epic. It really introduced me to both the inpatient and outpatient workflows that we now find very helpful at WELL.

After two years at Epic, I joined competitor AllScripts as a manager of software applications supporting a non-profit hospital and its two outpatient centers in Northern California. I had the opportunity to manage not just integration but also the clinical, business, and financial workflows and implement software applications to improve processes around patient care.

How did you find WELL?

One day a doctor came to me and said, “I have a friend who works at the hospital down the road, and they use secure texting. Why don’t we have secure texting here?”

I started doing some research and landed on WELL, which is pretty unique. It was the first time that I was exposed to a product that approached patient communication and engagement in the way that WELL does that, which was pretty exciting. While doing my job, I ended up finding my passion.

WELL had an opening as an integration engineer and I submitted my interest. It was a really scary decision because I had a really good job and was in a stable situation, but I knew I really need to be part of this. I accepted the offer and two weeks later my fiance and I relocated to Santa Barbara. That was 15 months ago. It’s been quite an adventure since then.

Tell me about the adventure.

At work, I’ve been able to see the team grow from maybe 20 people to 60 now. With growth comes challenges, such as being able to adapt to change very quickly and being able to deliver things as fast as possible and in the highest quality that you possibly can. That means sacrifices, such as long hours, early mornings, and working weekends. But you do it because you are passionate about the work that you do. You don’t often see it as work — you see it as something you really like doing and you just want to keep doing it.

What’s your favorite part about working at WELL?

The energy and the passion people put into the work that they do. People take a lot of pride in the work that is done. The quality of the people is very high. That’s very difficult to find. In any department here, you find people who are very good at what they do and more importantly very passionate about the work that is done.

What do you do outside of work?

One of the exciting things about moving here has been just enjoying the nature of Santa Barbara. The Bay Area is beautiful. It has amazing things. It’s also very chaotic and very stressful to try to commute anywhere, whereas working in Santa Barbara, you’re sort of in this little getaway space where you find lots of fun things to do.

One of the first things my fiance and I did was to get motorcycles. We liked to go to the canyons and just ride around Santa Barbara on motorcycles, which eventually led me to an accident. I broke my leg and my knee, and I needed to get everything fixed and replaced pretty much. This led me to be out of the office for three months, where I was mostly working remotely.

I’m still in recovery mode. I have to follow physical therapy instructions.

Are those delivered via WELL?

No, they’re not, unfortunately. They’re on paper. They print them and hand it off to me. The recovery is up to 24 months.

Since motorcycles are out, what do you do now?

Monday through Friday after work you’re going to find me at the gym doing strength training and boxing. Weekends have really been everything outdoors, like hiking. I spent three months where I couldn’t walk — once you have that experience, you sort of learn to value the little things, such as walking.

What are some of your other passions?

Soccer is sort of my religion. I can’t play soccer right now because I’m not allowed to kick the ball. I follow La Liga, the first division league in Spain and the Premier League in England. While I was in college, I traveled around Europe to watch as many soccer games as I possibly could.

I used to play semi-professional soccer all the way to college. I competed in the Junior Olympics for Latin America in soccer. But I played under Panama, and not the United States, which is something my friends feel very strongly about, because when you have dual citizenship you can choose which one you go for. We spent a few months during the summer training in Toronto and playing and losing every game.

Did you have fun though?

Absolutely, I had a lot of fun.

You’re engaged, when do you plan to get married?

We don’t have a set date, but we’re shooting for June of 2020, and we want to have a destination wedding, like a very private small thing, something that fits us — mostly the beach and salsa dancing. So we’re thinking maybe Puerto Rico would be a good place for us.

Anything else we should know about you? Fun facts?

Many years ago I began working on healthcare reform in Panama — it’s pretty fascinating because it’s now become a reality. Sixty percent of the population in Panama comes from an indigenous background, and they are very autonomous. Because of the local culture and how remote some of these places are, one of the challenges is the lack of proper education and proper healthcare. Me and some friends started working on reform a few years ago and now it has been officially approved and budgeted by the Panamanian government to provide universal care to these communities — simple things like vaccinations, vitamin supplements, and healthcare centers for checkups, especially for children.♥

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