About This Episode
EPISODE 5 features Vid Tekriwal, a product leader at Devoted Health. Her personal mission is to “Help people age well, with joy and dignity”. First working as a full time product manager for Google, Vid made the shift into health-tech becoming the head of product at Walgreens Boots Alliance and then a product leader at Devoted Health. In this episode Vid talks about her passion for a quality product and communication. Sharing her Top 5 LeadershipTips on creating a quality driven environment through feedback and finding one’s purpose.
Vid’s Top 5 Leadership Tips:
Below is a summary of the Top 5 Leadership tips shared during the interview this week. Take a listen to the episode to learn more about the thoughts behind these tips –
- Putting People First
- Finding Purpose
- Developing With Quality
- Raising The Bar
- Feedback Loops
We hope you enjoy the episode. You can find even more Full Stack Leader episodes here:
Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of the full stack leader podcast. I’m here with my friend vid tech role. She’s a product leader at devoted health and has had a great experience working in the health sector for quite a while as a product manager and product leader on a variety of different things, trying to improve people’s lives.
Vid: Hi, Ryan. Thanks so much for having me.
Ryan: It’s great to have you here today. Always loved talking to you. Vid, currently you work at devoted health and you’re working as a, product leader there prior to that, you were the head of product for a project at Walgreens boots Alliance. and then, prior to that, you really cut your product teeth as a product manager at Google.
Vid: Yeah, that’s right. exactly. So I was at Google for four or five years as a product manager coming out of business school and then as head of product for the healthcare innovation team, uh, Walgreens, uh, in Chicago. And then I joined devoted health earlier this year as a product leader. focusing on membership operations.
Ryan: I think one of the interesting parts about your career path is actually the locations in which you’ve worked and you’ve been, I know you were in, in the bay area for the first part of it.
Then you went to Chicago, you’re in Southern California working with a Boston company. Do you notice a different flavor in the different cities and environments that you’re doing tech in?
Vid: Yeah, definitely. That’s a really good point. When I was at Google, I was in the bay area. So I was in a mountain view first and then I moved into the city.
So I was living in Soma for a couple of years. And then I lived at Palo Alto, for about a year. and there’s definitely a Silicon valley vibe and there’s like a way that people do things and, you know, it’s very entrepreneurial and innovative. That’s very exciting and it’s a very sort of particular environment to be in.
, and then when I moved to Chicago, it was actually in, I remember it was December, 2019,
the middle of the Midwest, winter, very cold. And then also, three months before COVID sort of happened and lockdown happened. , so that was again a sort of a very particular place in culture. And then now, as you mentioned, I live in San Diego, which is beautiful and sunny and, again has a very different feeling.
And it’s actually been great. I think one of the advantages that COVID has offered us, as a silver lining of the pandemic is, at least my role and I know many roles have become fully remote. And so it’s possible to live somewhere very different from where we work. And so my head office is in Boston and I live in sunny San Diego.
I actually did, three years in Boston and I’m quite sure , the winters that don’t suit me. So I’m much happier.
Ryan: That’s right. You went to university in Boston. I know testing out that cold weather it’s for some people and some people it’s not, and it’s great to get a little taste of both in life.
one of the other through lines I’ve noticed in your career is, Kind of dedication to, improving products in the healthcare industry. And that’s quite a journey, quite a ride. There’s a lot of change happening in that industry. A lot of bringing together things like personal data working with patients, providers, insurance companies there’s a whole host of very big pieces put together across there.
What kind of attracts you to the health sector? What aspect of.
Vid: I think the first thing is that my family are actually all doctors. My parents, my granddad, aunts, uncles, cousins, are all doctors of different varieties. I’m actually the first person in my family to not be a doctor.
I pursued finance and math and business. And really it was at business school that I discovered technology as a career path. It just happened to be that the person I sat next to you, my first day of business school used to be a park manager at Google. And that was really the first time I even considered Google as a place to work.
And technology is a career path that I could possibly look at. And so I sort of took a different path and then I think there’s something inherent innately inside of me that kind of brought me back to health care. I grew up listening to my parents, talk about their patients and the care and attention that they gave to the people that they were looking after.
And so there’s something inherently inside of me that wants to care for people and really cares about. Making people’s health care better. And especially since I moved to the US about 10 years ago, coming from the UK where we have the NHS and universal healthcare system. I got a glimpse of how difficult it is for people who are on an average, normal level of income to be able to do health care and get access to good healthcare.
Or I already took that for granted in the UK and something about that really drew me, as a person who has. Both access to that and some skills and technology and some knowledge of healthcare that I can possibly make a difference. And that’s very inspiring to me., and so when I was at Google, I actually started in a more technology focused team.
So I was looking at kids and families products across Google. And then by serendipity, I happened to, end up it’s a long story, but I had, I happened to end up in the Brazil office. For a little while. And the health search team at Google was also in the Brazil office. And so I got to know them and I got to know about the work that they do.
And I was drawn to what they were doing, which is basically making healthcare information accessible, and organizing it for the world. And so that’s really, that was my first step into sort of healthcare technology. And then from there, I was drawn to the Google health team that was created. Under David Feinberg a few years ago.
And then from there, one of my colleagues at Google health invited me to join Walgreens and head up the product team.
Ryan: It’s amazing how it all comes around full circle, and you’re naturally drawn to those spots that you inherently know. I know being a leader, you actually have to be able to get out in front of people and you have to be able to guide them and, having a life of that built into you, stepping into it, it makes a lot of sense while you’re naturally attracted to it.Yeah.
Ryan: So it brings up a good question. As you’ve traversed some of these really pretty amazing organizations, Google Walgreens, devoted health, is there a moment that you can remember that really was impactful to you as a leader?
Vid: Yeah, absolutely. There’s obviously been a lot of significant moments.
But I think the one that’s standing out at the moment is, when I was, Walgreens, we were tasked with building, sort of a new team, a new product team. And in the beginning, it was a variety of different people. So we had some folks in our team, some folks in different parts of Walgreens, we had folks from different organizations, partner organizations that we worked with, and it was quite nascent as quite early in the process.
And so one of the, one of the real sort of insights I got was around, communicating a vision. It’s at some point it occurred to me that we were playing this giant game of telephone where we had an idea, we had a vision of what we wanted to build, but communicating that vision as clearly and precisely as we could to the various different teams that we were working with was really challenged
Ryan: I really love the idea of. The phone call game right? Where you’re trying to pass an idea from, one receiver all the way down the line to a bunch of other ones and all the information being stripped away and lost in between I could see when you have that many different people from different organizations or different, even within your own organizations, different departments, having to.
Get on board with the same concept so that they can execute something in, in synchronicity with each other. It’s a challenge, always challenging. And the phone call game demonstrates it over and over again. How much of a challenge it is.
Vid:Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. And what tends to happen is that everyone hears their own version of the story.
And then everyone’s kind of telling the story that they understand. And so if you have a team of 10 people. You can end up in a situation where you have 10 people telling 10 different stories about what you’re building and why you’re building it. And when you need to build it by and what it’s going to look like.
And so the challenge is really how do you unify that storytelling, and one of the really great skills that I learned, to sort of tackle that challenge, was visual storytelling. So really looking for an, a language, a universal language that everybody on the team could understand and follow, and then that they themselves could use to tell their own version of the story.
And so the 10 people that you’re working with actually tell, as close as possible, the same story and have the same understanding of what.
Ryan: Yeah. A picture tells a thousand words. Right. You can really learn, learn a lot by looking at it. So when you’re leading with that concept of visual storytelling, visual format, like, how do you like to start that process?
Like what do you go
Vid: through? Yeah, that’s a great question. I got a lot about some really great tools that help with this. I discovered a tool called Miro, which is basically a white boarding tool. I found that to even starting with sticky notes and getting ideas down and getting the team to input so that they were all hearing their own ideas, each other’s ideas and kind of stitching them together and then infusing into that, the overall vision, the guiding vision of what we wanted to build helped to bring this diverse and somewhat disparate group together.
eventually to synthesize it down into a picture, whether it’s a flow diagram or assessive slides. I think at one point we even made a set of cartoons to illustrate, this is what we want the user journey to be like, and as close as possible down to lay person’s terms of that. Universally easy to understand the vision that we’re trying to communicate.
Ryan: Yeah. And I know like the end results of those images often go into things like investor decks, or they go into corporate presentations for, budgeting sessions or delivery marketing and publicity, things like that.
and the actual process of generating a set of screens or a set of flows. And you work with a lot of people throughout that. Right. And you really have to get them to bring that in and synthesize it into an image. What are some of the important groups that you work with to help get those built?
Vid: Yeah, that’s exactly right. So, we worked with, if I just work upstream to downstream, we worked with leadership to understand, what do we want to build? Why do we want to build it? How does it integrate into our existing strategy? And we’re already kind of getting those inputs and that.
And then we worked closely with a sort of series of some of those same folks that you would expect for any tech development. Product managers, designers, engineers, and writers. We also, because it’s healthcare, we also worked with medical experts, doctors and others to make sure that we were really optimizing for our end users. In our particular case, a lot of the products that we were designing, we intended to be used by more senior users aged 65 plus. We had some really great expert advice around, you know, let’s make sure that the farm size is large, that the tap targets are sufficiently large, that people can,it’s accessible for the people that want to use it.
And we don’t have sort of tiny tacks and tiny top targets and.
Ryan: Yeah, you said something that was kind of interesting to me. about really thinking about how to optimize the visual perspective for an audience that, that may need to be able to see it in a different way than the average person.
And I think that goes into all perspectives of design and product design, but also into leadership itself. Right. Because people can’t always see things or read things in exactly the same way. And, I really liked the concept of thinking about. Accessibility, not just on a website, but accessibility in terms of vision too.
I think it’s an interesting concept.
Vid: Yeah, absolutely. I think getting to know your user and really understanding in depth what their particular needs is so crucial to this. I think to the point of that universal language, like being able to translate those requirements of we need large texts, we need large tap targets.
We found that using universal tools to go along with that universal language of storytelling, to tools like JIRA and confluence, others really hone in and provide like very clear instructions for the people that we’re working with and help in that translation process and the game of telephone that we’re playing so that we have visual, lots of facts and technical, lots of facts that are all kind of telling the same story in increasing levels of granularity.
Ryan: That’s amazing. Yeah. Do you think that part of your job in the product leadership position was to make sure if people remembered that they were designing this for a specific type of audience or maybe several specific types of audience?
Vid: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s very easy for people to fall into designing for themselves.
I think this is like a very natural trait of like, oh, well, I would like it this way. so I’m going to design it that way or I’m going to engineer it that way. And I think it’s particularly hard to build for groups that are different from ourselves or differently abled, or have different preferences.
And I do think that it’s creating that awareness and then the commitment to continue the units that repeat ourselves. And remember that we’re designing this for someone who’s not like us.
Alright. I love that.
Ryan: That’s great. All right, well, thank you is great to hear about, what you’ve done in the past, as well as, the things that really affected you.
And I think that concept of. Universal storytelling through visual imagery is a wildly impactful part of being a leader. And especially in the tech industry where people are using these interactive states all the time.
One very important thing is clear from vids experience. Great communication is central to great leadership. How we inspire teams requires a consistent accessibility of vision. Additionally, a great leader has to get to know the customer’s perspective of that vision in depth and have the ability to translate it across a number of key contributors.
Vid has seen a lot of success harnessing visual storytelling that allows a leader to speak across many different skill sets and team members. The common language of vision always plays a key role in bringing projects to life.
Welcome back everybody. Today, we’re excited to have vid tech roll with us, and she’s going to run through her top five leadership tips for you things to keep in mind as you go through your leadership journey. So without further ado, let’s jump in a bit. Maybe you can tell us your first leadership tip.
So my first leadership tip is people first, and I think about this in a couple of different ways. For me, business comes back to the people that you’re working with. Firstly, the users. So as a product manager, the thing that I think a lot of, my time and attention is spent on is the user who am I building for?
What do they need? What’s going to delight them. And that really becomes my north star for a lot of what I do. And it drives a lot of the conversations and the initiatives that I put for. and then I think the second part of people first is the relationships that I build with my colleagues and with sort of other people in the industry.
This becomes particularly important when I’m thinking about managing up and managing down and managing across and the people that I surround myself with several times in my career, Some key decision or some key action ends up being taken. just because I have a really good relationship with a person and I can have a direct conversation with them.
And often cut through a lot of other noise and just get to the heart of the matter. And I personally think about my values, the relationship comes first and I’m willing to sacrifice a lot of other things to build and maintain relationships with people.
Ryan: That’s amazing. Yeah, I agree.
Vid: The other thing that I think is really important with people first is the notion of psychological safety. So there was a research project done at Google a few years ago around what makes teams successful. And it was really interesting, cause it found that regardless of.
Skill or performance or knowledge level. The number one thing that made teams successful was how much psychological safety there was in the team. And so one of the things that I optimize for in a new company or a new initiative or a new project is really setting the guardrails around creating psychological safety for the team to work together well.
And I’ve seen that play out where you don’t even necessarily have the most skillful team or the most experienced team. But if they gel well together, they have that connection. They have that friends with each other. I’ve seen teams be able to do really amazing things just from that.
Ryan: I really love that idea.
It’s actually the first time I’ve heard it synthesized exactly like that, but it does foster a great sense of. The collaboration amongst people, the more people you have working on a problem, the better the chance you’re going to come to some kind of great solution for it. .
And, we are creating things for people to engage with. So I am really thinking about that, not just on the product level, but thinking about it as we are actually building things and putting them together and how they impact us in general. So it’s amazing.
All right, let’s jump to your number two.
Vid: Yeah, so my number two tip is purpose and the way that I experienced purpose is, finding, discovering, excavating kind of doing the internal work. To figure out what my purpose is inherently? What I found is until I got clear on my internal anchor of what I feel purpose from, I tended to get buffeted around a little bit by what other people.
I wanted my purpose to be, and so it might have been, parents or friends or colleagues or bosses or other people who had ideas for what I could do and luckily I had a very supportive family who gave me the space to do that. But really I think until I was able to anchor into this is what I want to do.
I wasn’t able to really hone in on what was best for me, if that makes sense.
Ryan: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And I think it ties back into this kind of theme of helping people with their health throughout their life and like growing up with people that did that. And, not that, that had to be your purpose, but it makes sense that might be an ingrained piece.
Vid: Yeah. And actually last year I had the chance to, maybe for the first time, sit down and ask that question, over the Christmas holidays. And what emerged for me was that I want to age, or, I want to help people age well and die well with joy and dignity. And that has an inherent resonance for me internally that then induces a passion desire to do whatever I can to make that happen.
Ryan: Wow. What a great team for life. That’s amazing. On that note, that was a pretty big statement on that note. Let’s jump into your number three tip.
Vid: Yeah, it was. And my number three tip is around, product. And, developing an obsession for the quality of a product. I guess first, I should say that for me, product is the outcome of the first two.
I think once I get clear on who do I care about? Who am I solving the problem for? So in this case, I want to solve a problem for seniors, for people aged 65 and older, who are aging. And I want them to age well, with joy and dignity. And so once I’m clear on who the people are, and what’s the purpose I’m solving for, then I focus on what’s the product that I want to build.
That’s going to solve that problem for those people. Not the other way around, right? The other way round you are basically a hammer looking for nails rather than actually getting a hold of a real, tangible problem, and then wrestling with it, which can be much harder, but I think ultimately is more fulfilling and more productive.
Ryan: It’s a classic. classic case of, do you go look for a market or do you find the thing that is going to have a market around it? And, I think that there’s a wide variety of people that forget to actually get to the core of those things, before they really engage in, developing a product or developing their own careers, a leader as well.
Vid: Yeah, exactly. And I think there’s this sort of an obsession that sets in once you really focus on that of, increasing the ball for the quality of that product and making it as delightful and as amazing as you possibly can for those people. And I’ll tell you, it still breaks my heart every time I see a product or I use a product that is just janky and doesn’t let people do what it’s clearly designed to do.
And so when I’m working with teams to build products, I like to inculcate that into our culture of making this already amazing product for the people that are going to use it.
Ryan: Awesome. Alright. Tell us number four.
Vid: number four is, building on top of that notion of raising the ball for making really amazing products.
Number four is to learn and iterate and to have. Relatively small interest in cycles where you’re constantly improving the product and improving the team processes. Even if it’s 1% day so that it’s getting incrementally better over time. The condos of this, that I’ve seen a few times that, that hasn’t always worked out very well or I can’t think of an example when it has worked out well, is when you have a big bang approach where you say I’m going to design the perfect product, I’m going to define it all out and then we’re going to spend a year building it and then we’re going to launch it.
It’s going to be amazing. That rarely works. In my experience, you’re much better off starting with the easiest thing. We actually call it a skateboard here where you build a skateboard, not the car, and then you just get started and then each day you build upon it and you iterate upon it.
And you gather the feedback that you need to hone it to be that delightful product that your users are gonna use.
Ryan: Yeah, it’s an interesting topic because there is a notion of, what I see at least working with a lot of different companies, as we’ll see, engineering kind of driven organizations that tend to be a lot more iterative, discovering kind of the MVP. Then carving away at what the bigger answer is or taking a skateboard wheel to a car wheel might be a good example and then you also have the concept of. More business driven organizations that probably need to for the investment. They also need to make sure that there is the right kind of like thing being spent on their level of investment that’s going into it.
And so that you see a little bit of different approaches, these sometimes hybrids of the two, but yeah, think, as your engineering, great solutions, absolutely learning along the way.
Ryan: All right. And that actually leads us into your number five tip. What would you like to share?
Vid: Yeah, so the number five tip builds on that and it’s basically around the feedback loop. The teams that I’ve seen that do really well, have really great feedback loops ingrained into that team’s processes and the team’s culture. First of all, from the users. So having that feedback loop of you build a feature, you put it in front of users, you get that feedback and then you actually change something based on the feedback that.
And the teams that I see that have done this really well end up creating really amazing products and making a big impact for their users. And then I think there’s also a feedback loop internally in the team of, how receptive people are to giving feedback, receiving feedback, to soliciting feedback.
And what I’ve noticed is that often it can, for me, it can actually start with me. How open am I to receiving feedback negative and positive,
right? It’s always hard to solicit feedback or if someone gives you constructive or negative feedback. It’s very easy to get defensive. And then if I can create a safe space and avoid getting defensive and make it safe for them to give me feedback, then that starts to give permission for other people to give feedback, give me feedback, to give each other feedback.
And then you can start to create these healthy feedback loops to, , to sort of self-correct as a system.
Ryan: I love the concept of feedback loops and I think they’re vital and important. And, that was an amazing rundown of your top five list, and we really appreciate having you on the show today.
I think you offer a great wealth of knowledge and experience, especially in this really unique world of healthcare and, hope we get to see the next big product you’re putting out.
Vid: Thanks so much, Ryan. Thanks for having me. This was a lot of fun.
Ryan: An important part of its journey has been realizing why she does what she does for her. A common theme developed over the years, helping people with her. And in turn, helping people find technology solutions that will improve their lives. This of course evolved into leading teams that will manifest that theme.
In each project. She guides vid along with most great leaders. Strongly believes business comes back to the people that are pulling it together to create a great project.