As a part of our People of AKASA series, we’re interviewing the folks behind the brand. From engineering to revenue cycle operations to customer success to culture, here are the people building the future of healthcare with AI.
Today, meet Kelsey (she/her), a software engineer, and learn why she thinks soft skills are crucial in an engineering career. And connect with her on LinkedIn.
1. What’s your job at AKASA?
I’m on the team responsible for the platform used for collecting training data and performing quality control on our AI’s work, and also for the engine that allows us to scrape payer portals. I spend the majority of my workday building new features for these products and improving the existing system.
What I love the most about my job is having the freedom to wear many hats and make a difference in multiple ways.
I’ve learned a lot from our eng team, and I’ve grown as an engineer — primarily because I’ve had the opportunity to touch so many parts of our system and learn about all aspects of our tech stack. I’ve also had cool opportunities like being on-call for our machine learning team and mentoring multiple new teammates, which has kept things exciting and constantly pushes me to learn more.
I have a wide range of interests, so I’ve also had fun doing things outside of my immediate job description. I love thinking of ideas related to company culture and implementing them, which has led me to do some unexpected things. I’ve written trivia questions for a Jeopardy event, built a slackbot that automatically tags people to share highlights, started an employee fun-facts quiz bowl, and led a painting session (despite being a very questionable painter myself).
2. Why did you join AKASA?
I knew I wanted to join a startup after graduating from Stanford because I’ve always loved the feeling of building something from the ground up. I also had internships at tech companies of very different sizes (including Facebook, Robinhood, and Cresta). From those experiences, I realized that I enjoy my time most in small teams that iterate quickly.
When I was looking into companies, AKASA immediately caught my eye because of how experienced and well-rounded the founding team was. I kept seeing that early-stage teams were stacked in one direction — either on the technical or non-technical side — but the team here had such a unique blend of deep technical expertise and healthcare experience that I was immediately interested.
On a more personal side, I also had a goal of working on technology that would make the world a better place. It sounds simplistic when I say it like that, but it also is just that simple. I feel better at the end of the day if I’m working on something that I believe improves people’s lives.
It was clear that AKASA was building solutions that could help the healthcare industry function more efficiently and improve healthcare for everyone.
Even though I knew very little about revenue cycle (I literally Googled “what is a claim in healthcare?”), I knew AKASA would be a great company to join.
3. Where are you living and working these days?
I’m Bay Area-born and raised! I love the Bay because you can drive to the beach, then to the mountains, then back to the beach all in one day.
I workcationed from a few other places during the pandemic, such as Portland and a small town near Lake Tahoe. You can see my Bay Area roots from how excited I was at the prospect of shoveling snow.
4. What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I can recite 100+ digits of pi. Once I won a blueberry pie at a pi-reciting contest, so I’d consider it an essential skill.
5. What AKASA value is the most meaningful for you
I firmly believe that bravery is a skill that can be learned and honed over time. I’ve been able to practice the skill a lot at AKASA because people really celebrate taking the initiative and taking risks.
6. What was your first job?
I grew up playing tennis, and my first unofficial job was as a tennis instructor for kids. It was a very different environment from tech, but actually taught me some transferable lessons like “you don’t truly understand something until you can explain it to a 10-year-old”.
I was also a ball person for Serena Williams (those people in the corner of the court who run and retrieve balls and deliver them to players between points). This was for the Bank of the West Classic, a tournament previously held at Stanford. I’m proud to say that I have held up umbrellas and fetched Gatorades for some of the best women’s players in the world.
I still play tennis recreationally and like to think that I may have absorbed some athletic talent from that experience.
7. What’s one thing you wish you had known when you first started working?
How important communication is — especially when working remotely!
In my tech internships and college classes, the primary focus was on developing my software fundamentals. Because a lot of this consisted of writing code alone or maybe with one other person, I feel like the “soft skills” required in a software engineering career were de-emphasized. Turns out, they’re much more important than I initially thought, because you need to work with a wide variety of people to develop products in the real world.
I’ve learned a lot at AKASA about how to collaborate more effectively as an engineer on a fast-paced team. Some of my projects here have had multiple stakeholders across different teams, so I’ve learned how to anticipate any disruption to others and clearly communicate any downstream effects from my work.
8. Complete this sentence: I am happiest when…
I’m sitting by a fire reading a memoir.
I love learning about other people’s lives, especially if they’ve overcome extraordinary challenges. Some of my favorite memoirs include: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (Maya Angelou), Open (Andre Agassi), and When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi).
9. Are you a morning or night person?
I wish I were a morning person, but I’m 100% a night person. My brain usually works best at midnight.
10. What’s one word you’d use to describe AKASA?
People at AKASA are constantly evolving to make the company the best it can be. I’ve noticed this in the engineering team and the whole organization as well. Coworkers across all teams always welcome new ideas and strive to replace clunky processes with new, streamlined ones. There is definitely a bias toward action in the culture here, which means that projects and goals mature significantly every single quarter. I can see the incredible growth of the company firsthand.