As I was researching the best tech jobs in healthcare, I noticed some people are drawn more to some industries than others.
Even though tech startups haven’t disrupted the healthcare industry as much as we’ve seen it happen in other industries, things are happening. That is good news for those of us who aren’t looking to become a physician but still want to contribute to the industry and global health.
While the saying “love what you do and you won’t work a day in your life” feels overused, there is a special power to working in an industry you love. It gives us that extra energy to pull through on days that are tougher than most and it gives things meaning beyond the money.
Even though I know you don’t want to close any doors by specializing in just one industry, there is a power to doing it that most don’t get to experience: the work becomes more predictable, delivering results feels easier and you figure out what works.
People begin to think of you as an expert and your point of view carries more weight. You begin to understand the deeper problems to solve while others are still solving surface level issues which usually translate to better compensation.
There is a certain benefit to working in an industry with good unit economics too. There is a reason people who are serious about earning money tend to go into finance, real estate, insurance and other industries. Healthcare is one of those.
To give you an example, I used to work in an industry where returning customers were few and far between. I discovered that it created a hidden glass ceiling that most business owners in the industry didn’t even realize was halting their growth. To anyone who knows anything about business, that’s a red flag. The “big money” usually comes from happy customers buying again and again.
For years, I looked for a fix for customers to come back, so I could be the hero. I experimented with niching down the audience to just those that needed help the most and we tested any idea under the sun that might boost their motivation.
They just weren’t that interested because that thing didn’t matter that much to them when it came down to pulling out the wallet and handing over their hard-earned cash.
Compare that to helping people with their health and it almost feels as if you can’t get rid of them. Do a good job, treat them well and they’ll come back in droves. It’s an entirely different world.
Anyway, I’ll stop rambling now so we can get down to business. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s a lot to gain by staying in the industry long term, if you can find it within you.
In this article, we’ll talk about what it’s like working in the tech side of the industry at a startup where the roles tend to be less defined than at traditional clinics and hospitals. We’ll also look at the different types of jobs so you can find the best tech job in healthcare for you.
Let’s jump in, shall we?
The best tech jobs in healthcare: insights from a digital marketing department of one
In classic “The Office”-style, I wanted to give you an idea of what it’s like to live a day in the life of a digital marketing manager at a healthcare tech startup.
As I sat down to do so, I realized that it would turn out pretty boring as an hour-by-hour log. It might be more productive than Michael Scott’s log but equally exciting.
In my experience, working in digital marketing at a healthcare startup the projects and tasks are more or less the same as in other industries: manage digital channels like search, social media, content and what have you.
The difference is in the metrics we focus on and the targets we have for success. Another important aspect is the speed we move at week in and week out.
For example, compared to the typical agency where everything is on fire, on a last minute deadline and things move relatively fast compared to traditional corporate jobs, the goal is often more about making the client happy and feeling good, rather than actually driving results that will advance their business (and our career).
Of course, agencies are sometimes hired for other things beneath the surface and the outcome of a particular project might not just be the results.
At healthtech startups, the results tend to be focused on bottom-line revenue, transaction volume, and new customers. It can feel like a wake-up call and a true test of our skills working at a venture-funded startup as our marketing campaigns have to drive meaningful business impact, or there is no business to work at.
That doesn’t mean we can’t run experiments that fail but meaningless metrics like fan page likes and generic traffic stats don’t make sense if we can’t monetize it and show cold, hard cash in the end.
While the learning curve can feel steep, a job at a tech startup can be a kickass career builder but it isn’t for everyone. It requires constantly thinking about which of all your marketing ideas might perform the best because you won’t have the resources to do everything and if the business doesn’t make the next funding round, there is no more business to work on.
It sounds brutal but it really isn’t. I find that in this department, it’s more about being honest with oneself about how good we think our skills are and what truly makes a business impact. Even if those two aren’t aligned, I find that it’s better to learn if you are ambitious about your career.
That also means figuring out if we are the best person to handle a certain task or if we should delegate/outsource it so that we can spend time handling other projects as well. All of this is relatively easy, or at least learnable, compared to the personal growth we have to work on alongside.
For example, what you used to think was your “thing” might now just be a tiny portion of your job that you have to outsource as you focus on more important tasks while the company grows by leaps and bounds. It sounds great — and it is — but it can be hard to let go of and go back to being a total beginner as we take on new, more challenging projects.
That’s exactly what happened to me as I had mastered Facebook ads and needed to hand that responsibility over to someone else as I looked for more impactful projects to take on. It sounds easy on the surface but it can be surprisingly hard to let go.
The best tech jobs in healthcare: Is a stint at a healthtech startup a good career move in digital marketing?
Whether working at a particular business is a good career move or not depends on what we want out of it. People tend to have one of three goals: advancing their career, reinventing their career or slowing down.
Working at tech startups tends to be the best fit for advancing your career as it requires lots of work but there are also more opportunities to take on more responsibility. If you are looking for a job at a slower pace, a traditional corporate company might be a better fit.
Many of us love to use statistics on the future demand for each type of role to judge what might be the best move for us in the future. The reality is that it might be relevant on a macro level but it doesn’t guarantee anything. Instead, consider focusing on skills like interpersonal communication, sticking to deadlines and being easy to work with, and you’ll do well in any department you choose to join.
From a digital marketing perspective, there are a few general career trajectories in tech compared to other industries.
I’ve found that your career trajectory and opportunities for promotions in the long term depends on how dependent the business is on digital marketing. If your boss isn’t an expert in digital marketing, they might simply not know and it’ll be up to you to judge for yourself.
For example, pharmacies tend to have slim margins which make it challenging to get a big marketing budget and thus for us to experiment and drive results.
If digital marketing isn’t a big thing at your dream company, a path after working as a digital marketing director can be to move into a general manager role, move into sales or product or even move into traditional marketing and eventually towards a VP of marketing or CMO.
Often, I hear people thinking about going to X company so that they can later make the switch to Y company or industry. Unless it’s a unique situation where you need a very particular background (perhaps like working at NASA or the UN), it usually makes more sense to go for the thing you wanted right away instead of adding an extra step. It sounds obvious but we sometimes think that we need a certain set of credentials that we can actually live without as long as we present ourselves correctly.
The one big downside to working with marketing in the healthcare industry is that our hands are tied when it comes to creativity. The regulations are tough to get around and there are only so many things we can do using traditional channels. If you love being creative and artsy, this is probably not the industry for you.
The difference between working at a venture-backed tech startup and a traditional clinic or hospital
Traditional healthcare jobs and their tasks tend to be well explained but less so for tech jobs at startups disrupting the very same industry.
The fundamental difference between startups and traditional companies is that at startups speed is key, whereas in traditional companies it feels as if there’s more focus on bureaucracy and politics.
Tech startups are often categorized by the number of funding rounds they have under their belt and they can feel quite different to work at depending on what stage of the business you join.
There are plenty of folks out there (like Andrew Chen) who can better explain that but here’s a simple way to look at it.
If you want the true entrepreneurial experience in the industry, join a health startup as early as you can and ideally before they’ve had their series B funding. After that point, product-market fit tends to be honed in and there is more focus on scale, expansion and even some level of maintenance.
Before that, you’ll work to figure out if there’s a business there in the first place, what kind of customers to serve, which problems to solve for them and how best to do it.
Compensation is different too.
At the very early stages, we tend to be paid little on a monthly basis but with a better long-term outlook and access to stock options in the business. As the business matures, so do the compensation packages and they become more traditional with a better salary and benefits but less option for a big pay out in case of a potential exit.
The best tech jobs in healthcare: Non-clinical examples of jobs at healthtech startups
The departments at healthcare tech startups tend to be different from traditional healthcare clinics but can also be a bit different from other industries on the tech startup scene.
Let’s look at a basic overview of the different departments so you can get a sense of which area might be the most interesting for you, if you are considering switching into the industry.
The best tech jobs in healthcare by department:
- Clinical (incl. pharmacy)
When talking about tech startups, the first thing that comes to mind is often coders and techy people. At some health startups, they have their own team and in others they are considered the ‘product’ team alongside product managers who plan out new product features, etc., and other team members who work specifically on what the product should do and how it solves the problems it’s built to solve.
This can feel confusing since a part of what we might sell are physicians and their ability to help mere mortals like ourselves get well when we feel ill.
Since they require a totally different background from a programmer or product manager, physicians are often managed as their own clinical department.
Sometimes the product team and the tech team are one and the same, depending on the product itself and other necessary departments. This is often the most confusing department as it doesn’t exist in the same way in most other traditional companies.
The short version tends to be that there’s a team that works on the tech side of the product in order to understand how the customers use the product, which features to build in the future and actually making sure that execution is following the road map so things get built.
Clinical (incl. pharmacy)
The clinical side, whether for a clinic, pharmacy or something else is quite straightforward as a special clinic background is needed. This is the department which services we are offering to the market.
Marketing and sales is pretty straightforward too. Sometimes they are one department and sometimes they are several, depending on the overall business strategy and how dependent the business is on digital sales. In some markets, it makes sense to drive leads digitally but have a sales team to close the deal.
Finally, we have the finance department along with human resources and other admin work. These departments often don’t exist at the early stages or might be merged in an octopus-type role with a few people handling everything as they come up, and only become their own department when the company is big enough.
- When everyone is switching between industries left, right and center, there is a power to staying within the same one to position yourself as an expert
- The key difference working at a venture-backed tech startup compared to a traditional clinic is that speed is the main driver of things
- If you’d like to work in digital marketing, make sure that it’s an important part of the company or consider what you’ll do when you hit the glass ceiling as a digital marketing director