A Conversation with Elizabeth Shulman: How early-in-career engineer brings social impact passion to her daily work - Truveta

A Conversation with Elizabeth Shulman: How early-in-career engineer brings social impact passion to her daily work

What do you focus on at Truveta?

I’m a software engineer. Previously I worked mostly on our DevOps infrastructure, and now I’m beginning to spend half my time on UI/UX (user interface, user experience) work for our researcher-facing app. Front-end development is new for me, and I’m grateful that my team has been supportive of my wanting to learn more there. I’ve enjoyed splitting my time because I feel like I can move quickly with the infrastructure work while ramping up and getting great support and mentorship on the UI/UX work.

What does Truveta’s vision “Saving Lives with Data” mean to you?

I think the biggest thing I’ve felt working at Truveta is that our vision aligns everyone who works here. We have this shared feeling that there’s something bigger we’re doing together. Having that as a baseline truth about my co-workers has made it feel more inclusive and easier for me to connect with the people I work with. Also, it’s been really motivating for me from a career perspective to be here. Early in my technical education, I had a lot of doubt that this field was right for me. But with different experiences I’ve had, like doing contraceptive research in college and technical work at Truveta, I’ve found a lot of confidence in my own abilities as an engineer, and I’ve thought a lot about what I find important. Realizing the potential for technology to have meaningful social impact has helped me feel inspired and confident in pursuing a career in computer science.

What drove you to be an engineer?

I didn’t know I wanted to be an engineer until I already was one. I grew up loving math and had teachers that helped me feel that was accessible to me, but when I started college I struggled with gender representation and inclusion in the classroom. My junior year I joined an incredible group of women doing contraceptive research, using machine learning and data visualization tools to identify gaps in distribution and blockers for women around the world to have access to contraception. This was a foundational experience for me and really helped me develop my technical and academic identity. With that experience, I created my own major at Duke University, combining computer science, statistics, bio, global health, and ethics into a degree in computational health. Another influential part of my time at Duke was my experience with Duke Technology Scholars, a program to support women in engineering and increase retention of women in STEM. That program has helped me feel connected and supported at every point in my career as an engineer.

What led you to Truveta?

I had some really inspiring mentors in college. I interned at Amazon the summer before my senior year, and during my time there Duke Technology Scholars connected me with Terry Myerson (Truveta CEO) as a mentor. Terry consistently gave me helpful and inspiring advice that summer, and we kept in touch through the next year. When Truveta was created, he reached out with a job offer knowing my interest in health. Even though it was a brand new company, I knew that it was exactly what I was looking for in a job, so I chose to work here rather than returning to Amazon.

What made you say no to Amazon and join Truveta?

It was a combination of the work that we’re doing at Truveta and the feeling that I have the most confidence in myself and am my best self when I’m working on something that is meaningful to me. I feel very strongly that technology needs to be rooted in social good for it to be good, and I loved seeing that in Truveta’s mission. I also had a lot of confidence in Terry. When he told me about the leadership team he was bringing on, I felt this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from incredible, experienced people who care about mentorship and inclusivity. Being here I can think of meaningful experiences I’ve had with everyone on the senior leadership team where I’ve had the opportunity to gain exposure to every part of what we do here. I’ve been able to look at branding work with our chief marketing officer, values work with our chief people officer, and some really cool early-in-career work with our chief technical officer – all experiences I can’t imagine getting at a big company that I have been able to get at Truveta.

What are you most excited about in the near term?

I’m really excited about UI/UX development because I get to help build what the physicians and researchers will be interfacing with. I get to think through on a daily basis the questions they’ll be asking and answering, and that keeps me regularly reminded of the impact of the work we’re doing.

What do you enjoy about working at Truveta?

I think there’s a strong community of new grads and early-career developers here. We meet with Jay (CTO) to talk through the technical problems on his mind, and we have a lot of opportunities to contribute to cool technical work outside of our usual range of experience. It’s cool and surprising to be involved in some of this work that I wouldn’t get exposure to at other companies. Everyone is also very interested in knowledge sharing, constantly learning and growing. Every day I have something on my calendar that is an opportunity to learn about something outside of what I’m directly working on. I know that I won’t be judged for not knowing something or criticized for asking for help, and I feel incredibly supported here.

What’s the most surprising thing you hear from friends or family when you talk about your work?

The biggest thing is the amount of data we’re able to work with and the fact that all of these hospitals have come together in this unprecedented way. I think everyone has a personal story about how Truveta could make a difference if it existed. It’s really cool to see the early success we’re having, and I’ve enjoyed being part of this group of brilliant and kind people. Overall it’s been moving and motivating to be here.