What I learned at a college recruiting fair.

As a Director of Engineering at Imprivata, I recently participated in a three day recruiting trip to three universities. The goal of the trip was for about 10 high tech companies to visit a few of the top engineering schools to facilitate new talent injection. The visit included University of Michigan, Carnegie Mellon University and Cornell University. The corporate participants included a number of very early startups and a few later stage companies like Imprivata. There was a wide range of software products represented including everything from a gaming engine, online advertising, cloud and big data computing, to healthcare and security with OneSign.

The format at each school included a bunch of short interviews before and after a set of organized presentations where each company was given just four minutes to present to an audience of students. In that four minutes we needed to give the students some background on the company, some idea of the ‘cool’ products and technologies, and also give them the pitch about why they should want to come work with us. Although very cordial between the companies represented,  there may have been just a little hint of competition/comparison as each company presented back-to-back-to-back, all trying to interest the students in coming to work for them.

At the first school our organizer told us that we would be doing the presentations alphabetically by company name. I didn’t think about it much until we got through the first few presenters and I realized that I was going to be following the gaming company. Their presenter was a very hip looking 25 year old (spiked hair, leather jacket, bracelets on the wrist) guy who turned out to be their CEO. He talked about their product which is a game engine used to develop games on Android and iOS. He described how all 20+ of the company members live within a mile of their downtown Silicon Valley office, all walk to work, stay there till late evening, and then go out to dinners and parties together. They also offer work permit sponsorship, lots of stock options and have been offered to be bought by several very large companies but turned them down so far. When you consider the audience is a bunch of young computer science students, and I am not 25 with spiked hair (any hair? Ed..), leather jacket, bracelets on the wrist, it’s easy to imagine that it was a tough act to follow.

I had worked out my presentation/pitch in advance but as I walked up to present, I was really wondering if I would be able to strike a chord. I spent a couple minutes giving some background on Imprivata, its products and its technology. I mention that a primary goal of OneSign is to save physicians ’15 minutes a day’ and that can lead to substantial financial benefits for both the doctor and hospital and also can lead to enhanced patient care. Towards the end I focused on why the students should want to come work for Imprivata. I talked about our place in the very hot healthcare and security sectors of software and a bit about the culture of the company. I then told this story:

‘I wanted to share with you a true story. About six months ago my father had a very serious heart attack. He’s fine now, but at the time it was a very scary situation. I got the call and then quickly took a red-eye flight from where I live near Boston, MA to Fargo, ND where I grew up. I walked into the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital and into my dad’s room. He had just come out of surgery and had every tube, device and cord that you’d never want to see attached to someone you care about, plugged into him. The doctor was there working on him and along with my mom we asked him questions about the surgery, his condition, etc. I then saw the doctor turn around, place his finger down and get logged into windows using Imprivata OneSign. He launched his EMR application and without typing anything in was brought into his application without pausing and typing in a password….using our single-sign-on. He looked at something quickly and then turned around and resumed talking with us. If you remember those 15 minutes a day that we save physicians I mentioned earlier… in this particular case those were spent with me and my dad. I’ve been building software for 20 years and I’ve built a lot of ‘shelf-ware’ .. software that was never used by anyone or that didn’t matter. Anyone who works in this business long enough will tell you they have as well. Right now, I work for a company that doesn’t just build something cool or interesting… but builds something that matters. That makes a difference in the world. And I think that is very, very cool.’

Of course each of the companies had different interesting aspects of what they do that resonated with different kids. The gaming company, and all the others certainly had a bunch of students around them during the meet and greet sessions. But, there was a segment of the students where Imprivata’s story resonated. I had several students engage with me interested in security or healthcare. I also had several students tell me that they liked my story and are looking to work on something that can make a difference. I had one very passionate student hand me her resume and tell me “I wasn’t on your interview schedule… but I want you to consider me.. I want to change healthcare.”… Not something you hear from your normal 22 year old. I asked her why and she said that her and her family had some personal bad experience in hospitals and that she wanted to improve the way doctors and providers communicate.

Driving home from the trip I thought a lot about the energy that I had picked up from speaking with the students and also realized that I had never really thought about Imprivata products making a difference in the world. We often speak to (and sell) the financial savings that can come out of reduced helpdesk calls or saving physicians time because of workflow improvements. We talk about the financial impact of our software on hospitals, physicians, and the user trying to get into windows and their applications quicker…about making their lives easier. As I thought about it, I started to realize that there is a new perspective that I really hadn’t seen before… the patient. Of course the user benefits from OneSign but there is a tremendous value being felt by people who don’t use the software (or even know it’s there.) Once before I had been exposed to it while visiting a hospital and seeing nurses and doctors use OneSign as they treated sick patients but it never was brought into focus like it was when I was the direct recipient of the benefits. It certainly has brought a new perspective to the way that I view OneSign and the benefits it can bring.