A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend an event hosted by the US Digital Service. I got a last-minute invitation to attend, I didn’t have any plans, I didn’t really know what the US Digital Service is but I rarely get email with the seal of the White House on it, so I figured I might as well attend. It was so very much worth my time. I learned that USDS are my people, which is something that I’ve been kind of lacking at Genentech.
My new role is pretty awesome. I work on Genentech Access Solutions, which is a program where we help patients get access to the medicines that they need. At first gloss, this doesn’t necessarily sound like it’s a good fit for someone with a UX background. It’s actually a perfect fit. We’ve got people who understand how to deliver great services to patients and their healthcare providers. We’ve got people who understand how to run such services internally. We’ve got an IT team to deliver the software that’s necessary for patients, their healthcare providers, and our internal team. What they don’t have is an understanding of the overall user experience for each of the different types of people who use our system and services.
On the other hand, I don’t exactly fit in with my direct team, who are all very focused on business and operations. I don’t exactly fit in with the IT team either, who are very focused on delivering a solution to my team. I’m the one who’s tasked with understanding the experience of everyone who comes in contact with our system and services, and ensuring that we’re delivering the right user experience for each of those groups. Patients have different needs than healthcare providers, and both have different needs to our various internal users.
From a UX perspective, this all makes perfect sense. As a UX professional, it’s my job to understand not just what people do (or don’t do) with our software and services, but the context in which they do it. I have to understand what they’re really trying to accomplish, and what else they’re using to accomplish it, what works and what doesn’t about their current method, and design a solution that meets their needs.
I’ve spent my time so far getting up-to-speed on Genentech and Access Solutions: what we do, how we do it, who interacts with us. I’ve spent some time in the offices of healthcare providers, talking to everyone from doctors to nurses to office managers to front office staff to billing managers. I’ve learned so much in the past few months. It’s been amazing. And I’ve shared what I’ve learnt with my team, to help them see our services through the lens of UX, and to consider ways we can better meet the needs of our patients.
I get to use my UX skills in a way that we often don’t get to. It’s been fun, it’s been eye-opening, and I have high hopes for the future. But I also don’t have a built-in UX community that I can turn to.
And then I got to meet the US Digital Service team and hear about projects that they’ve worked on, and suddenly I realized that I’d found my people. They understood the challenges of doing UX in an organization that hasn’t exactly considered UX before. They understood the challenges of doing UX in an organization that has deep ties to processes and technology that are often considered outdated elsewhere. They understood the challenges of communicating about UX in an organization that knows they’re missing something but isn’t quite sure what it is. And they understood how deeply satisfying it is to improve the UX of something that is used by people not because they want to, but because they have a very different driver behind their usage.
There are other UX people out there who are trying to do the same thing that I’m doing. It was a great feeling. I’ve already had coffee with a couple of people that I met that night, and it was so exciting to have found my community again. Thank you, US Digital Service. You’re doing awesome work. I can’t wait to share with you the results of what I’ve been doing.