From the team

Work & Life at Kaiku: Designer’s View

The blog gives a voice to the people at Kaiku Health. It is a letter written to you who wants to get an in-depth glimpse at what it is like to be part of a community that tirelessly works towards a better future for cancer patients. Each writer tells their own story and how they experience the company values in their daily life.

Introducing Jeremias Ylirotu

I’m Jeremias, one of the product (or UX, depending on your definition) designers at Kaiku Health. We currently have three product teams and I’m an in-team designer for the Patient-facing solution and responsible for a wide gamut of related design work and direction from upstream discovery work, user research and concept design & facilitation, to interaction and UI design, prototyping and usability testing, to working alongside and supporting our engineers during development, etc. 

Advancing our design research practices on the patient side, especially the qualitative and ethnographic side of it, is close to my heart so a part of my time is spent also on driving initiatives to that end. As you can see, it is pretty much an end-to-end kind of a gig, and as far as titles go, the modern interpretation of what being a Product Designer is, covers that nicely. 

The start of my career in design coincided with the start of my product design studies back in 1997. In 2012 I switched to consulting, and spent four years and some at Siili Solutions as a Senior UX Designer, and Design & Competence Lead (User-Centered Design). Then, three years at a fintech startup MONI as their Head of Design. In late 2019 I joined Kaiku Health to take on a Product Designer position.

Around 2005 or so I started to get more heavily interested in UX, User-Centered Design, and later Human-Centered Design, and have been on that track since. Those ideas have shaped my views on the role and value of design and the future it should pave the way for: accessible, ethical, and inclusive.

“Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live, is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design.”

Dieter Rams

Kaiku Health has embraced User-Centredness from the get-go. It is one of the key reasons why I decided to join the ongoing mission of providing cancer patients with better quality of life and health outcomes through our digital solutions. There is also a rather personal side to this all. I have seen up close what cancer and its treatments can do to people, and I know I am not alone in this when it comes to the people who work at Kaiku Health. Ours is truly a mission that I believe in and want to contribute to.

Q: Tell us about your last week and what you have been up to recently.

Let’s get back to day-to-day work… so, how have the last few weeks been for me working at Kaiku? Actually, very nice. There has been this healthy buzz as people have been gearing up after their summer vacations. 

For the last few weeks, I have mostly planned our future design research activities, including the design of a user study and the interview questionnaire, the training materials for the third party representatives, and also the materials for the actual interview sessions. Also on the menu? UX improvements and planning of both patient and client-facing parts of Kaiku Health service.

We have a new office in Hakaniemi, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working at the office again (working remotely has its benefits but I prefer to have it as an option only). I have so missed all those conversations of opportunity that you just do not get to experience online. Hakaniemi is also pretty awesome when it comes to lunch options, loads of places, and cuisines to choose from, all within a short walking distance. The city center proper is just a ~5-minute metro, bus, or tram ride away, and the Hakaniemi square with its open-air market and the market hall is right across the street.

Living by the Kaiku values

Q: How has your growth been supported at Kaiku? 

This is a very people-centric environment, not just employee-centric. I feel it in everyday work, how things are structured, and also in the interactions between people and different functions. A good example of this is the overall feel and spirit of cooperation, both inside the teams but also between individuals in different teams working on the same objectives. 

There is also this healthy cross-pollination of ideas and information and sharing experiences between individuals of different domains of expertise that I have always enjoyed and been inspired by. Aside from the casual watercooler chats and lunches, this has been formalized to a degree with knowledge sharing sessions known as Kaiku Academies, and also when it comes to production work, our demos with Q&A where we showcase what we have been working on during the last 4-week product development cycle.

Overall I would say that there is a very collegial and “flat hierarchy” feel to it all, with mutual respect and shared trust between colleagues regardless of their role or position. We are also always on the look for improving our ways of working to meet the challenges of today and the future. This is reflected in our daily interactions, and attitudes also.

During my year and a half at Kaiku, there has not been a single day that I would have woken up not wanting to go to work. The things we do and can help achieve are inspiring. I also feel that working at Kaiku helps me grow not just as a professional, but as a person also.

Q: Trust is needed for experimenting and for the ability to influence one’s ways of working. How do you experience trust as a professional working at Kaiku?

I would say that that kind of bilateral trust is indeed an integral part of why Kaiku is both how and what it is, and why working at Kaiku is so enjoyable. Trust really is the ultimate social glue. 

As knowledge workers and professionals we have a lot of say in how our work is structured, and in which direction our domain of applied knowledge should head on an operational, and even strategic level. Naturally, it can take time to push initiatives through (it is not just my party, after all) but I feel that there is a lot of room for maneuver when it comes to experimenting with ideas that are sound and hold promise.

For example, we are currently working on several initiatives and projects that have been initiated by designers. Those will, for example, help us better meet the future demands posed to us by our expansion to new markets and cultures. Having that kind of agency is super important, and it also, in part, helps Kaiku become a better, and more antifragile company as a whole.

This emphasis on continuous learning and improving our ways of working is extremely healthy, and a must when we are facing growing responsibilities as we ourselves grow in numbers, and the number of people who use and rely on Kaiku daily grows.

Q: Healthcare is a strongly regulated field which of course is ultimately for the safety of patients. How is this visible in your work?

I would say that it is visible but in a healthy way. It forces us to structure our work and product development processes so that we can turn out products and services that meet and exceed the standards. I really do not see regulation coming in the way of innovation, as such. It actually forces a pace that is productive and sustainable. 

The thing is, we are not here to “move fast and break things”, but rather, to come up with solutions that help improve cancer patient’s Quality of Life through our understanding of the latest medical science and technologies such as Machine Learning.

Naturally, this means that we need to learn about compliance and regulatory issues to keep abreast of the changes in this domain but I think that applies to any field of business and technology where regulation is at play. So, I consider it a net positive.

When I joined Kaiku I was extremely impressed with how well the whole software development process was organized, simply put, it was the best I had ever encountered (and things have been continuously improved since). I consider myself fortunate to be able to be a valued contributor to this company.

Q: Tell a bit about your work-life balance.

I would say that it is excellent. I have been in companies where I have burnt the midnight oil but at the end that has never been that productive (quite the opposite if kept up for longer stretches). I feel that with this more relaxed pace I, and the rest of the company, actually achieve more. We do have flexible office hours but I nowadays tend to stick to the good old 9-5 as that is when everyone else is working also.

We also have the option of working remotely, and that helps in maintaining that balance. We are also allowed to take up physical activities during the day (time allowing) if we feel like it or need to (I have taken my dog out for an extra walk during the more beautiful days, etc.). As long as the hours get filled and your work gets done, it’s all good.

In case of personal issues, time can be arranged for handling those. I would say that this is a very humane and flexible model and exists because of the trust shared between Kaiku’s management and its employees.

Q: How do you think diversity and inclusion are viewed and supported at Kaiku?

I do indeed think that diversity and inclusion are important values and I feel that they are both recognized at Kaiku. As a human-centered designer, I feel strongly about this topic. Healthy diversity can help bring in new ideas and understanding, and in turn, help us pick up the blind spots in our thinking before they become issues. 

We are all different. Things like a person’s cultural background can greatly shape their thinking, expectations, and way of seeing the world. The people who use Kaiku products and services are also all different, and with our expansion to new markets, more and more diverse culturally. We need to, not just recognize this but rather, embrace it fully.

I think diversity and inclusion are well reflected in how we view each other at Kaiku. Despite one’s gender, age, the color of their skin, sexual orientation, cultural background, nationality, political views or standing, religion (or lack of it), ableness, etc. we view each other, on a fundamental level, as individual human beings who all want to do good and contribute towards building a better tomorrow. So it’s an interplay of appreciation of people’s professional capabilities and their personas, combined with a mission-first attitude.

To sum it all up, one of the best things about Kaiku is how people can openly be who they are. There is no need for roles to be played or facades to be upheld. At Kaiku you can just be you.

Kaiku Health, a part of Elekta

Q: In May 2020, Kaiku joined Elekta which is a global leader in radiotherapy solutions fighting cancer and neurological disease. How have you experienced it?

I do think that the acquisition has brought in a lot of positive things and holds great promise for the future, especially when we are thinking of where Kaiku can be applied. It opened up huge markets for us. We are not “just another health tech startup” anymore, but a part of something bigger.

Greetings to a future colleague

If you want to work in a humane company, creating solutions that have a validated impact on people’s lives, then please do drop me or my colleagues a line. We are always happy to chat.

Would you like to become Jeremias’ colleague? Find all open positions here!

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