As Mobile Heartbeat continues to innovate and transform clinical communication & collaboration, we’re looking for employees who are eager to work on an important product that affects hundreds of thousands of users and their patients. This monthly article series highlights some of the current MH employees who exemplify our values and are helping us work towards our goal of improving communication in healthcare.
This month’s interview is with Valerie Arena, a seasoned engineer that loves a good challenge.
Can You Tell Me About Your Decision to Become an Engineer?
That was a long time ago! I started out as a high school chemistry teacher. I started biochemistry in college and went on to teach and even got my masters in education, but it wasn’t for me, and that’s how I got into computers.
Actually, I didn’t even know what I was getting into. It was the late ’90s—we were still using dial-up to access the internet. I just started to call temp agencies and ask them to tell me what I needed to do to get started.
They told me I should learn Word and PowerPoint and Excel, and from there I went to the library and reviewed profiles of programmers, I went to different certification schools and started to take a few classes to see if I liked it, and I found that I loved it. I would work on something and look up and hours had passed.
So I took my certification program and I had a job lined up before I even finished the program, and was lucky enough to get my first start as a programmer analyst. I got my masters in computer science to catch up and from there I couldn’t get enough of the work.
I kept asking for more work, more challenging work. And I’m still the same way, I can’t get enough of my work. I love learning new technologies, backend challenges, very mysterious integration problems that need to be resolved—I love an awesome, crazy, weird puzzle.
How Many Companies Have You Worked for as an Engineer?
This is my sixth over the 18 years I’ve been an engineer. I did move around a bit because what’s important to me is working on new technologies. At these companies, I would work on projects, work on platforms, but there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity for me to learn new technologies because those technical changes don’t happen quickly.
Once you architect your platform and decide which technologies you’re going to use, you’re kind of stuck with that. The only opportunity for me to grow was to move from one company to another. In addition to a company not really switching up their technologies once they’ve developed a mature platform, they don’t even usually upgrade their version.
I wanted to continue learning and then applying what I learned, but I also wanted to stay marketable, so the only way for me to do that was to move from company to company.
How Did You Hear About Mobile Heartbeat, and What Made You Want to Work Here?
I first heard about Mobile Heartbeat because I had worked with Mike Kellstrand at another company. So after I left my first programming job, I wanted to learn more about enterprise technologies, especially enterprise Java technologies, and more about frameworks.
Computer software companies are very different from IT companies, so I knew what I wanted to work on, but it seemed like what I wanted to work on was at the software companies and not at the IT level. When I interviewed with Mike Kellstrand, Saji Aravind and Ron Remy at Modiv Media, it felt like such a lucky break. Even though my experience wasn’t that of a traditional engineer, they still wanted to hire me, and I learned such amazing skills while I was there. Even when I moved onto other companies, I always kept in touch with Mike.
Then when I was looking for a new job, I emailed Mike to see if he would be available for another reference, and jokingly I said, “Hey, is there anything there at Mobile Heartbeat?” and he said, “Oh, I think that there is.”
So he told me about the company and about the technology, and all of these opportunities to integrate—which I love, I’m crazy about integration—and I went in and met with Saji and a few other people and I was lucky enough to be brought on to the company, it was awesome.
It’s funny because, at Modiv Media, Ron didn’t have an office, he liked to sit out with everyone and just listen to us all, and when I joined Mobile Heartbeat, there he was again, no office, sitting right out in the middle of the engineers.
How Would You Describe the Work You Do Here?
It’s a lot of backend Java development, so it’s working with servers and databases and integration, which I love. It’s not purely Java development, though. Sometimes we need a server upgrade, so there have been a couple times where I have to look into the internals of our Tomcat server and try to understand what has changed and what’s new.