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Profile: Ron Karroll, Engineering Manager
Ron shares his views on the de-risked opportunity at CBH, giving power back to users, and balancing work and life
The following phone interview was edited for an article format. Clipboard Health will be publishing a regular series of interviews to highlight our incredible team, share what we’re accomplishing and to give a window into our unique work culture. Enjoy!
Tell me about yourself, Ron. What’s your life like? how do you spend your time?
Well, first, I’m engaged to be married, and we have a daughter, which keeps me really busy lately.
It makes finding a balance interesting. I’m an engineer, that’s what fuels my hope, and I enjoy the process of engineering. I like solving problems and building things. But I have to be careful about that. I had my own startup in 2013; when you have your own startup you end up doing everything that needs to be done, no matter how much time it takes. And that skewed my mindset, in a negative way, towards being too work oriented. I’m very careful about limiting how that affects family time.
How does that look for you?
I’ve been trying to do my work earlier, so that I can call it a day at 5:00 pm and spend time with family. Being able to balance work and personal life — something I was never really good at — helps both of them. With that said, working at Clipboard is so interesting that sometimes I have a hard time turning it off. Luckily, my fiancée is super supportive.
What made you choose Clipboard Health?
My mom was a nurse, and I grew up watching a lot of the difficulties she worked through because of that. We made it, but our finances weren’t always stable. She worked really hard to make sure we had everything we needed.
I also learned through watching her that companies and organizations aren’t always loyal to their workers. I remember one time recently I was reading a story about a fast food restaurant that was laying off hundreds of people, but was also building a $13,000,000 vault to hold its secret recipe as a kind of a PR thing. Some companies are like that, they don’t value people and the people who work for them can’t count on them.
I think Clipboard Health gives nurses some of their power back by giving them alternatives. If a nurse is being asked to do something unreasonable and she doesn’t have any choice between that and losing all her income, that’s a situation where the nurse has to do whatever they are asking. With CBH, they can say “no” and know that if things get messy they still have a way to work and support themselves while they look for something better. That’s a lot of power to hand back to someone.
That’s a big part of why I joined up as well.
There’s other reasons, too. Clipboard Health is a very young company, and there’s a lot of opportunity to be high-impact. But it’s also very financially stable and very low risk, which is rare.
My last startup did well, but nothing shocking. The fact that we eventually sold and walked away with any money at all probably put us in the 99th percentile of startups all by itself. That’s the kind of risk/reward ratio you are usually walking into if you want to have that kind of impact and opportunity of advancement.
I don’t think word has quite gotten out yet in the engineering community about how fast Clipboard is growing or how much opportunity there is here, especially in terms of how stable and successful we already are.
Tell me about your skillset - what’s your specialty? What new skills are you trying to pick up?
If anything, my specialty is front end. But in a lot of ways my specialty is a lack of specialty. In college, I was a double major in accounting and finance. I learned software to the extent that I needed to make products after that. So I broadly fall into the “lots of breadth, not as much depth” category, which I think is typical of a lot of people who did a lot of their learning under real-world pressure. But that means there are a lot of places where I can identify a need, learn enough to solve it and make sure things are working well where we don’t necessarily have a specific specialist to handle the issue.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, mostly books that deal with theory. It’s been good to go back and learn a lot of what I missed on my first pass and pick up some of that depth in addition to being versatile.
Where do you see the company going over the next few years? What opportunities do you see coming?
A lot of what’s coming in the next couple of months is related to us catching the world up on the progress we’ve made — making sure people know. We’ve grown so fast that there are a lot of opportunities to improve our optics. Improving our website, for instance, would go a long way.
When I was first talking to Clipboard about coming on board, I don’t think I really grasped how much we were doing until I got to the conversation and interview phase. We are working on making sure people know that sooner.
Beyond that, Clipboard’s position is just very, very good. We have a ton of growth potential, we are cash rich, we do important work and there are a lot of different ways the product can evolve from here. We are doing interesting things and we have very good leadership. We have inherent advantages to how we operate that make us really versatile, in terms of the philosophy of how we approach work. We are already pretty successful and it’s easy to see us getting much more so.
What are some things you can do at Clipboard you couldn’t do anywhere else?
The work truly pays off in a way you can see immediately. That’s true both in the sense that we move really fast in making improvements, but also in terms of advancement. We are growing so fast that competition between engineers isn’t an issue. Right now, if someone does great work and is competent, getting to team lead is normal.
One of my jobs as a manager is guiding people to the next steps in their career. I find out what they want to do and help make that happen for them. I’m promoting someone next week who works in Ethiopia, just an incredibly hard worker who is also really talented. He did the work, and I’m able to easily stick to my word and put him in the opportunities he deserves without getting caught up in bureaucracy.
We have that opportunity to reward talent in part because we are able to hire globally; it’s opened up so many opportunities for us to identify people who have immense talent and put it to work that we just wouldn’t have known about if we could only hire locally. And Clipboard is the best company I’ve seen in terms of treating everyone the same no matter where in the world they are working from. Their work matters, their location doesn’t.