Slow Down to Go Faster: Developer Experience. From Klarna to Kilo Health

Jun 30

Hi there, it’s me, Phil.

For over twenty years, I’ve been either bashing away at a keyboard or kindly asking software engineers to do things. Currently, I’m the Director of Engineering for Digital Wellness here at Kilo Health.

If we haven’t met at any conferences before, you probably haven’t heard about my journey into digital health. That’s why I’m here, having a chat with Rytis for a podcast, and I wanted to share some key takeaways with you.

Or, you can listen to the full podcast while cooking dinner or driving home from work. Simply click here.

An Englishman in Berlin and working for a Lithuanian company

Let’s start by discussing why I ended up in the amazing city of Berlin. They say there are 3 reasons people move here: work, love, or techno. For me, it was love. 

I met my partner in the UK, and unfortunately, they couldn’t stay there, so they moved to Berlin and invited me to move with them. I was amazed since I’d only known them for 6 months, but I said – “Sure, why not?”. And it was the best decision I ever made.

Berlin is an incredible city that resonates with me on so many levels.

Speaking of working in a Lithuanian company — I was previously employed at a fintech company called Klarna in Berlin, but I started to feel a bit disconnected from the direction the company was taking. One day, I came across a post from Kilo Health on LinkedIn, and it caught my attention. I had a conversation with Lina, our then Head of Talent Acquisition Engineering, who shared that Kilo Health is a privately funded and profitable company. 

That instantly piqued my interest. As we continued the conversation and I got to know more about the company’s challenges and the problems we aim to solve, I realized it was an exciting opportunity. That’s why I decided to join Kilo Health, and here I am!

How does the digital health industry differ from my previous experience

As you transition between different industries, you start to realize that they are surprisingly similar. Prior to joining Klarna, I worked in various places, including marketing and development agencies, where I would switch industries every 2 months to work on different projects. 

This experience made me quickly realize that despite different industries claiming to be highly specialized, there are common patterns in human needs, business operations, and revenue generation. 

While I acknowledge the need for specialized knowledge, adapting to understanding our customer base has been a significant adjustment for me. It’s an interesting process. Additionally, once you have worked in a regulated industry, you notice that there are similarities across various sectors, even if the specific regulations may vary.

The challenges with digital health

I find that the challenges I encounter are more related to the organizational structure within Kilo Health rather than specific to digital health. 

Our company operates with multiple co-founders, acquisitions, and separate entities that function under the Kilo Health umbrella. While each entity operates relatively independently, I have technical responsibility for all of these products. Navigating how to influence and guide these companies, each at different stages in their technical journey poses an interesting challenge.

Secondly, there are distinct technical challenges between early-stage startups and Kilo Health as a whole. As a company of over 700 people that has been in existence for a few years, Kilo 

Health faces different technical problems at scale compared to small, early-stage startups. 

This realization has required me to adjust my thinking and understanding. I cannot simply apply a one-size-fits-all approach to the digital wellness category, as each product within the category requires tailored support.

Finding a solution to customize our service offerings on a category level remains a significant challenge, and although I have experienced various stages throughout my career, I have yet to find a definitive answer. However, we are actively working toward resolving this challenge.

Prioritizing speed and quantity doesn’t work for engineers

As the host of our developer experience meetup, I can say that I don’t like the term, and the problem with the concept arises when we start discussing developer experience and painting this picture that developers are some kind of unique types of people that are separated from the rest of the company.

The global developer job landscape in recent years has created a seller’s market for engineers. Hence, there has been a shortage of available engineers to meet the demands of advancing technologies on a global scale. However, it’s crucial to recognize that developer experience ultimately revolves around productivity. 

Productivity should not be viewed in isolation within specific departments or specialties within our organization. Instead, we should broaden our perspective and consider productivity in marketing, HR, design, product management, and across the entire organization. By taking a holistic approach, we can gain a comprehensive understanding and foster productivity throughout the company.

In many tech companies, there is a tendency for the engineering department to prioritize speed and quantity, shaping the developer experience around the idea of rapid engineering. 

However, as Kilo Health, our core focus lies in building innovative health products. Our goal isn’t simply to expedite the setup of technical services but rather to create meaningful and impactful solutions within the health industry.

Final thoughts

It’s crucial for us as engineers to acknowledge that we are not unique or irreplaceable individuals. In the current cultural and global landscape, our technical skills might become less valuable and in lower demand. We need to consider what sets us apart in the job market.

And most importantly — the right amount of engineering is the least amount of engineering possible.

Want to shape the future of digital health with Kilo Health? Check out our careers page.

Phil Bennett
Phil is the Director of Engineering for Digital Wellness at Kilo Health. With an extensive background spanning two decades in the field, Phil has accumulated a wealth of experience and insights. He often engages as a speaker at various conferences, contributing to the industry's collective growth and learning.

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