DATE: May 2018 - February 2022
My extensive contribution to the Proximie platform is under NDA.
a story about my experience as Lead Designer, solo pm, and Head of PRODUCT Design
Promotional video showing the Proximie platform in action. (below)
Proximie is a real-time video collaboration tool for surgeons. It allows for up to 4 camera feeds to be shared simultaneously from within the operating theatre. Remote participants and proctors (those guiding a surgery) can interact with the surgeon using the software. Tools like the AR (augmented reality) hand, which displays a remote participant’s hand over the surgeon’s video field, allows for intricacies to be pointed out within the live video feeds. Other tools like the annotation tool enables participants to draw on the video. 2D and 3D files, like CT Scans (DICOM images) can be overlayed and manipulated (along the X, Y or Z axis) over the live surgical video. Other features include live chat and the ability for moderators to control what the remote audience is looking at, this is particularly useful in a teaching setting. This live environment and the associated interactions are the primary use case, but there is also a dashboard for scheduling surgical sessions and a library comprised of recordings from previous live sessions with the ability to play recorded video back and toggle between screens. Social aspects like “favouriting”, commenting, and sharing videos into a users’ feed helps to drive engagement and creates focus around relevant content. User and organisational administration also form part of the platform and streamlining this was essential to mitigate privacy concerns when engaging hospitals and similar medical facilities.
Working on the product from the early stages allowed me to not only drive the product forward but also allowed me to opportunity to shape the brand and messaging.
I first led the research and design for a complete rebuild, then took on a lead product manger role working closely with the engineering and various other teams. My work, first as a lead designer then as a lead product manager, took a user-centric approach, focussing on the highest value features and quick wins to win favour with users. I engaged end-users and used data to inform feature priority and design. I also worked with marketing, to evolve the brand and marketing messaging and align this with the product roadmap. It has been a great experience to work alongside Nadine Haram and fulfilling Proximie’s mission of “Saving Lives by Sharing the Worlds Best Clinical Practise”. A validation of my contribution was the series B raise of $38m. I was the sole product owner and lead designer leading up to the raise. After the series B, I helped grow the product team by helping to hire product managers and a design team whom I led as a head of design. It has been an incredible journey, and seeing the impact the product has made has been incredibly rewarding.
PROJECT and GOALS
When I received my first platform demo, I immediately noticed areas of improvement. The interface was challenging to the user, and there was little space for the single video feed. Given the primary use case, a clear video view was paramount. I evaluated the platform, making assumptions drawn from my product experience, and then started confirming my assumptions by talking to users and the teams that regularly heard customer pain points. As design lead, my first goal was to streamline the product around the prominent use cases and journeys, making this experience seamless. I also aligned the multidisciplinary teams and created a focus on solving user problems.
I consulted with stakeholders, like power users, to prioritise high-value editions to the platform. The company grew tenfold during my four year tenure at Proximie; this required me to constantly be closing gaps between teams, championing a design system, and leading research and discovery efforts and user testing. Portraying a longer-term design vision and hiring a world-class design team was also part of my remit. I empowered my team to assist in shaping team rituals and lean processes and helped them grow by finding aspects of the work that aligned with their career trajectory. I deliver world-class solutions while uplifting and supporting those around me. My teams are happy, motivated and not afraid to experiment. Beyond this what is important to me is devising and communicating a clear design and product vision.
Proximie grew at an unbelievable pace, with new hires every week, especially after the series B. Upon starting at Proximie, we were three individuals in the UK with a small offshore team. The team grew to over150 people when I made my departure and close a series C soon after of $80M. This is across global teams in the US, UK, META, and APAC. Given the nature of an early-stage startup, I’ve had to wear many hats, assisting many teams, with my primary focus being product and design. As the team grew, I loved hearing about the people and their backgrounds. My door was always open for anyone to feed back to me, be it our hospital implementation teams or the commercial units. Especially since, these teams were closest to the end-users and customers. I also made an effort to align senior stakeholder expectations with a realistic product roadmap and design vision.
I’m incredibly passionate about helping people, and helping to grow companies and teams. I’ve helped to hire some phenomenal talent along the way. Especially in the design space.I find it incredibly rewarding to make space for up and coming talent, and together with other leads, help them to grow as designers. I encourage close relationship with my team through weekly one-on-one chats and monthly career development discussions. I also encourage weekly team-building exercises where individuals choose a locale for our off-site ops and strategy meetings. Getting out the office and talking about the big picture stuff always helped to align the team. I’ve found this to have strengthened the relationships between team members considerably, especially with new starters. I also helped with the recruitment of PMs and designers. I have a knack of assembling teams that are supportive, not only in terms of personality and culture fit but also in terms of skillsets. I recognise the strength of- and promote team diversity.
Lead Designer / Researcher
As the company headcount grew, my role also evolved. I joined Proximie because I was drawn to the substantial positive impact I could make. Initially, most of my time went into research, I hired a researcher, and with her help, I gained a deep understanding of the surgeons, surgical workflows and the domain in general . I then sketched some ideas, tested some early designs with the internal team. Eventually, I built high fidelity prototypes which I then tested and verified with users. I was the lead product designer across the web, iOS and Android apps. Another aspect of my role was defining the visual language. I put together a design system, using an anatomical design approach and built reusable components which helped to speed up development. This ensured a consistent experience across all customer touch-points. We employed design thinking methodologies to establish various design options which were then evaluated in terms of value and feasibility. In this fashion, I devised user-focussed, innovative and resourceful solutions. I also strongly believe in data-driven design, not only via quantitive measures but especially on the qualitative side. I love talking to people and conducting research within a users work environment (also known as ethnographic research). Building a strong connection with your user base is critical for success.
Beyond all the usual Jira tickets, confluence documentation and managing the backlog and roadmaps. I’ve always advocated for the user and a user-centric product experience tying this together with the overarching business strategy. I invited users to retrospectives to close the gap between the teams (especially engineering) and the users. These users gave a first-hand account of any new features’ positive impact on their surgical workflow. Promoting this connection ensured empathy towards end-users and boosted the teams’ output quality- with them taking a user-first approach to solutions. I also involved internal stakeholders in the discovery process and kept them informed with regular updates, reviews and internal release notes.
Head of Design
I thoroughly enjoyed being the product manager for two years, and after series B, I moved to the Head of Design role where I could expand the design team. The head role was extremely demanding as I had to close many gaps, while leading the team and also do work as an individual contributor. I know that creating a safe space for experimentation is essential. I love this quote by legendary industrial designer. Alberto Alessi:
“Dance on the borderline between success and disaster. Because that’s where your next big breakthrough will come from.”
A team can’t dance in this innovation space if they aren’t free to experiment. Given the norm in the surgical field, mistakes are not tolerated (the impact could be fatal), which contrasts with the ethos of taking risks to promotes innovation. I, therefore, had to stimulate the forming of this safe innovation space and guard it.
In terms of process, I encouraged the building of clickable and as-close-to-real prototypes. Making sure these prototypes are thoroughly tested. Firstly with the in-house teams and then with actual users. I keep and encourage a close relationship with the engineering teams, with leads sitting in on tests and demos for them to discover feasibility issues early on. I celebrated many achievements with the team. Once, when we achieved a notable release, I arranged for a branded cake to be delivered to the offshore engineering office. Supportive culture was always high priority. We applauded exceptional teamwork, made sure every individual had a voice and helped the team to build confidence by letter them take on tasks that would see them grow. Before we had an HR department, I created a vision for the team and culture and recognised and celebrated everyone’s contribution. People are what make companies, not processes; if the team is healthy and supportive, the output will be excellent. I feel strongly about nurturing a positive and fear-free culture, creating a positive impact, and making those around me shine while taking any critical feedback upon myself.
What an incredible rollercoaster this job was. I helped deliver an immense amount of design across my 4 year tenure. I helped turn the product around from a few test users in university hospitals to partnering with some of the worlds biggest medical brands. All the accomplishment aside, this was one of those times when I gave too much of myself to my work. As a result my health started suffering. Yes, try be a product manager and a designer at the same time. It’s hard, and there were many long hours and very few weekends, especially given the medical domain where people tend to work long hours. It’s part of the medical culture, especially in the UK. It’s expected.
The work at Proximie finally took it’s toll on me. I’d learnt an incredible amount, but my biggest lesson was to take better care of myself. I’d grown as an individual, I’d met incredible people, including customers from across the globe. I’m extremely thankful for the learning this opportunity afforded me.
Proximie closed a $80M series C funding round four months after I departed. This is testament to the foundational work done. What an incredible journey. What incredible people. It was very hard and emotional to say goodbye after nurturing this brand and product like my own baby. Yet, I also appreciate that I could take some time to self-reflect, focus on myself and take time to heal.
Proximie promotional video showing ‘The Pursuit of Excellence’. (below)