A week has gone by where I handed in my notice in A and E and started working in financial tech writing code and applying machine learning algorithms to data, as well as developing the web framework where users can apply for loans. So as many people speculate, yes, it is a lot different. Here’s the main things that I noticed straight away.
Being allowed to breath
The main difference that I noticed is having the freedom to manage your time. As long as you get your work done you are given a certain amount of freedom in terms on when you go and get something to eat. If you turn up 10 minutes late they’re not going to bite your head off, and they can be flexible if you need to do something. However, we have to take this with a pinch of salt. Coding is very easy to measure. You get given tasks, they are put on a workflow board, and your code commits are sent to your branch, and at the end of the week in the developer meeting they go over what you’ve done. Every code submission is to stamped with the changes highlighted and the type of code written. At a glance the rest of the team can see exactly what you did. I’ve never had anywhere near the same level of monitoring of my work in clinical. So even though I can go down the road and eat out for lunch and not rush myself, I am more accountable in terms of the bigger picture. Luckily I love coding, math and machine learning, so I don’t really feel like I’m working, however, if you really dislike coding, then this won’t be a fun path.
On the other hand, although I like the fact that I have more freedom with time management, this doesn’t mean that I feel sympathy for clinicians who complain that they don’t. Clinical is service orientated. You have to be there to provide a service. I’ve always been confused when clinicians point out that their lack of time management freedom is unfair. When I realised I didn’t like the rigid time management I thought…. service orientated jobs are not for me. Some love it because they are terrible at time management. Part of the respect for doctors is that they have good grades and can pick a range of professions, and they picked a service orientated job……. I sometimes wonder what the FY2’s parents told them when they are complaining about only having 20 minutes for lunch. Now if I take a bit longer in lunch I can stay late at the office and finish the code, or even code at home. This wouldn’t affect the end product at the end of the week. The consequences are different in service orientated jobs.
More rounded conversation
The great thing about tech, coding, and AI is that it’s very translational, this has lead to amazing conversations in the office and by the coffee machine. In contrast, a lot of clinical skills and knowledge are not. Memorising every bone, a anatomical structure, or treatment and diagnostic options for a presenting complaint that can be checked off with a number of one dimensional, hand to mouth, logical conditional statements. This doesn’t really translate well outside of the field. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that clinicians are automatons who have no personality, I have had interesting conversations with many, and developed friendships with a fair number of them. It’s just such a shame that medical concepts don’t really translate well outside of medicine. We’ve all chatted to that guy who’s doing a tough surgical training post, hasn’t really had time to socialise, and tries force talk about his speciality into every conversation. And whilst there is good conversation at department outings, it’s a cliche that the conversation will end up talking about work, where usually somebody messed up, they couldn’t believe that they messed up, and luckily they were there to save the day.
The conversations I’ve had in tech have just been awesome due to the translational nature of it. One guy developed a Bitcoin purchasing bot and coded it to sell at a profit. Another guy is using micro-controllers in his spare time to develop his own sensor that sends a request to a server. Another played chess on an international level, and has a AI program that mimics his style of play. He loves AI and is applying to everything and anything. The other day I was at the coffee machine and I started talking to a guy about the possibility of uploading conscious to a robot, and if it would actually be you or not. He is developing facial recognition software that interprets peoples’ emotions through their webcam for advertising. Another guy was telling me about how he made a robot that drew pictures in the sand. It’s not that these people are better, it’s just that their learned skills can be applied to a wider range of subjects. The common theme for the group is tech, just like the common theme for clinical groups is medical, it’s just that tech has spin offs in more areas making the conversation more varied. I cannot stress enough that it’s not a judgement in the personalities of people in medical teams.
Another great thing that I am loving that is a big change is that I get to build/create things. For obvious reasons you don’t do this sort of thing daily in clinical settings. Patient safety is pretty important. We also have to revisit the concept that clinical is mainly service orientated. It really depends on what you want to do and what suits your personality. In a clinical setting people usually have to make quick decisions, and most of the mess ups are down to not checking, or missing something. Miscommunication also plays a big part in medical errors. I was in ED for 7 years and I never saw an error that was a result of a clinician dealing with a concept that was so high level, they couldn’t get their head around it. In software development there seems to be a different tempo. People know that rushing software decisions will come round to bite you. For the last 5 days I’ve been working on a particular machine learning problem. The problem here is how creative you can be with logic upon logic in order to get an accurate outcome.
In general the work has moved from quantity to quality. The solutions that are created work 24/7 by itself making the design and creation more of an issue. Coding isn’t for everyone, but this is what you should expect in the early stages of jumping from clinical to software development.
I help clinicians get to grips with coding and tech, I also code for a financial tech firm