Creating Products That Last… or Not

So during this COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been thinking about meaningful work. Our front-line healthcare providers are performing very meaningful work. They always do, but it seems more obvious now then ever.

In our industry, meaningful work is also obvious. Without dialysis, those with kidney failure would not live (a fact I fear that the average American does not realize). Those who work directly with patients each day realize the life-saving nature of their jobs. And that provides meaning to what they do every day.

But what about all those other things that go into keeping the business of dialysis alive. These jobs must have meaning, too. Without them, dialysis clinics might not be viable business entities, and therefore, unable to provide care to patients. So this, too, should be considered meaningful work. But it is one step removed from the front lines.

And what about those who work to provide the equipment and supplies that make our business of dialysis run. There are many — dialysis machines, special chairs, bicarb, saline, needles, lines, too many to mention. If you work in a clinic, you know all this stuff. What about the software? EMR’s, timeclocks, accounting & payroll. Again, too many to mention. All of these are necessary aspects of the business of dialysis. But now we are two and sometimes three steps removed from direct patient care. There is often a disconnect between the folks who do these jobs and the providers of care, but clearly everything is connected. The products and services are indispensable to the direct care givers in being able to do their jobs.

So where am I going with this?

“Most of us wish we could create work that lasts…
because that implies it matters, and it makes a difference,
and it will be appreciated by the people who use it.”

–Esther Schindler from SmartBear

With ScheduleWise, I feel that we have contributed to the dialysis industry in creating something that helps to make a difference, at least in the lives of our clients, in helping them to organize their day so their staff can provide the best and safest care possible given all the constraints of scheduling patient care. It’s no easy task. But this is where the meaning comes in in our line of work.

But the second part of the quote above is about creating work that lasts. I realize the truth about software in general.

“Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Your code will not be around in 100 years.”

–Christopher Byerly from Quora

In reflecting on our own history, ScheduleWise code hasn’t lasted 10 years, much less 100! We are constantly reinventing ourselves and rewriting our code! We’ve completely rebuilt the application top-to-bottom three times so far in our short 12 years. Clearly we are gluttons for punishment!

But you see, despite our best efforts to deliver a quality product, sometimes a complete redesign is warranted. Sometimes new technology compels us to rebuild. And sometimes in order to provide the functionality that best solves our clients’ problems, it just makes sense to rebuild from scratch.

Now compare that with something like antique furniture, quality is essential. We expect it to last, maybe with some minor touch-ups. Or with a house, the 100 year-old house. We love that idea! But the truth is, most 100 year-old houses are merely shells of their original selves, literally. The inside gets gutted and modernized with each new owner. Yet, to preserve the 100 year-old moniker, you can’t just tear it down and rebuild, even though that makes the most sense.

In any case, software is a different animal. And though we finally feel we have the right platform on which to build further, I won’t be the least bit surprised if we rebuild ScheduleWise yet again in the next five years.

So remember this, we all strive to have meaningful work in this world. And we are trying to do our very best in delivering the world’s best dialysis scheduling software. But I try not to take it too seriously. Because our code will not be around in 100 years.

Come to think of it, if we’re lucky and artificial kidneys become commonplace, maybe even dialysis won’t be around in 100 years! Of course then we’ll all need new jobs, but our patients will be happier and healthier, and isn’t that the real objective?

Be safe everyone!

Mark Sessoms

Mark Sessoms

I'm supposedly a helluva industrial engineer since my alma mater is Georgia Tech. But what I really seem to be good at and really enjoy is in continuous process improvement. I've been tackling scheduling practices in dialysis since 2003, and after meeting with Gary, we thought we could do something better. Five years later, the stars aligned and ScheduleWise was born... where these days, I mostly oversee software development.

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