Building a Foundation of Engineering Excellence at Integral

John Kuhn
The Integral Tech Blog
5 min readMar 25, 2024

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The phrase “data is everywhere” is at once a cliché and a gross understatement. It’s the backbone of insights, the driver of marketing efficiency, and the reason why technologies like GPT and Midjourney have achieved such remarkable capabilities. Healthcare data, potent with the ability to unlock insights and narrate a patient’s journey to recovery or the efficacy of a treatment, is no exception. Yet, what sets healthcare data apart is its complexity in sharing, largely due to stringent privacy concerns. For many American entities, mishandling this data could lead to substantial fines and reputational damage, effectively rendering it untouchable. This barrier inhibits research, slows the gathering of rich, real-world data, and complicates clinical trial recruitment, particularly for rare diseases.

At Integral, we’re on a mission to revolutionize the healthcare data landscape by establishing privacy-compliant conduits for seamless data exchange, starting with our automated expert determination and continuous monitoring pipelines. Given the scale and sensitivity of the data we manage, often surpassing 10TB in a single week, our engineering team is held to exceptionally high standards.

In a remarkably short timeframe, we’ve developed a solution that has not only won the praise of customers from top pharma, big tech, healthcare tech, and LLM companies but has also demonstrated our capability to build robust, fault-tolerant, and scalable data systems. This blog post sheds light on the unique qualities that unite our engineers and underpin our ability to rapidly deliver a high-impact product.

Disclaimer

Before diving in, it’s important to note that the qualities we cherish in our engineering team are specifically suited to our current stage as a seed-stage company. These traits have significantly boosted our productivity and are in line with the immediate needs of our product and customers. As we evolve, our requirements and the traits we value in our team members will likely change. What works for us now may not be the universal solution for all organizations.

Comfortable with Ambiguity

Football player remaining calm after helmet comes off

A defining trait of Integral engineers is their peace with ambiguity, a quality we emphasize repeatedly during our interview process. We seek individuals who can grasp a problem and navigate their way to a solution independently, a trait synonymous with self-sufficiency. In the fast-paced startup environment, where problems often arise before they can be fully understood, those who can dissect an issue and start formulating the right questions are exponentially more productive. Our hiring process is designed to identify these self-starters.

For instance, in developing our privacy engine for automated expert determinations, we aimed to offer our customers more flexibility than current solutions provide. The challenge was finding the right balance of choice without overwhelming users. Ultimately, we settled on providing an Integral preferred option along with two alternatives, a solution that our customers have warmly received. This was a complex problem that we resolved through customer feedback, experimentation, and refinement.

Bias for Simple Solutions

A common pitfall for engineers, often correlated with intelligence, is the tendency to over-engineer. An extension of this is retaining unnecessary code or processes. In a seed-stage company, our product faces intense scrutiny, necessitating a simple, clear, and adaptable codebase. This approach not only facilitates a shared understanding of the product but also ensures that anyone on the team can take responsibility for testing and evolving our solution.

During interviews, we look for this bias towards simplicity. We prefer straightforward coding tasks, watching out for candidates who might overcomplicate solutions. Attention to detail, even in something as seemingly minor as naming conventions, is critical; it reflects a candidate’s fit with our meticulous and thoughtful team.

If you don’t take the same amount of diligence and care naming your variables as you would your children, odds are you’re not a fit on our team.

Collaborative Spirit

As the CTO and co-founder, I might be biased, but the collaborative spirit within our team is palpable. Bugs and challenges are met with a team-wide effort to find solutions, with pair programming and knowledge sharing being commonplace. This collaborative approach ensures a unified understanding across the codebase and transforms bug resolution into learning opportunities for the entire team.

Identifying this trait in candidates can be challenging, but those with a history of working effectively across teams usually stand out. A recent example involved a bug affecting column metrics storage, which was resolved thanks to the collective expertise and quick action of multiple engineers on the team, ensuring no customer impact.

Ownership

Ownership is another crucial trait among our team members. Owners are those who relentlessly push their work through to production, navigating obstacles autonomously. They’re the ones who might occasionally bend the rules, and that’s a quality we value. Our team is full of such individuals, whose drive and commitment have been instrumental in Integral’s success.

Conclusion

At Integral, we’ve assembled a team that embodies a unique set of qualities essential to our rapid growth and success. Comfort with ambiguity, a bias for simple solutions, a collaborative spirit, and a strong sense of ownership are not just traits we seek in our engineers; they are the pillars upon which our product’s excellence stands. These qualities have allowed us to navigate the complex challenges of healthcare data privacy and to innovate on solutions that make a difference for our customers.

For potential customers interested in seeing the impact of our unique team firsthand, we encourage you to explore our product pages. Discover how Integral is setting new standards in healthcare data privacy and exchange, and how we can help you unlock the full potential of your data, safely and efficiently.

Let’s redefine what’s possible in healthcare data privacy.

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