Bridgette Tuquero
February 25, 2021

Curai Health Software Engineer Spotlight: Jo-Jo Feng

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Curaians agree that one of the best aspects of Curai Health is working alongside our teammates each day. To highlight what it’s like working here, we are writing a spotlight series to showcase our colleagues and share a bit more what the day-to-day is like and what we are building.

Jo-Jo is one of our software engineers and our next spotlight! His answer to the company icebreaker question (what is your favorite kind of cheese 🧀) is: “Havarti on sandwiches and baked brie for direct esophageal inhalation.”

Why did you decide to join? What keeps you here now?

I joined because of the perks; Neal promised there would be unlimited pistachios and Costco fig bars in the office, and he delivered.

In all seriousness: I studied computer science in college, and in the winter of 2018 joined the annual crush of college seniors hunting for new grad software engineering jobs, but wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to work at a startup — I had a lackluster experience interning at a big company, and was more drawn to the tight-knit culture, autonomy, and mission-driven-edness of the smaller biotechnology startup I worked at the next summer — but was for the most part directionless. A friend told me about Curai, and after spending some time reading about the company, I decided to apply. Curai was actually the only company I applied to that wasn’t on the East Coast — where I had gone to college and hoped to stay — and one of the smallest, so it felt like the riskiest option at the time. But I was really enamored by the boldness of the mission, the scrappiness of a budding startup, and the opportunity to work closely with such talented people across so many domains; so I decided to take the leap of faith.

I’ve been here a little over a year and a half now, and I find that I have every reason to stay; I love my coworkers, the company is growing, and I’m learning in so many areas faster than I could have ever imagined. Of course, there are those few unglamorous days where I become buried under the mundanity of tedious debugging and drawn-out meetings, but at Curai I’m reminded so often of the noble mission we’re working toward and the joy of doing it alongside some of the best people I know.

What makes our engineering team culture unique?

I seriously think there’s something in the water that makes everyone here pathologically empathetic and kind. Collaboration among the team is so natural, almost effortless, and I feel so supported by the community. It’s cliché, but I feel like I can bring my full self to work (even the weirder parts). I also think it is no small thing that I am endlessly entertained by my coworkers; our Slack channels are flush with jokes and banter, and I feel like I am constantly laughing out loud during the workday.

All of this is not to claim we are perfect — we make mistakes (as individuals, a team, a company) all the time, and we certainly have our faults — but I’ve always been amazed by how often my teammates demonstrate the humility and intelligence to learn from our failures and grow together. Even though this is my first full-time job and I admittedly don’t have many other reference points, I’m convinced that this team is one of a kind.

Jo-Jo volunteering with the Curai Health team at a food bank

What were you afraid of before joining Curai Health?

Oh nothing really just the usual crippling anxiety from being the new kid. I feel like for the first month I was here, every time I would ask a question I would start perspiring violently at the fear of being perceived as a dope. Which I now realize was totally absurd because everyone here is so friendly and always willing to help each other out.

I was also afraid of my commute. I lived in San Francisco and to get to the Curai office in Palo Alto, I would have to bike to the Caltrain, ride the train, and then bike to the office for an aggregate one-way commute of 1.5 hours every morning. So yeah I guess another fear of mine was rolling up to the office with sweat stains.

What have you learned since you joined Curai Health?

How to build a React component for a designer to pixel-perfection; how to consume external APIs with even the most abstruse documentation; how to build a biomedical ontology; how to give an accurate deadline for when you’ll finish a project (with unit tests); how to scramble to write those unit tests the day before said deadline; how to approve a pull request that deletes ten thousand lines of your code and be cool with it; how to sustain 20 Slack conversations simultaneously; a bunch of fancy medical terms like “syncope” and “gravidity”; how to negotiate with the iOS App Store Review Team; how to drink from a porrón; and how many engineers, managers, designers, operations personnel, product managers, medical doctors, and machine learning researchers it takes to make a family :)

What are you working on right now?

These days I spend about half of my time building out preventive healthcare features on our platform, and the other half redesigning and improving our knowledge base: the infrastructure that houses and serves the medical knowledge that supports the automation on Curai Health.

Favorite Curai moment?

Our user researcher, Michelle, recently interviewed a handful of people who are underinsured to get a sense of how Curai Health could better meet their needs. At a company-wide meeting a few weeks ago, she presented a video compilation of the interviewees sharing their experiences navigating the complexities and inadequacies of the U.S. healthcare system. These first-person accounts of confusion and distress painted in lurid color exactly why our company exists, and reinvigorated a lot of us. I think it was a really affirming and unifying moment for the company.

What have you been up to during the pandemic?

Jo-Jo playing the piano for his 14-year-old cat
  • Experimented with at least 2 different shades of gray sweatpants
  • Learned how to bake
  • Nursed my diabetic, 14-year-old cat back to good health
  • Canvassed voters in the Georgia senate run-offs
  • Started volunteering with 826 Valencia to help students with their writing
  • Rode a horse
Jo-Jo canvassing voters in Georgia

What would you say to someone thinking about joining our team?

Stop thinking so hard about it and just do it! Now that we’re a remote company, I can’t promise the unlimited fig bars, but I will say this: You will learn extraordinarily fast, meet some amazing people, and build stuff that makes a real difference in people’s lives.

Please stay tuned next month for our next Curaian spotlight! We’ll pass the baton to Jo-Jo to highlight a teammate. If you’re passionate about healthcare access, up for bold challenges, and curious about working alongside really great people, don’t hesitate to say hi

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