Day in the Life as a VillageMD Product Owner

Hi! I’m Julie, and I am a Product Owner at VillageMD. I get to work on an incredibly wide variety of initiatives and projects, along with a diverse group of engineers and stakeholders. I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate that than by sharing a day in my life via my calendar.

Product Owners at VillageMD are responsible for the execution and success of their product(s). I think of myself as a liaison between our customers (internal or external) and our engineers. I work closely with operational leaders + engineering leaders to ensure that we are developing technology and product strategy that supports our business needs, both now and in the future.

No two days are alike for me — I may spend one day mapping out the strategy and vision for product in 2021, and the next day troubleshooting bugs in Production.

A few themes that apply to pretty much everything I do:

  • Integration with the customer and the mission, directly impacting patient care
  • Teamwork & collaboration
  • True partnership with engineering, shared decision-making

And a breakdown of how I typically spend my time:

  • 25% Product Strategy/Vision/Planning
  • 20% Customer communication & alignment
  • 15% Feature Design & QA
  • 10% Research/Prototyping
  • 10% Emails/instant messages/admin work
  • 10% Team meetings/supporting team members
  • 5% Recruiting/Interviews
  • 5% Executive Meetings

8:30 — Coffee and catch up on emails/instant messages

I always like to leave time at the beginning of the day to catch up on email, create agendas for upcoming meetings, and prioritize any deliverables for the day. I keep an eye out for any issues related to system outages, data lags, and overall customer happiness so I can escalate and assign resources as needed.

This is one of my most productive blocks of time — I’m always fresher in the morning, and my co-workers are usually quiet until 9am.

9:00 — Workflow Leads Meeting

This is a weekly check-in between me, the Principal Engineer and the Engineering Manager for my products. We catch up on the week, align on priorities for next week, and discuss the workload of each team member to make sure work is balanced and everyone is working on projects that make sense for our roadmap and each individual career path.

The 3 of us are a tight-knit group. Individually we are responsible for prioritization, technical execution, and people management. Collectively we are the engine that drives our product forward.

10:00 — Project Check-in: COVID Outreach

I use this meeting to check in with my Care Management stakeholders about our company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in April we developed a workflow for identifying patients with a high mortality risk for COVID and outreaching them proactively. This served the dual purposes of providing care and resources to patients in need, and providing meaningful work for staff who otherwise may have been furloughed due to clinic closures.

We meet occasionally to review KPIs, identify needed features, and align on priorities.

10:30 — Team Standup

Every day the entire team (engineering + product, about 12 people in total) gets together to discuss what we are working on, identify blockers and remove them. We usually spend the first 5 minutes cracking jokes and catching up with each other. After that each team member takes ~2 minutes for a very quick update.

Short and sweet is best here. If any topic goes beyond 2–3 minutes, we take it offline and make sure the folks who own next steps set aside time to discuss in more detail.

Some of the features we’re discussing in standup this week:

  • A proprietary algorithm that sorts hospital discharge notifications by risk of readmission
  • A portal for physicians to sign off on diagnosis code reviews
  • A self-service rules engine that allows clinical managers to determine how work is assigned among their staff members

11:00 — Heads down time

Anytime I’m not in meetings, I’m trying to get real work done! This could be any combination of the following:

  • Testing a new feature, communicating bugs back to the engineer
  • Building out a proof of concept for an at-home scheduling workflow
  • Troubleshooting a Production issue with the director of care management
  • Writing requirements for a new feature
  • Answering data architecture questions from the Analytics team

12:00 — Lunch break

I’m a huge believer in taking breaks during the day. When I can, I like to take a full hour to step away from my computer, cook a healthy lunch, and maybe even indulge in some reality TV (my kryptonite!!)

1:00 — Risk Acuity Strategy Meeting

This is one of the (relatively) more formal meetings on my calendar. I use this meeting as an alignment session for all the stakeholders on a product — this includes Technology, Operations and Analytics. I like to frame this meeting in terms of “Recently Released/In Progress/Up Next”. I bring the group up to date about which features are in flight from a tech perspective, and we work collaboratively to make sure we prioritize the features that best meet our business needs.

I’ve found these strategy meetings to be incredibly useful in building consensus within a product. The product team hosts strategy meetings for each of our products approximately every 2 weeks.

2:30 — Digital Coffee

One of my absolute favorite things about my job is the relationships I get to forge with my co-workers. We’re all working hard on different things, often from different cities, but I’m so impressed with their commitment to building and maintaining real friendships.

One of the engineers on the team started a tradition of scheduling “digital coffee” with co-workers we may work with closely, or folks on other teams that we’d like to get to know. This is just a fun 1x1 where we chat about our lives, pets, hobbies, etc. It’s surprisingly relaxing to take a break in the middle of a busy day to connect with another human!

3:00 — Heads down time

These days I’m using my heads down time to think creatively about how we can improve user experience and efficiency. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can maximize each contact our users make with patients, by allowing them to contact patients by their preferred method (call, text, email) and presenting them with all relevant patient-level details at the time of the call. I might use my heads down time to mock up some screens for an updated outreach workflow, then hop on the phone with one of our clinical pharmacists to get her feedback.

4:00 — User Group Meeting

I meet regularly with groups of users from our various products to collect feedback, get their input on feature prioritization, and design new features. Right now I’m working with a group of care managers to design a workflow for Hospital Admissions. When a patient is admitted to the hospital, our care managers will sometimes round on them in the hospital, converse with the patient or their caregivers, and help plan for their discharge.

We’re currently working through the step-by-step workflow for Admissions, and how to integrate them with our existing Post-Discharge workflow. I find myself asking a lot of clarifying questions in these sessions, and I’m a big fan of using LucidChart or Visio to document the decisions made.

5:00 — End of Day wrap-up

Woohoo, we made it to the end of the day! I like to take a few minutes at the end of each day to review today’s task list, wrap up any open items, and check my schedule for tomorrow. Sometimes I’ll respond to instant messages on my phone throughout the evening if the team is working through a major deployment, but I usually manage to keep my laptop closed until the next morning.