"Work With People Who Share Your Passion"
Dec 3, 2020
By Jamie Karraker, Co-founder
To Alto’s CTO, an ethical, altruistic, supportive workplace is everything.
Every morning (ok, most mornings), I wake up motivated — eager, even — to get out of bed and go to work. But it’s not because I am some super-performing success-bot. This is not another blog post about a c-level executive’s otherworldly, highly-meticulous-yet-seemingly-effortless morning routine, and I have no prescriptive regimen for staying happy and mindful while still managing to “get it all done.” I only have one piece of advice, but it is one that has served me (and my mornings) well:
Work with people who share your passion and values.
At Alto, the company I co-founded in 2015, everyone, from me (the CTO) to product engineers to part-time prescription couriers, is dedicated to the same mission and vision. Every day, we strive to improve health outcomes by optimizing technology and processes to become the world’s most people-centric pharmacy. I am never not excited to work alongside the few hundred Alto employees that daily act in concert to support the success of our company and make a difference in the lives of people who use Alto.
Underlying this relentless drive toward mission and vision is a set of shared core values that defines our internal culture:
Patients come first — even before our bottom line and industry partners. We will always prioritize the wellbeing of the people who use Alto to manage their prescription medications.
Leave no person behind. It’s more important to be good for all than to be great for a select few.
Start with empathy. We strive deeply to understand the thoughts and feelings of everyone we interact with.
Focus on impact. We prioritize impact over activity and focus on the work that makes the biggest strides toward our goals.
Think rigorously. We’re open to changing our minds and never hesitate to question assumptions and first principles. There is nothing sacred about the status quo.
Be humble. Our work — however expert, technical, or specialized — is in service of our team, the people who use Alto, and the greater good. Everyone’s contributions count, and no one is too important to take out the trash, so to speak. And we are certainly not above other players in the industry whose mission to help patients aligns with our own.
For me and my teammates, it’s extremely fulfilling to contribute to this smart, caring, talented team working tirelessly to help so many people. Everyone’s role is different but invaluable, and our efforts have real meaning. I can say with confidence that working in this environment makes a huge difference in how I carry myself, because I know from previous professional experiences what the opposite looks and feels like.
Life Before Alto
When my co-founder Matt and I started Alto in 2015, we were both software engineers at Parse, a Facebook-owned company. Having spent years in Silicon Valley, we were already jaded by the tech ecosystem and were ready for a change. In thinking about what we wanted to pursue next in our lives, we noticed that other companies were not working on society’s most meaningful problems; they were focused on catering to the 1%. In contrast, we wanted to use our time and skills to build something that makes a tangible, positive impact on the daily lives of all people, especially those ignored by the tech industry.
And so, we found ourselves drawn to healthcare — a big, broken industry that affects most people negatively, especially the underprivileged. We did a lot of research to figure out what our wedge into healthcare would be, and pharmacy jumped out to us. Essentially, pharmacy is the healthcare industry’s consumer product, and consumer products just happens to be our area of expertise.
If you think about it, pharmacy is a product not unlike Facebook; almost everybody in the country uses at some point in their life. But evidence suggests it’s generally a bad one. The net promoter score of chain pharmacies is somewhere in the vicinity of -10. That’s shockingly bad. (For reference, American Airlines has a net promoter score of four.) Our research also found that more than 35% of all medications sent to pharmacies are never picked up as a result of some upstream issue.
It became clear to us that none of the pharmacy incumbents thought of themselves like a product, and especially not one that is consumer focused. None of them had the mindset to prioritize and optimize the user experience, which is the mindset Silicon Valley applies to photo-sharing apps and ad optimization tools and all sorts of other products we aren’t so passionate about. Instead, pharmacy incumbents focus on extracting value from the system and pushing the cost off onto patients. In that gap, we saw opportunity — and a moral imperative.
Filling in the Gap
Today, Alto is making pharmacy convenient, accessible, and user-friendly. We make it easy for consumers to get information on their medications so that they can make informed healthcare decisions. To get there, we have built and continually work to improve a robust set of user-facing and internal tools to guide consumers through the complex and often barrier-laced process of prescription procurement, payer authorization, and medication fulfillment.
Because health outcomes are what we care about, we’re not pushing pills for profit. We are just as happy if a patient pursues an alternative therapy so long as it is in his or her best clinical interest. Our unique business and operational models make that possible.
In disrupting an industry that can be predatory to the most vulnerable among us, I am proud to say Alto attracts some of the most ethical, altruistic talent I have ever worked with. They make coming to work a pleasure and a privilege, and that makes all the difference, not just in my mornings but also my professional satisfaction and overall well-being. If any of that resonates with you, you might be just our type.