Centre for Global eHealth Innovation: Hacker, Software Generalist, Researcher

The Personal Health and Information Technology department at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation is looking for a Hacker / Software Generalist / Researcher:

Every member of our tightly knit development team has full input into every stage of project architecture, design and implementation. We own our projects and get shit done that has real, meaningful and measurable impact on sick people’s lives.

  • Have enough experience in Java to be sick of it
  • Have experience with the JBOSS stack
  • Have professional experience with a dynamic language such as Ruby or Python or Javascript
  • Be a UNIX weenie
  • Have open source contributions they can show us
  • Have mobile app development experience, on any combination of the iPhone, Android and Blackberry platforms, or on Titanium, PhoneGap, or other cross platform tools
  • Be comfortable working in a Scrum process
  • Be fanatical about testing

Grant McInnes, who sent in the posting, adds:

we do everything from hardware development, up the stack through software development, to UX evaluation and finally randomized controlled trials on the built products

The Good
It sounds like a great cause:

We have good results. In a randomized controlled trial, our applications have been shown to significantly improve heart failure outcomes, in patients with Congestive Heart Failure. In another we’ve demonstrated a 10 point drop in blood pressure for hypertensive patients

How often do you get to look at a software job where you can contribute to saving lives?

It also sounds like they use a fair number of technologies and have pretty sound processes. There’s not a ton of detail there, but what’s there sounds good.

YMMV
Who is the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, to which the Personal Health and Innovation department belongs, anyway?

The Centre for Global eHealth Innovation is “a joint effort of UHN and the University of Toronto and was built with funds from the Canadian government, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the Ontario Innovation Trust”. Phew. And then of course the UHN is itself a bunch of different entities working together. The Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Innovation Trust are both government organizations created to foster innovation at the Federal and Provincial levels. So, basically, take a university, several hospitals, two branches of government and assorted others and put them together and you have the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation.

It sounds like the possibilities for endless meetings, paperwork and mayhem abound without even talking about how Conway’s Law fits into this. Of course, universities, governments and hospitals can be fulfilling places to work, so maybe your mileage may very a little, and you’ll find the combination appealing. It sounds a little scary to me.  The posting talks about some of the upside of this arrangement:

Being in a research environment, we are able to concentrate on this goal without being distracted by short term profit motives, or keeping investors happy.

The Location
Sounds like they’re in the Toronto General Hospital, over by MaRS, Hospital Row, etc. There are restaurants and shops around, although it’s not overflowing with great eats and hip places from my limited experience in the area. It’s very transit-accessible, but it’s not ideal for go train (you’d want to take the subway, at least in winter) or driving. The location is probably neither off-putting nor exciting for most of you. On the upside, you could take in events at MaRS pretty easily.

What’s Missing
What’s the compensation like for a Researcher at the Centre for eHealth Innovation? What’s the size and composition of the team? How would you fit into it? What’s that crazy organizational structure like in practice — does it get in the way or is it something that you’re barely aware of?

Is there a particular project that you’d be starting on? What are the technologies and platforms you’d likely be working with right away and what is the mix going to be like over the long haul?

What are their development practices like? There’s a mention of Scrum, but in practice companies vary quite a bit. It’s hard to get too deep into specifics without knowing more about the technological mix but: do they do pairing? Do they use digital issue tracking or card boards (kanban, etc)? Is there a build? Continuous integration? How often are deployments/releases made? What’s the workspace like?

Maybe Grant can answer some of these here, but these are the kinds of questions you might consider asking them yourself.

In Summary
If you’re looking for a good cause with decent technology and practices, this sounds like it’s worth further investigation.

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2 Responses to Centre for Global eHealth Innovation: Hacker, Software Generalist, Researcher

  1. Thanks for the posting!

    I’ll try and answer some of the questions posed:

    Our team is small, and is composed of 1 manager, 2 biomedical engineers, 1 devops / hacker, 2 general hackers, and about 4 masters / ph.d. students (although the student number fluctuates).

    Fortunately, although there can be quite a bit of bureaucracy in the overall hospital organization, as a small research shop, we don’t see it in day to day work. We have one group wide standing 1 hr meeting per week. It doesn’t always take an hour. There is no paperwork, other than what we decide we have to generate for our own processes (i.e. its all digital, and normal scrum-like docs).

    Compensation is competitive, but I can’t talk about specifics – it really depends on the experience of the candidate.

    Process-wise:

    * We tend to gather in person, or over IM, around 9:30 – 10:00 to discuss the day’s work and any blocks (our version of a scrum standup).
    * We do planning poker to estimate story points for user stories,
    * Other than that, we do 2 week timeboxes, with an hour or two retrospective meeting to identify process / project improvements at the end of each timebox.
    * We don’t usually pair, but when we do, its dos equ^H^H^H^ 🙂 – sometimes its the easiest way to slay bugs, or develop a design.
    * Digital “story cards”.
    * We’re not religious about any process. We’ve been doing “Scrum” for 5 years, so we’ve pretty much internalized the ideas, and don’t need to be rule bound about the practices.
    * CI is a noble goal. It will be reinstated within a couple of months. As soon as we have the staff for it 🙂
    * We have automated tests for 80% of our codebase, but we have painful integration points with many hospital external systems where the cost/benefit for automating the tests isn’t favourable. We run the automated tests often, and the manual ones before a release.

    Yes, we’re in Toronto General Hospital. Hospital Row is pretty dull, but its only about 10 min walk to Baldwin, and we head over there for lunch pretty often. Queen is only about 20 min too. The working environment is a cube farm, but a pretty decent one, and there’s also a ridiculous amount of medical gear to nerd out over 🙂 Also, you can work from home (or wherever you like) for some amount of time, if it suits.

    The most likely thing you’d be working on right away would be building an android app or/and a blackberry app that pulls data from a variety of bluetooth enabled medical devices (such as glucometers, blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters etc.) and sends it over “web services” to the hospital servers. Over the long haul, its hard to day. Its safe to say mobile devices will always be part of the mix, so will some form of alerting and “rules engine” stuff.

    Check the job posting on github

    More questions?

    Post them here, or send me an email at jobs@phit.ehealthinnovation.org

  2. I have to admit, if I were looking for full-time employment, I’d definitely look into this in more detail. I get a good vibe that’s hard to quantify and I’ve rarely had the opportunity to work on something that felt like it was a great cause.

    If you can get enough attention, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting good candidates.

    Also, I apparently left the posting link out of the first publish. That’s always irritating. I’ve fixed it.

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