A new life after the nonprofit sector (2 years in)

In the past year, I have had a similar conversation with numerous friends who are considering other options after working in the nonprofit sector for some time. Maybe they approached me as a trusted person, who took this step over two years ago, after over eight years of running Diabetes Hands Foundation, people open up to me and see me as a potential source of advice on this topic. So I figured I’d write a blog post about it.

  1. If you have spent any amount of time in the nonprofit sector, you likely are drawn to serve people, to do things to impact the lives of people in a positive way. It may have crossed your mind that you can only accomplish this in the nonprofit sector. I used to think so too early on, and I realized I was wrong. To consider opportunities in the for profit sector, consider companies with a strong sense of social responsibility, companies that are disrupting spaces where changes in terms of access, affordability, and impact is sorely needed. To do this, look at the mission statement of the company, talk to people that work at the company and contractors/partners of the company. You may find that mission-driven companies may very well be a great next place for you to put to use the skills you developed during your time in the nonprofit sector. That is my experience I have had at Livongo, where I have been at for two years.
  2. Consider the sector you have experienced with. You likely have worn multiple hats in one or more nonprofits within the same sector, which gave you enough experience in a variety of functions. The one likely common denominator across all responsibilities you’ve had may be the sector (health, housing, etc.) you’ve worked in. That experience can be very valuable in the private sector, as you have developed a more intimate understanding of the needs of the people that your agency served. And the flexibility that you develop when you work in a nonprofit is a highly valued quality anywhere.
  3. Depending on where you are in your life journey (single/married; with children/with parent caregiving obligations), you may have different family requirements. You may have obligations that limit your ability to move. Consider which ones are flexible and which aren’t. If your biggest constraint is the potential for uprooting yourself and your immediate family, evaluate as a family your willingness to tackle it. Sometimes there may be true gems underlying what may otherwise feel like difficult choices.

These are three high-level things for you to consider if you are exploring a life beyond the nonprofit sector. I am happy to chat if you’d like to use me as a sounding board for this.

Breve Carta a Papá 12 años después de su partida


Hace 12 años que te fuiste, el 16 de enero del 2005… víctima de un cancer de hígado fulminante que te llevó en cuestión de días, después de descubrir que tenías cancer. Nos sentimos tan impotentes!

Siempre pienso en ti, viejo. Te recuerdo: tus chistes malos con tu incredible sentido del humor (los cuales heredé), tu amor por la humanidad que siempre empezó por casa, y tu sabiduría que me ha guiado desde que te fuiste.

Mamá sigue deteriorándose. Hace una semana la mudamos a skilled nursing porque se negaba a recibir la atención que necesitaba en assisted living. No te voy a negar: es duro ver su mente apagarse poco a poco: siempre cree que soy mi tío. Pero una constante es que aún te recuerda: la tuya es una de las fotos que tiene en su cuarto.

En fin… te queremos y te echamos de menos, papá. No dejes de echarnos un ojo desde donde estás.

Unencrypted comm. protocols in diabetes tech: not a feature

Today, when I woke up I found an email in my Inbox from Animas Corporation, the J&J company that makes my insulin pump. The email was in regards to a cybersecurity vulnerability identified in the Animas insulin pump, that under certain fairly extreme circumstances could give a person “unauthorized access to the pump through its unencrypted radio frequency communication system.”

I tweeted about it, and I was a confused with the first response to my tweet (which was merely meant to inform my peers in the #DOC), indicating that the fact that there was an unencrypted communication channel was a feature of the pump. The conversation quickly started taking a different tone: “I think the opportunities of open comm are worth more than the paranoia of pump hacking for evil. #MyTwoCents” I replied with this comment:

Several hours later, I found my Twitter notifications exploding with replies, RTs and Likes opposing my comment and asking me to “show where this is a legit risk that doesn’t read like a bad Tom Clancy novel“. I quickly realized I was in way over my depth, and Twitter is a terrible place to explain complex things, so I decided to blog about it.

There are many friends in the diabetes community that I have tremendous respect for, and I feel I owe it to them to write this, because I don’t want a series of tweets in any way to be interpreted as lack of support for the way way in which they have contributed to the advancement of things in diabetes technology. Of course, I am talking about the folks behind the #WeAreNotWaiting movement, and the folks at Tidepool.

I understand what David Cintron says:

and I also understand what Howard Look @Tidepool_org says:

At the same time, and maybe because I have been in industry since May 2015, I don’t think the only two options are either completely open and unencrypted channels to communicate with insulin pumps OR proprietary and encrypted protocols. Traditional paradigms can lead us to believe that, but we live in a new world, the world I was referring to in my initial tweet, that has shown us a very ugly face in recent years. This is the world that author Joshua Cooper Ramo talks about in his amazing book “The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks“. The central idea in the book:

Connection changes the nature of an object…

This notion can be best understood when you consider that incredible connection-enabling tools like Twitter were central to facilitating the Arab Spring, and have recently become a recruiting tool for terrorists. We are not in Kansas any more. This is not about Tom Clancy or science fiction: all it (sadly) takes is to look around us and pay attention at the Presidential Campaign, to remind us of how different a world we live in.

So what will it take to avoid stifling innovation? How to balance it with the mandate to empower AND protect the health and lives of the patients we serve?

We should not defend vulnerabilities: we need to advocate for secure communication protocols that are exposed in a responsible manner (I am not an expert on this topic, but as an optimist it strikes me as doable) to the research and development community. To this end, I like Howard’s idea of an “innovation switch” introduced last month at the NIH-NIDDK Artificial Pancreas Workshop.

This may or may not come from the incumbent companies. It remains to be seen, but when I see what BigFoot is doing (including a crypto-chip in their upcoming pump):

and what Tandem is doing (their t:slim G4 pump exceeds the highest standards as laid out by the Diabetes Technology Society), I feel hopeful about a future where we won’t need to wait five years since a vulnerability on a Medtronic pump was first identified by a hacker with type 1 diabetes like Jay Radcliffe to identify a similar vulnerability with the Animas Ping pump, before action is taken.

In the meantime, in spite of what Jeff Dachis may claim, I will continue to say what I said on Twitter: