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Engineering Spotlight: athenahealth

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athenahealth is one of the anchor companies in the Boston tech sector and has been consistently a leader in terms of innovating in the HealthTech industry.

Richard Barnwell, the Senior Vice President of Engineering at athenahealth, connected with us to give an inside look at the company's engineering team. Barnwell shares the details on their tech stack, the engineering team’s culture, and what a potential hire can expect during the interview process.

Interested in working at athenahealth? Click here for all of the company’s job openings!

Quick Hit Details

  • Year Founded: 1997

  • Number of employees: 5,500+

  • Number of engineers: 1,100+

  • Industry: Healthtech

Can you share a summary on what athenahealth does?

Richard Barnwell athenahealth
Richard Barnwell, Senior Vice President of Engineering at athenahealth

athenahealth partners with hospital and ambulatory customers to drive clinical and financial results. We offer medical record, revenue cycle, patient engagement, care coordination, and population health services. We combine insights from our network of more than 120,000 providers and approximately 117 million patients with deep industry knowledge and perform administrative work at scale.

What are some of the different technologies that the engineering team gets to work with and at what scale?

The bedrock of our technology, which grew up over the past 22 years, is predominantly on a Linux, Apache, Oracle, Perl based stack in our own private cloud.  However, over the past several years we’ve made concerted efforts to modernize and embrace a more polyglot environment. We now have teams building in Node, Java, and Python, embracing Elasticsearch and Postgres, shuttling bytes around in Kafka, deploying in containers orchestrated by Kubernetes within our own data center or using tools like CloudFormation to deploy in various public clouds.  Largely our front ends are written in React/Redux or in some cases natively mobile for Android and iOS.

What are some of the interesting projects that the engineering team is tackling?

There are many exciting projects happening right now that I’m not at liberty to discuss. However, I can share our flu tracker.

athenahealth flu tracker

Does your engineering team have a chance to work on projects outside of their day-to-day responsibilities?

Yes, in fact, many of the tools we leverage in the course of our daily work were built in this fashion. We have participated in and hosted healthcare hackathons. Some of the most exciting projects are actually those that just started growing organically. One recent examples that comes to mind projects that was done was to help developers assess the quality of their code.

What is the culture like at athenahealth for the engineering team?

At the heart of our culture is the principle of unconditional positive regard. The default assumption that there are always good intentions behind our words and actions creates an environment where collaboration can thrive. We truly believe diversity makes us stronger and inclusivity is one of our core values. Our engineers are expected to be teachers in addition to learners. We value personal growth and career development.  We stay focused on delivering customer success. We do not shy away from new challenges.

What can a potential employee expect during the interview process?

We use a behavioral-based interviewing approach. That means we ask candidates to describe how they have handled certain situations in the past.  During this interview, we look at behaviors that demonstrate the competencies we know lead to success in that particular role. It is no coincidence that we use the same competency library again during performance evaluation. Employees can also view the competencies for any role which is useful for career advancement as well as seeking new opportunities within the company.

Are you involved in any local tech organizations or Meetups?

Absolutely! Boston is such a great area for this. We regularly send engineers to attend Grace Hopper, ReDev, and more.

Rapid Fire Q&A

What’s on tap?

Harpoon’s Dunkin Coffee Porter

Star Wars or Star Trek?

In an effort not to alienate the two fandoms, we opt for Dr. Who.

iPhone or Android?

Our clients are heavy iPhone users, we are split.

Coffee - hot or iced?


Favorite employee perk?

Donut Fridays!

athenahealth Donut Friday

What TV show describes the engineering team’s culture?

Firefly, because we always find a way to keep flying.

What music is playing in your office?

From sampling a few headphones wearers, pretty much everything.

Cleanest desk / Messiest desk:

athenahealth Clean and Messy Desk

Team Profiles

Alice Aizawa
Alice Aizawa
is an engineering manager, who believes the success of an organization is achieved by enabling and trusting in the power of individual engineers. As a manager, she focuses on mentoring and growing people. She also has a keen interest in the latest technologies including Kubernetes, Cloud Security, etc.

Mariana Baca
Mariana Baca
is a Principal Software Developer at athenahealth and has been working there for two and a half years.  She has been working on transforming medical billing front-end technologies using ReactJS. Mariana is also the scrum master for her team and helps run the Scrummaster's Guild at athenahealth. She previously worked at Oracle and has a degree from the Media Lab at MIT.

Keith Cline is the Founder of VentureFizz.  Follow him on Twitter: @kcline6.

Images courtesy of athenahealth

About the

athenahealth is a leading provider of network-enabled services & mobile apps for medical groups & health systems.

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