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Meet Cityblock’s Product Design Team | by Cityblock Health | Care + Code | Nov, 2022


Author(s): Saad Khan, Senior Product Designer, Cityblock Health; and Stuart Kim, Product Design Lead, Cityblock Health

Since 2017, Cityblock Health has been innovating ways that healthcare professionals work together to deliver care at scale to people that need it the most, primarily Medicaid and dually eligible individuals. These are marginalized populations that have very limited access to care. In many cases, Medicaid reimbursement does not always cover the full cost of care for these individuals. More confounding is that visits to the doctor or the emergency room often do not address many of the health issues that this population faces which are typically more complicated and social in nature. Healthcare for this population needs to be more human, relational, and present. Historically, this type of care has been fragmented, limited in capacity, and hard to scale well. However, Cityblock Health has remained determined to figure out ways to scale the human touch through digital experiences.

At Cityblock, design is more than pixel deep, it is a method of solving problems. Our care teams require our designs to be invisible so that they can operate efficiently and effectively. Our day-to-day work is as strategic as it is tactical and the value we provide is in the impact that we help make and not simply the designs we create. At Cityblock, Designers, Product Managers, and Engineers make up the core problem-solving unit on the product and technology teams. We collaborate with business and clinical operation teams to understand the problems where care delivery, business, regulation, and tech intersect. Then together, we make small but impactful changes each day toward a new standard of delivering care. Some days, changing the words of a piece of content makes all the difference in guiding care team behaviors that drive better health outcomes for our members. On other days, we contribute by immersing ourselves in our care teams’ lives, to help others understand how our care teams think, feel, and work. In all cases, we put in the work to map out how every small decision rolls up into the ideal end-to-end health journey for our members and the most effective digital experience for our care teams.

Let’s hear from members of the design team at Cityblock Health to learn about their roles and what it’s like to be on the team.

[As a part of my role], I help our clinical and business partners understand the value of talking to users, understanding their needs, and building towards them, ingraining concepts of user research, design thinking, and value creation into our day-to-day work.

– Neves Purificaçao Rodrigues, Director of Product Design

Tiffany Ton, Senior Product Designer
Linkedin | Twitter

How do you describe your role at Cityblock?

My role at Cityblock is so much more than the designs that I create. That’s the least important part of my job here. My primary responsibility is to help build collaborative teams that are aligned on solving the right and most important user problems. In order to do that, I do a few things. I find ways to build space for everyone on my scrum team to feel heard and get involved. I talk to users consistently to understand what their workflows look like and what their pain points and priorities are. I communicate user problems, goals, and motivations to my teammates who are more distant from users. After all of this, the design work feels easy.

How did you decide to become a designer?

In my previous life, I was a Performance Marketing Manager for tech companies. I spent my days staring at spreadsheets and graphs, trying to find ways to increase conversion rates and decrease customer acquisition costs only based on the data. I didn’t know anything about the consumers as people. It was all based on assumptions and quantitative data. I was fine with all this until I worked at a tech company that was extremely customer focused. That’s where I learned about product design as a career and that’s when I realized that I didn’t want to see people as numbers. I wanted to see people as people. I wanted to understand what their needs were, their pain points, and their motivations. How can the thing that we’re creating make their lives better?

Hope Tambala, UX Engineer
Linkedin

How do you describe your role at Cityblock?

I am a software engineer on the user experience team, or as they call it, a UX engineer. I work in the fun gap between design engineering and product engineering. I develop Cityblock’s design system called Commonplace to ensure our design foundations are adhering to best practices. I also partner with product engineers to help translate our design system into our product and ensure that our production code enables the user experience we intend to deliver.

What’s the latest thing you’ve learned or are learning?

This might be a controversial statement. I am learning to treat HTML, CSS, and Javascript as equal programming languages worth learning on a deep fundamental level. Engineers early in their careers, including me, start out learning frameworks that make it easy for you to create things but it can pretty quickly end up becoming a copy-paste exercise. And this limits us from creating experiences that are better for the user. There is a way to handle this differently in our system and give us way more control over what we can create for the users. But this requires us to know all the foundational elements of web development deeply and leverage them as a tool, not as an afterthought.

What are your hobbies or pursuits outside of work?

I have a lot of hobbies. I’m a shoe collector and designer. I’m an amateur digital comic book artist and musician. I recently bought a digital saxophone and I might take some courses on it to improve my playing.

Our team is brave and tells the truth.

– Efrain Calderon, Product Designer

Jessica “Jess” Robash, Product Design Lead
Linkedin | Twitter

What do you say to other people about why you work at Cityblock?

I don’t have to explain why. When I tell people that my company is trying to improve health access and outcomes for individuals who typically have the worst outcomes, they immediately get it.

I’ve always been drawn to mission-driven companies. I wasn’t looking to work specifically in healthcare. In fact, I kind of meant to avoid it (seemed like an exercise in frustration). Healthcare access, experience, and outcomes are so enragingly (ha I guess that’s not a word?) uneven across populations, I wanted to be part of solving that in some small way. I’m also proud to work at a tech company co-founded and led by a woman of color.

Have you recently had any lightbulb moment(s)/epiphanies that you’d like to share?

I was recently chatting with another designer and it occurred to me that the “Five Whys” isn’t just a tool for understanding user experiences, but also for getting to the bottom of the real ask/need for anyone who comes to you with a problem (or solution) in mind. I might not literally ask “why” 5 times, but it’s usually important to dig one or two levels deeper than what’s initially offered.

Efrain Calderon, Product Designer
Linkedin | Twitter

What is a superpower that a teammate has that you wish you had?

One teammate has the power of being empathetic but quickly pivoting and framing things as action-oriented next steps. Another teammate has both a UX skillset and a strong technical skillset that helps them understand how developers and designers each work. Another teammate can track tens of projects and their requirements and helps keep us on track. Another teammate pushes the boundaries of what our products do now and imagines new solutions to consider.

What is something you learned or are learning from a teammate?

I’m learning to take ownership of my team’s work — to establish norms and ways to work so that design can shape the problems we solve and not just build features. I’m learning to trust myself more and give myself credit for the transferable knowledge from a prior career. I learned to explore user flows before diving into high-fidelity designs to be more efficient and innovative.

What keeps you motivated as a designer?

My team of designers. We are honest with each other, and it gives me a sense of comfort as we go through challenges together, knowing that I can provide feedback without someone getting defensive. Our team is brave and tells the truth.

Beyond the pixels, it’s curiosity, heart, and perseverance for me.

Saad Khan, Senior Product Designer

Niala Zakeršnik, Product Design Lead
Linkedin

How did you decide to become a designer?

It’s natural for me to express myself visually, and I am deeply interested in people, relationships, and human behavior. Combining my natural inclination to design and my education in anthropology brought me to the world of HCD / UX.

What is one thing about design that is obvious to you that is not obvious to other people?

Design cannot be done in a silo. It sounds cliche, but it’s difficult to force ourselves out of our heads-down bubbles, which is why I like to remind myself of this every day.

What are your hobbies or pursuits outside of work?

Cultivating a luscious forest of indoor plants, painting, using my label maker, collecting storage containers, and finding home improvement projects to work on every weekend.

Neves Purificaçao Rodrigues, Director of Product Design
Linkedin | Twitter | Instagram

Describe a meaningful design challenge that you are working through/have worked on at Cityblock?

Helping people in clinical and business operations understand the value of talking to users, understanding their needs, and building towards them, ingraining concepts of user research, design thinking, and value creation into our day-to-day work.

What is one thing about design that is obvious to you that is not obvious to other people?

Design is not about pixels.

What are your hobbies or pursuits outside of work?

Photography and cooking.

I wanted to see people as people. I wanted to understand what their needs were, their pain points, and their motivations. How can the thing that we’re creating make their lives better?

– Tiffany Ton, Senior Product Designer

Saad Khan, Product Designer
Linkedin | Instagram

What keeps you motivated as a designer?

Being surrounded by so many passionate coworkers, everyone from fellow designers to the clinicians at Cityblock. Having direct access to and regularly interacting with our clinicians themselves serves as a constant reminder of the impact our work has. They use the very products we build and improve upon each day so seeing them interact with them firsthand is quite fulfilling. This also keeps me grounded and focused on the common goals we share as a mission-driven organization. This also applies to the design team. Being part of a culture that encourages pairing and collaboration early and often allows me to have a front-row seat to seeing everyone’s brilliance in action. Beyond the pixels, it’s curiosity, heart, and perseverance for me.

What are your hobbies or pursuits outside of work?

Photography, filmmaking, and hiking

Stuart Kim, Product Design Lead
Linkedin | Youtube | Twitter

What is a superpower that a teammate has that you wish you had?

One teammate can think up aspirational visions for our product and then persuade others to believe in them too. Another teammate can channel the years of experience and skill with grace, patience, and thoughtfulness. This teammate’s ability to help others slow down and think seems effortless. And many of my teammates have a level of craftsmanship that is enviable.

What is something you learned or are learning from a teammate?

I’m learning to think bigger and be louder about what I believe the product can become. Ideas will get chiseled down by the need to be practical (saying this without judgment). Small ideas are often reduced to unhelpful tweaks. Big ideas will have a better chance of making impactful changes.

What are your hobbies or pursuits outside of work?

It was as if I was adjusted by some life-chiropractor when I transitioned into my design career. Not only do I now design as a full-time job, but all my hobbies are also design-related. I started a youtube channel to help designers, I’m a mentor at a design accelerator program called Designlab, and I take photography seriously. I suppose a non-design-related hobby might be rock climbing, but that’s because I can’t stand lifting weights at the gym.





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