AbleTo coffee chat

For one of our very first coffee chats, we got the chance to talk with Yun Teng (‘19 Computer Science), Sam Cheng (‘18 Computer Science), and Xiao Yang Yu (‘18 Computer Science) — the three of them are working at AbleTo.

AbleTo is a tech-enabled behavioral healthcare company, bringing data-driven and automated approaches to an industry that still lacks structured healthcare data. Utilizing the latest behavioral therapy techniques, AbleTo enrolls its patients in an eight weeks treatment in which the patients are given one-on-one sessions with licensed therapists and behavioral coaches. 

What project are you involved with at AbleTo?

Yun: My task is to bring more automation to areas of the company that are still inefficient, such as conference scheduling among therapists and data organization for sales.

Xiao: I’m working there as a full-stack web developer. Right now, I’m doing back-end work on improving the scheduling algorithms they use for patients and therapists. We’re assigned different tasks every two weeks, so I suppose I’ll be working on other aspects of the app (perhaps the front-end) later as well!

Sam: My first major project was creating a database seeder, which is just program that fills up an empty database with generated fake data so that the application can be run normally. With hundreds of tables in the database, each connected with some sort of relationship, it was a challenging but fun task. A database seeder is especially useful for testing because it can be used to mimic the production database, creating the perfect environment for QA (quality assurance) team to test any new feature without actually touching the live database.   

What insight are you hoping to gain by working with AbleTo this summer?

Yun: I hope to understand more about the workflow of a professional software development team and familiarize myself with tech-enabled solutions that are so important for industries that are traditionally non-tech.

Xiao: Beyond technical skills, I hope to learn about how the entire product cycle works, from initial clinical research, to design, to product management, and finally to actual development. One of the great things about working in a small company is that you get easy exposure to anything you want.

Sam: I am hoping to gain insight on what it’s like to work in a team with an existing product/codebase. At my previous internship, I was in given the project to develop an iOS app for the company, and my work was simply using their already existing API to build the app. I didn’t have the opportunity to play around with their platform. Also, because they didn’t have a mobile developer, the project was headed completely by the interns. But with AbleTo, I’m given a copy of their entire codebase. The experience of integrating with an already established company is exciting.

What about working at AbleTo has surprised you the most?

Yun: Several parts of the behavioral healthcare industry are still quite untouched by tech. Modern practices that we see in large tech giants like Google or Microsoft are only just emerging in the healthcare space.

Xiao: How laid-back the culture is. No one seems to be rushing, and everyone is very open to helping others at any time. They never seem to be annoyed by our constant questions, and instead encourage us to keep asking them. They proactively reach out to check if we need help. It’s just a really welcoming and comforting environment, and it has definitely helped me be more proactive in my learning and more productive in my work.

Sam: What surprised me the most about AbleTo is how well everyone here treats us as part of the team. We (the interns) are invited to almost every meeting, whether it’s a small meeting within the engineering team or a big product demo with all the investors. We are treated as actual members of the team, and are expected to contribute in any way we can. One specific example of this was when in our second week at AbleTo, we were invited to the end of the sprint (a two week development cycle) meeting where everyone had to write down on Post-it notes, what went well, what went bad, and what could have been done better. Even though we were only there for a few days, we were still encouraged to be truthful and share our experience.

Nick Chow