By Nancy Dahlberg
It was only a one-hour meeting in a small nondescript Boynton Beach office across the street from a tattoo parlor. But for Mihai Fonoage, Modernizing Medicine CEO Dan Cane’s vision and the startup’s impactful mission were crystal clear and Fonoage knew then – in 2010 – he wanted to be a part of the health-tech startup.
Fonoage was in his fourth year in a PhD engineering program at FAU when he jumped at the chance to join Modernizing Medicine co-founders Cane and Michael Sherling as an intern. Once he graduated, he became their first full-time employee. “I not only got to do what I loved, but I also got to work on something meaningful, something I felt was much bigger than myself where I could truly have an impact.”
Today, Modernizing Medicine, which creates specialty-specific EHR technology to increase efficiency for physician practices and improve patient outcomes, is bustling with more than 725 employees and new headquarters offices in Boca Raton.
I talked with Fonoage about company culture, engineering hiring and what it’s like to be Employee No. 1.
Employee No. 1’s first project: developing an application for the just-introduced iPad. As Modernizing Medicine kept outgrowing offices, Fonoage was promoted to oversee mobile strategy and then user experience came under his management umbrella. In 2018, he was promoted to VP of engineering, overseeing all of Mod Med’s application development across multiple platforms.
“I am very blessed to have an amazing team,” said Fonoage, who is from Romania. “We have around 100-plus engineers under product development.” He sees his leadership role as straightforward: “To ensure that our engineers and our products succeed.”
Members of the UX team go onsite with customers to learn their journey and their pain points, he said. “So we build with all those things in mind…. The user is at the center of everything we do… We have a clear mission of making sure what we build for our customers is high value to them and high quality.”
And investing in engineers’ growth makes great products happen. “My days are about making sure our engineers succeed, that they are happy and have what they need.”
But his job is made easier because of the company culture, the same culture he envisioned as Cane described the company vision to him in 2010.
“Openness, transparency, being helpful to each other, experimenting, doing good — those are some of the values that define our culture,” said Fonoage.
Here are some tangible ways Modernizing Medicine works to sustain the culture and develop engineers:
Leadership Book Club: Fonoage and his managers meet to discuss a book once a week. Each person takes a chapter and leads the conversation. “It’s a way for us to learn and grow as well as bond.”
A recent book was Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, which led to a spirited discussion about when to make rapid decisions and when to step back, he said. Another book studied was Presence by Amy Cuddy, about how our bodies influence our mind and behaviors. Another was the popular leadership book Start with Why, by Simon Sinek.
Lunch and Learn: These are weekly gatherings for the whole engineering team to talk about things they are doing, seeing, reading or experiencing, Fonoage said. Sometimes they are showcasing products or discussing a technical paper, for instance.
Conferences: Modernizing Medicine encourages and supports engineers attending conferences specific to their field. “Then they come back and share in a lunch and learn,” Fonoage said.
A great culture is also an attraction for new hires, and for the fast-growing Modernizing Medicine, that’s key.
Beyond the technical requirements of the position, Fonoage looks for engineers who will mesh with the collaborative culture and share its core values. [They are: Create customer delight; Save time; Innovate boldly, then make things happen; Align passion with purpose; Think big. Have fun. Do good].
“They feel strongly about their craft – they have a passion for it — and want to do something meaningful. We offer as a company all those things,” Fonoage said. “We find the talent we need right here in South Florida.”
Still, the challenge for the region is to ensure there is enough talent for all the needs. “We as a community can do much more to make sure the people who grow up here or go to school here stay here because there are enough opportunities in South Florida. I think there is a very big IT hub here in South Florida and we want to make sure people know about it so they don’t have to go to Austin or Silicon Valley or Boston to get a great job.”
“We have truly amazing universities here. Through the programs and classes they offer, the amount of knowledge students are coming out with is very helpful to us.” Even so, he said, companies could do more to form partnerships with the schools that help enhance the curriculum or the technical exposure.
Enter Palm Beach Tech and the important work it does through its meetups, programs and mentorship. “Palm Beach Tech helps create the bridge between universities and industry. It has created this community. Once we come together, there is nothing we can’t solve, overcome or make better,” said Fonoage.
Palm Beach Tech arranges speaking engagements at local middle and high school schools, and Fonoage enjoys learning about what the students are doing and sharing why he’s so passionate about STEM. Fonoage is also a board member for the CEECS Department at FAU. In the role, he can make recommendations to the university about curriculums and programming for the future workforce, some of which will likely land at Modernizing Medicine.
And about being Employee No. 1?
“I wake up every day wanting to come to work. It’s certainly a way a lot of us feel about Mod Med,” said Fonoage. ”I am truly grateful.”
Fonoage’s advice to young engineers: “Keep learning, keep growing. Don’t feel bad about setbacks because they are learning experiences. There’s a lot of opportunity to have a meaningful impact – take advantage of that. Keep dreaming. Keep moving forward.”
Books Fonoage recommends: Drive, by Daniel Pink, and The Oz Principle, by Roger Connors, Tom Smith, and Craig Hickman.
This post was written for Palm Beach Tech and republished here with permission. Photos are from Modernizing Medicine.
Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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