New Beginings – Big Data to Find a Cure for Healthcare

I know it’s been a while since my last post  here.
Next week is PASS Summit and it will mark 3 years since my last  session at SQL PASS Summit 2015. I have learned a lot since then and joined a  new company as Data Architect to help build a new web analytics and audience identity product. I shifted my focus from SQL Server on premise to the AWS Cloud. I learned a lot about AWS, migrated instances to SQL Server on RDS as well as traditional EC2 instances and then shifted into Big Data on AWS, working with an amazing team to build a datalake for the new product I helped develop in the last 3 years. Earlier this year I passed the exam to become a  AWS Certified Solution Architect – Associate and I’m working on getting the Big Data – Specialty Certification.

But next week marks a new chapter in my life and I cannot contain my excitement. I will be joining a leading healthcare decision support technology company as their Big Data Architect and work with another great team to build a cloud product that I hope will help solve one of the biggest problems in America – The cost of healthcare.  Needless to say that  this is a subject I am extremely passionate about. The greatest country in the world has a deep fundamental problem – the majority of healthcare providers both individuals and corporations don’t know how much a medical procedure should cost. This means that if you ask a doctor before a procedure how much will it cost the answer will be “I DON’T KNOW”.  We developed an industry that has providers on one side wanting to charge more to cover their costs and be profitable  because they do not have detailed information and on the other side medical insurance wanting to negotiate the same cost down to stay competitive. But regardless if you are insured, uninsured or underinsured the costs of healthcare will shift towards those who pay … the patients and their employer,

Healthcare is complex
Healthcare is complex

In all honesty, accurately estimating the cost of helthcare  is not a simple problem and I believe it is a global problem. Even if most countries have standardized costs for every procedure everyone is different. The cost is just an average cost that does not account for factors like equipment maintenance cost, healthcare professional’s experience,  legal costs or unknown side effects that can occur following the procedure because everyone is different. Just like any average that can change year over year and it does. If you approximate your car expenses based on the average maintenance and fuel cost of the first 3 years of owning  your first car and then you buy a more expensive models you would expect the cost to change and it would not be accurate to use the old car even with some padding to estimate the new cost.  Imagine a world where you can use a business inteligence tools to analyse all the different costs in real time and gain insights that can help you rapidly  make decisions to save money , budget more accurately  and maybe ultimately improve the outcomes and lives of patients.  Can you tell I’m excited?

I promise I will start to write more about technologies I’ve used, healthcare costs and othe things I’ve learned as well as new technologies that I have yet to discover and implement.

What three events brought you here?

Recently Paul Randal (aka Mr. Tripp)  started a web version of the tag game in the SQL Server blogging community  on what were the three most important events that shaped your career and got you to this point in your life. It is a very difficult question because unlike data, life events do not accept a SELECT TOP 3 … ORDER BY [ImportanceRating]. The sorting function is a subjective one for humans in the case of life changing events and it depends on the impact that one event had on the individual. It is a lot harder than most would think and I spent the weekend thinking about this and trying to review what were the most important events that shaped my life and career. Here’s what I came up with:

1) My FamilySinclair ZX Spectrum+

As I grew up in a communist Romania I was one of the fortunate kids that had access to technology thanks to my parents, both University Computer Science professors. My father is still teaches Databases from the 101 course to Oracle PL\SQL  and also Assembly Language. My mom is now retired but she used to teach the Fundamentals of Computer Programming  to students in the freshman year. As a kid I got to see all the  different generations of technology from things like ferrite memory to BASIC programming on Romanian replica of Sinclair ZX Spectrum+ Z80 home computer. I have thank my parents for explaining to me how things work and as a very inquisitive boy I absorbed all that information without realizing that one day this will help me understand the systems as a whole and see the big picture where others only see the frontend. The first database I worked on was dBase III the precursor of FoxPro (anybody who used it understands why some people call database tables “files”). The interesting side to this is that while I was hooked on computers, my sister decided to go to Law School to finally land in the wireless communications industry.

2) Discovering relational algebra

During third year in the Politehnica University I found an opportunity to apply for a EU scholarship in the frame of Erasmus Programme. I remember that one of the requirements was to be fluent in French and because of that there were only 3 or 4 students that applied and I was selected. I chose the “DB and Artificial Intelligence”  major at “Universite de Paris 6 – Pierre & Marie Curie“  and one of the courses was  “Relational Databases”. We started from the basics of the relational algebra operations and representing query plans as a tree  that can be transformed, all of which which I was fascinated by. I kept my interest in this when I returned home after my year in Paris, I got my Software Engineering MS in “Database Systems Optimizations”.

3)Real world challenge

After my graduation I  decided to continue the family tradition and started teaching Labs on “Programming Languages” and “Relational Database Design” at the  Politehnica University. A few years later I  decided to get a job as Oracle DBA. The first day on the job they gave me a desktop and some form of an install manual for Oracle and their product  and asked me to read it and ask around if I had questions. Two days later, to everybody’s surprise I had their product installed and running on Oracle 9i while it was designed for 8i. This was one of the first moments when I realized that I like challenges and that I can live up to the expectations.
A few years later came a moment when I realized just how lucky I am. It was the moment when I found out that I was one of the one selected for the Diversity Visa program to get a Green Card  and move the US.  

From that point forward I did not find it hard to get a job (I got my first job in US in three days) but I learned that the most important thing is to find the right job and the right employer that would challenge me just like Brent Ozar was writing in his post on the same subject:

I want to be a successful employee in my employer’s eyes, but when I take a job, one of the questions is, “One year after someone’s taken this position, what does success look like?  What is the best employee doing?  How are you rewarding them for what they’ve done?” 
In IT, this question takes people by surprise, but the answers reveal a lot.

Until this day I can proudly say that I have exceeded all my employers’ expectations but I cannot say the same about all the jobs I held.

I’m going to tag Ted Krueger, Jorge Segarra, Mladen Prajdic and Jonathan Kehayias to see how they are answering this question. The list does not have to end here. If you would like answer this question please link back to this post or the original post by Paul.