Episode: 110 |
Rosina Samadani:
Managing a Remote Team:


Rosina Samadani

Managing a Remote Team

Show Notes

Our guest today is Rosina Samadani, a long-time friend who was my second Engagement Manager at McKinsey, and who provided me with invaluable advice when I was starting out as an independent consultant ten years ago.

For a dozen years, Rosina ran a very successful boutique consulting firm, Capella Advisors, after leaving McKinsey. She is the founder of Truth On Call, which provides fast turnaround quantitative market research for the healthcare industry, and DocNews, which was acquired by American Medical Communications and relaunched as DocWire.

Since 2015 Rosina has been the CEO of Oculogica, an innovative medical device company that is building devices that use eye-tracking technology to detect Traumatic Brain Injury. You can learn more about Oculogica at http://www.oculogica.com

Her team members all work remotely, and in this short episode we discuss the tools her team uses to stay connected, in particular, Zoom and Slack.

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Will Bachman: Hello, Rosina. Welcome to the show.
Rosina Samadani: Hi, Will.
Will Bachman: Thank you so much for joining, Rosina. You and I go back, I don’t know, 15, 18 years. Something like that. You were, I think, my second engagement manager at the firm when I was a business analyst so it’s awesome having you on the show.
Rosina Samadani: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thanks so much for having me. You’re right. We do go back a long way.
Will Bachman: Today, maybe at the end if we have some time, we can talk about your work as an independent professional, which you did for a number of years. You really were the one who taught me and got me started on independent consulting and helped show me the ropes. Today, I want to talk about the company that you’re running and how you run distributed team. Tell us a little bit about Oculogica.
Rosina Samadani: Absolutely. First of all, thank you for having me. I’m excited about what you’re doing. Oculogica is a medical device startup in the neuro-diagnostic space, and the first indication that we are going after is concussions.
Will Bachman: What’s that mean? Neuro-diagnostic. How are concussions diagnosed today?
Rosina Samadani: That’s actually a very good question because it’s actually pretty tough to diagnose a concussion today. It’s a very subjective diagnosis. If you go into a sport’s medicine clinic or the emergency room, it really depends on the doctor that you see, which clinic you go into and what the setting is. Within the ER, depending on the doctor, you could get assessed a little bit differently. Sometimes, you’ll get a head CT scan. That’s actually not a diagnostic for concussion. In the sport’s medicine clinic, you may get a questionnaire. All of these things are pretty subjective. We’ve developed a test that is eye-tracking based, and baseline free and objective.
Will Bachman: Baseline free? What does that mean? That means that you don’t have to have done it to the person before they got hit in the head?
Rosina Samadani: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right.
Will Bachman: That’s amazing. Right now, if an NFL player gets hit, gets a concussion, it’s hard to say medically before your tool if it was a concussion or they just got hit pretty hard.
Rosina Samadani: It really depends on how the person assesses them. The NFL has a concussion protocol. They go through a standardized test that I think all of the NFL teams go through. They have the same test for each of the physicians that they administer, but even that test requires a baseline test. Before the season begins, they conduct a baseline.
Will Bachman: Awesome. Okay, cool. We have some basic idea of Oculogica now. If people wanted to learn more about the company, they’d go to Oculogica.Com?
Rosina Samadani: They can go to Oculogica.Com. One important thing to realize about our company is that we are going through the FDA process.
Will Bachman: Awesome. Now, I really wanted you on the show because I know you’re running a firm that is truly a modern enterprise. All your teams members are remote, right? Talk just about where your folks sit, and then I really want to dive into the tools that you’re using to work together as a team.
Rosina Samadani: Okay. Fantastic. Would love to. Our team members sit all the way across the country. We’re distributed. We’ve got team members in San Francisco, various parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and then different parts of New York. Actually, both in Manhattan but in different locations in Manhattan. We have six full time team members. We obviously also work with contractors for specific areas, and we work together every single day. We have to be in very close contact and in touch with each other because we are a medical device. We’re running clinical trials. We’ve got compliance concerns. We have to do things in a certain manner, so we do need to be in very close touch with each other.
Will Bachman: That’s tough when you’re all sitting in different time zones, and just different physical locations. What are the tools that you use to stay together as a team?
Rosina Samadani: We really wanted to make sure that we were staying in touch, and that everybody knew what was going on with the entire company, but also what other people were working on. Every morning now, we get on … We actually even call it scrum. It’s at the same time every single day. We do it via Zoom. We have modified scrum a little bit. We go through a very organized Excel spreadsheet. The area, the topic, we update the notes. We know who is working on this, and then we highlight actually in yellow the things that we’re doing on that day.
Will Bachman: Can you maybe sanitize a little bit, but if you were giving your scrum pitch for the day, what would it sound like?
Rosina Samadani: We’ve got all the different categories. One of them is FDA concussion, understandably. Let’s say we have something due to FDA, and it’s actually due this week. That will probably be highlighted in yellow because we’re working on it that day. The topic will be FDA concussion. There will be some sort of specific activity so that everybody really understands exactly what it is. Maybe it’s writing up the memo, drafting the memo, and we say, “Okay, somebody has the master and they’re going to be handing it off to this person today.” We put that in the notes, and that’s something that we type in new and refresh from the day before.
Then, we’ve got columns for each of the people. We’ve got their initials. Actually, just the first name initial because there’s not that many of us. There’s X’s in the boxes as to who is doing what. That’s also very nice because you can go back to the Excel spreadsheet for our scrum and you can identify what you’re supposed to be working on that day.
Will Bachman: You mentioned Zoom. Let’s talk about that in a little bit more detail for people who haven’t used it. Video conference tool. What do you like about it? Why did you choose Zoom versus some of the other video conference tools out there?
Rosina Samadani: Zoom, it’s very easy. It’s very accessible. It was extremely easy for us to adopt. It seems a little bit more simple to use for us than WebEx or Google. Google requires people to have a Gmail address, so it just seemed very restrictive, and honestly, a little invasive because it is Google. WebEx, it felt large company and a little bit corporate. Zoom just felt much more our personality. You click on it. It works, and honestly, we really love it.
Will Bachman: Yeah, I use Zoom as well. What I like is with WebEx, you always have to create an account or it takes forever to download the stuff for someone who doesn’t have an account. For Zoom, you just send someone a link and it almost always works. They can do it on their phone, iPad, click on a computer. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Chrome or Explorer or Mac or IBM. You just click on it and then everybody pops up. How is it different for you doing a phone call versus a video conference? Does it really make a difference?
Rosina Samadani: It’s really night and day. Very early on, I told everybody on my team if you’ve got the opportunity, look at each other and have the conversation rather than basically doing it by phone. That’s what we try to do. Every opportunity that we have, we try to do the conversation via Zoom. We just ping the other person actually on Slack and say, “Should we hop on Zoom?” Everyone of us has their own Zoom room so we can have multiple one-on-one conversations going on all the time.
Will Bachman: What does that mean each of you have a Zoom room? I haven’t used that feature. I don’t know what that means.
Rosina Samadani: Oh, okay. When you sign up for an account with Zoom, you get a little Zoom number. That’s actually your room.
Will Bachman: Oh, okay. Gotcha.
Rosina Samadani: Yeah, so you actually do have a Zoom room. Everyone on my team has their own account. I think they’re free. I think up to 30 minutes, it’s free. My account actually we pay for because we do go longer, and we’ve got a larger group. We need to conduct that for a bit longer sometimes, conduct those Zoom sessions for a bit longer, but that’s what we mean. We’ll say, “Hop on Jewel’s Zoom.” Or, “Do you want to hop on my Zoom?” That type of thing.
Will Bachman: It’s not just the scheduled scrum or scheduled meetings, but you also use it for impromptu, “Hey, let’s talk and rather than doing a phone call, actually face-to-face.”?
Rosina Samadani: Yeah, we never do phone calls. I think maybe one in a month we do a phone call. We will do a conference call with entities that can’t use Zoom. There are some hospitals and some government agencies that can’t use video conference, so we’ll set up a conference call in those cases. For our internal team discussions, it’s always Zoom. That’s our default. It’s phenomenal. It makes a huge difference to be able to see somebody.
Will Bachman: Zoom. You mentioned Slack. How do you use Slack, and what other tools do you use?
Rosina Samadani: Slack is a messaging tool. I’m assuming people are pretty familiar with it. It’s a way to exchange messages very quickly. It has cut down our email. We haven’t used email only without Slack for several years now. Slack just allows you to quickly ping somebody, or a group of people, on a particular topic and get everybody’s input. They can even put a thumbs up, thumbs down, smiley face, that type of thing. Take a look at it when you get a chance. That way he doesn’t have to have an email for it, so he doesn’t get a hundred emails, and he can respond to me right away with a “Sure, got it.” That’s something that you can just message each other with. You don’t need to send an email. It really changes the email workload by an enormous amount.
Will Bachman: What other tools are you using beyond Slack and Zoom have you found?
Rosina Samadani: We were using Dropbox. We shifted over to Box because it’s HIPAA compliant, and we needed a HIPAA compliant tool because we’re in the medical industry. Then, our engineers use Trello. We actually tried to use Trello much more extensively across the entire team and we quickly abandoned it. It was too cumbersome and really just didn’t suit the way that we were maintaining … That’s why we just use the Excel spreadsheet for our daily scrum, but our engineers do use Trello. They’ve given access to me, for example, to it so that I can see what’s going on, but I don’t interfere with their Trello board.
Will Bachman: For folks that haven’t used Trello, just describe the software and how you use it.
Rosina Samadani: Yeah, sure. It’s as if you’ve got a big bulletin board and you’ve got a project. Let’s say it’s the next generation of your software, and then you’ve got the sub-activities for that project on different Post-it notes. Under those sub-activities, you’ve got a list of things that you’re going to do. That’s Trello. You can move these things around, you can take things off, you can assign it to people. That type of thing.
Will Bachman: Cool. You’re running on Zoom, Slack, Trello. Any other tools?
Rosina Samadani: Box. The Box is critical for us.
Will Bachman: Box for [crosstalk] documents.
Rosina Samadani: Yeah, we don’t keep our documents on our own computers. Everything’s in Box. Some of those are for compliance reasons. We need to have the HIPAA compliance and make sure that the appropriate people have access or don’t have access to particular files. Then, also it helps us maintain a master. You know from Mackenzie days that there’s this fantastic term that really helps with document management called “Having the master.” When you hand off the master, we always do it via Box. It’s not via email. It’s not via any other way. The protocol in our tiny little company is to always hand off the master via Box so that there’s no confusion.
Will Bachman: That’s so important. You don’t want to be editing the third most recent version, and then you’re … You can [inaudible].
Rosina Samadani: I taught my team the concept of master really early on. I think obviously there’s some really helpful tools that you learn at Mackenzie.
Will Bachman: With Zoom, Slack, Box, and Trello, any other personal apps or tools that you use personally? Maybe the whole team isn’t using, but that you find super helpful?
Rosina Samadani: I personally use Wonder List. This is something that I learned from you is to outsource activities, even in your personal life, to folks that can help you. I finally got a personal assistant, and she and I use Wonder List. We basically share a list. I put things on the list, and then she checks them off as she does them, or she sends me a message, or we exchange a photograph about it. It’s been huge. My reading has gone up because she can take books to the library and get books from the library for me. My groceries, and the drug store, dry cleaning. I feel a lot more relaxed because I’ve got this Wonder List.
If something’s on my mind, I just put it on there and I’m not worried about waking her up in the middle of the night by sending a text. It’s on the Wonder List and she’s going to see it and she’s going to take care of it. It’s phenomenal.
Will Bachman: Well, you’ve given me some ideas, Rosina.
Rosina Samadani: Oh, really?
Will Bachman: Yeah.
Rosina Samadani: Okay.
Will Bachman: This is great.
Rosina Samadani: That’s amazing because you’re the guru of this stuff.
Will Bachman: No, this was great. Thank you so much. Folks who are interested in seeing what you’re doing can visit Oculogica.Com to see the latest news. We’ll include a note on that in the show notes. Thanks for sharing how you are managing a remote firm, a true modern company.
Rosina Samadani: Thank you so much for having me.

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