Women in Business Q&A: Julie Yoo, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, Kyruus

Julie Yoo is a Co-Founder of Kyruus and serves as the company's Chief Product Officer. She was previously the VP of Clinical Product Strategy at Generation Health, where she oversaw the development of the company's clinical programs and data analytics platform. Julie also led the Product Management efforts at Knome, the private arm of George Church's Personal Genome Project, where she developed and launched a bioinformatics platform for conducting individualized genomic sequence analysis. Julie's passion for data-driven businesses began as a software engineer at Endeca Technologies, where she ultimately helped to lead Endeca's efforts in the health care industry as a Sales Engineer for Strategic Accounts. Julie has an undergraduate degree in computer science from MIT, an MS in biomedical sciences from the Harvard-MIT HST Program, and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Several life themes have influenced my professional path:

International experience - having lived abroad and attended an international school, I had the opportunity to be exposed to many different cultures, which allowed me to shape my identity in both absolute and relative terms. I think developing a sense of self identity early on, particularly amongst a diverse group of people, ultimately builds confidence and sets one up to be comfortable in periods and situations of uncertainty.

High-stakes academic and work environments - I attended MIT for both undergrad and grad school, and have been an early employee in numerous VC-backed startup companies - two very high-stress and high-stake environments. I was constantly put into situations that required me to step up, even if I was not the person with the explicit responsibility or authority to act, and make rapid, data-driven decisions to move the team forward.

Athletics - as trivial as it may sound, playing competitive sports and serving as team captain was highly formative for me in terms of confidence-building, and developing a perpetual craving for the rush of a big win, but also an ability to deal with losses and failures in a productive and constructive way.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Kyruus?
As mentioned above, the experience of being on early stage startup teams, building things from scratch, and dealing with massive technological and organizational challenges, was very influential in my decision to start my own company. Another dimension of my previous experience that has been valuable in my current role was the opportunity to watch and learn from the wonderful leaders and entrepreneurs that I had a chance to work under, some of whom themselves were very early in their respective careers at the time and figuring things out on the fly. Their courage, persistence, and team-oriented leadership styles have been an inspiration to me as I have helped to build Kyruus.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Kyruus?
A combination highlight and challenge has been the chance to work with so many awesome people, but more importantly, realizing that being awesome is not always the same as being a wonderful fit for the team or your mission. Our current team is an amazing and unique blend of individuals with technical acumen, business domain expertise, and medical experience, and I am so proud of the culture that we've built that embraces both a high bar for quality, as well as a humility and deep respect for the customers and users that we serve in the medical profession. That being said, we've also had to part ways with many other amazing individuals who were just not in the right role at the right time, and those were some of the most difficult decisions and moves we've had to make.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship comes in so many forms - from the people you work with, the people you work for, the people who work for you, and the customers you serve. Even though I do not have any "formal" mentors, the opportunity to learn, observe people succeed as well as fail, and experience both supportive and constructive feedback from all sides, is a necessity for personal success.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Business answer: Marissa Mayer - she's had a tough couple of years, but remains a product icon.
Sports answer: Mia Hamm - one of the most classy female leaders out there.

What do you want Kyruus to accomplish in the next year?
Kyruus will help millions of patients get connected to the right providers in 2015. My goal for the company is to continue to produce and deliver the highest-quality product platform for patient access in the industry, and triple the number of hospital systems and physicians who benefit from our solutions over the course of the next 12 months.

What advice can you offer women who are seeking a career in health technology?
Healthcare is an industry driven by women - women are the primary healthcare decision makers for families, and many hospital executives and members of the clinical workforce are females. Reach out to fellow women in this industry with a comfortable balance of confidence and humility. While building your hard skills, stay up-to-date on the pressing issues of healthcare - always push yourself to consider how you would apply what you've learned into a real solution that can improve the lives of others.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
A work/life balance is very important, but creating and building a company requires a disproportionate amount of time, effort, and attention, relative to "real life". I have no qualms about putting the company or my career first by investing 100% in the vision I have for Kyruus's success. However, our founding team put programs into place to ensure that our employees do not experience burnout while functioning at such a high velocity. We implement benefits such as an open vacation policy and wellness programs, and allow employees to work from home at their discretion. I also hire great people whom I trust, so that when I do need to take a break from work, I know projects will still get done with high quality.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The emphasis on "women in the workplace" can sometimes be a blessing, and other times a curse. It can be irritating to receive praise that is qualified by your gender. Take things in stride, and focus on setting stretch goals for yourself, your team, and your peers that don't use gender as a variable.