Joining Blue Latitude Health: What it's like to go from career freelancer to permanent employee

Liz Inskip | 3rd August 2015

Peter Timmer is a Senior Customer Experience Consultant at Blue Latitude Health. His focus is on making sure customers can find the information they need easily, and that the content layout is clear and supports customers in the tasks they undertake. He joined Blue Latitude Health as a permanent member of staff in 2014 after 13 years as a freelance consultant across a variety of industries, so he has a unique perspective on what makes Blue Latitude Health an engaging place to work.

So Peter, I think the easy first question is: what was your path to Blue Latitude Health? It’s not an obvious next step given that your background is so varied.

Well, I worked through the 2000s in traditional agencies, doing the design and build work that was common then. Around 2005, I started to do more client side work because I was interested in working on product development challenges. It was interesting getting to understand how people who own a product think about the product.

As a freelancer, you tend to form professional friendships as you do end up running into the same people over the years. There are a handful of people I’ve worked with at different companies because user experience as it’s known now, has really only been around for 15-20 years. Elisa del Galdo (NB – Blue Latitude Health’s Head of Customer Experience) is someone I’ve known for 15 years and worked with on a number of occasions, so I really value her opinion. She started working at Blue Latitude Health in 2013, and really sold it to me as a place to come and set down some professional roots.

After a couple of chats and an interview with senior management, I decided to become permanent here because it’s so refreshing (and rare) to work with people who really know what they’re doing. Without sounding too cocky, we do set the bar quite high here, and it’s great to be a part of that.

Having worked in other industries before joining Blue Latitude Health, what do you find engaging about working on healthcare and pharma projects?

To do customer experience design well, you can’t avoid detail – you have to engage with it constantly – and Pharma has a LOT of detail. It’s really fascinating because there’s a high bar to adding value; you have to spend a great deal of time just understanding how health care professionals think and what their needs are before you even begin thinking about design.

By comparison, one of the large public organisations I worked with thought they knew their users because they knew what their users needed to do. But they didn’t understand how their paperwork worked in the larger economic landscape – how small business owners understood and thought about the paperwork and the website. Customer experience can’t just pay attention to a small part of a user’s wider workflow; it needs to understand how each part fits into the other moving parts of the workflow. When I conducted research for that public organisation, I spoke with sales directors of small businesses about their needs, and while there was a lot of business jargon, it was easy to get my head around the commercial environment and the key considerations for a car sales business.

To contrast, medical specialists talk about combinations of drugs and how each drug combination is different from the others. This requires at least a top level understanding of the drug classification, the individual drugs themselves, the interactions between the drugs, and the actual key points of difference between the drug combinations; that’s before you even begin to discuss the specialists’ perceived differences. Our aim is to understand the specialists’ thinking and motivations behind their decisions. The barrier to entry from a knowledge standpoint is much higher and much more complex than buying and selling cars.

Following on from that, what are some other projects that you’ve found really interesting since you’ve been here?

There was a project around developing content for a rheumatology drug that would enable drug reps to explain it to rheumatology specialists via eDetail, either in stages or very quickly. They were previously working from these incredibly long slide decks that they had memorised, and the trick was to give then something interactive that was more intuitive and easier to engage with than the old decks. The final eDetail was animated and had an interactive timeline feature, both of which were pretty ground-breaking for the reps.

Coming back to your career, what was it that drove you to go permanent here? I know you started out as a freelancer on the CX team, why not just keep working that way?

You get to a point of experience where your responsibility as a freelancer is to do what the client wants – even if what the client wants is wrong – because that’s what you’re being paid to do. You will also eventually know more about how to solve UX/CX problems than your client (most clients) because they will typically not be user experience professionals themselves. In order to have strategic direction input or add value in that way, you need to be involved in a more long term capacity with a project. I wanted to work somewhere where I could contribute to strategic direction in a meaningful way, and since strategy sits at the centre of everything we do at Blue Latitude Health, it was a good place to stick around.

Another point to mention is that as the company grows and each of the four capabilities grow with it, we all work together more. Different focuses for things like research start to appear, and working with a strategist means we uncover different types of insight versus if I were to conduct that research alone. I’ve worked very closely with a strategist on some very in-depth research with medical specialists recently, and it’s been very beneficial to see how we do quite similar things (e.g. research) in different ways to get different insights. We can then bring these complementary insights together into a single blended set of deliverables that are strategic, and built on a clear foundation of customer-centric insight. New types of deliverable can also emerge, like an ‘Engagement map’ to help the client navigate an ‘Engagement plan’. It was fun to work across teams, and seems to have been seen as a nice short-cut to contextualising the plan in terms of a customer’s journey with the brand.  

 

Thanks to Peter for taking the time to chat with me about his experience at Blue Latitude Health. If you like the sound of the work we do in our experience design team, please get in touch! We’re always happy to hear from user experience professionals with a keen interest in developing services for healthcare and pharma.

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