Innovating to Help People Get Answers When They Need Them

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Sarah Martino, VP of Product Management, Accolade

Toward the end of 2015, Sarah Martino’s mother faced an unsettling diagnosis: breast cancer. For any family such news is life altering and raises many questions: Where do you go for the best treatment? Which doctors can you trust? How do you manage all the demands of immediate care while still living your own life?

“I think of myself as being intelligent and capable of research—of getting to the facts,” says Sarah. “But I felt at a loss on many days as I tried to help my mother. I found myself wondering how so many others had met the challenge.”

It was the sort of uncertainty that Sarah and her husband had previously faced as they worked through a long stretch of infertility, searched for answers, and combated many unknowns. “It can be a lonely process,” Sarah says. “You feel like you have to become a medical expert to get through it all.”

Sarah’s mother is now healthy and well. Sarah and her husband have a little girl. But in essential ways Sarah’s personal story paved the way to the work Sarah now does as a Vice President of Product Management and User Experience in Accolade’s Seattle office, where she oversees the 11-person Applications team.

The job requires the coordination of multiple products—Accolade’s mobile app and web portal, intelligent analytics for Accolade’s customers, and the next generation of relationship and care relationship management products for Accolade Health Assistants and Nurses, among other things. It’s work that requires Sarah and her team to manage overlapping development, UX design and testing, piloting, and launch timelines. But additionally, consistently, are the lives the technologies serve. The solutions they offer to people with stories much like Sarah’s own.

Sarah joined Accolade just over a year ago following many happy years at Concur, where she started her career in research and development responsible for coordinating the integration of a travel booking product with an expense management and grew to run product management for the full expense product there. At Concur, Sarah had the opportunity to work with Raj Singh and Mike Hilton, two people she considers “amazingly brilliant, wonderful human beings.” She had the chance, as well, to hone her communications and organizational skills, two skills essential to the development of new technologies.

“Product management is a unique job,” says Sarah, who received her degree in International Affairs with a focus in Economics from George Washington University. “You have to understand how technology works; you have to be really geeked out by it. But beyond that, you have to be very interested in communications and team building—in bringing people together around clear criteria to build what we call a minimum viable product for each product while at the same time building a product vision and strategy that ties everything together. The goal is to build the smallest possible thing that solves a key user problem and to get it out there quickly, then listen to the feedback.”

Having remained in touch with Raj and Mike after they left Concur to work with Accolade as CEO and Chief Product Officer, respectively, Sarah kept hearing about the difference this company was making in the lives of everyday people. When a job opportunity came her way, she made what she describes as a very difficult decision to leave one company she loved for another company she believed she would also feel great passion for.

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Sarah and family

On the second day of her job at Accolade, Sarah sat and listened as Accolade Health Assistants spoke with their clients, helping them find answers to a wide range of healthcare-related questions. A few days later, Sarah listened in on recordings from Accolade’s Women’s Health team.

“I wanted to hear and understand just what Accolade was doing for its members,” Sarah says. “Those hours spent listening affected me enormously. I gained an even deeper sense of the urgency surrounding the work we do. There’s so much pain and suffering out there. And there are things we can do to minimize that.”

Recently, for example, Sarah heard a story related to the new messaging-based mobile app.

“One of our members was in a car accident with a young infant,” Sarah says. “After the ambulance came, she logged into the app, and began texting with her Health Assistant. She needed to know if the hospital was in network. She needed to know what questions she should be asking. She needed information right away, and she got it. We all know how it feels to be in a stressful situation and desperate for good answers. Our new mobile app makes that possible, and it feels really good, at the end of every day, to be part of creating something like that.

“We have the chance to really help people here,” Sarah continues. “At the most important times in their lives, we’re available. We’re here.”

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