Meet the Collective: Hi, Aaron.

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Meet the Collective is our series highlighting the great people who make up Collective Health. Today, we’re sitting down with Aaron Salamonson, Manager, Platform Infrastructure and Site Reliability Engineering.

Where are you from?
I am originally from Sydney, Australia and I came to the US around 2009. In many ways, moving to the States gave me an opportunity for a reset – a fresh start where I felt like I could be fully authentic and my whole self. And, I’d actually never been to Chicago before I moved here so it was quite a leap of faith but I’m happy I did.

What happened in your career that led you to Collective Health?
My parents certainly had a heavy influence in my exposure to both healthcare and technology. My mom was a nurse and a lecturer, so growing up I had a lot of exposure to stories about patients. She really humanized the whole healthcare experience for me. What stood out in her stories about her shifts in the ICU were the people who needed connection, someone to pay attention to the small things, to listen, and be present in their most vulnerable moments. That perspective always stuck with me.

On the other side of the spectrum, my dad was in technology, so I developed an interest in both. Careerwise, I was unsure of how I might go about pursuing my interests so I went with what I’d been able to try my hand at already – the computer side of things. And, despite that choice, the work I’ve felt most connected to and rewarded by is the work that makes people’s lives better. So when I learned about Collective Health’s mission, I knew it was a great fit. I could tell the people here had similar values and deeply cared about each other and their work. They were empathetic in how they carried out their discipline which I found really remarkable.

What excites you most about where Collective Health is going?
Something that’s exciting right now is the stage of development and growth we are in. We have the opportunity to scale and bring a lot more lives onto the platform, which could make a really tangible difference for individuals trying to navigate their benefits. We are entering a phase of growth where I am excited about solving problems at an increasing scale and extending that to more clients and members.

What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career?
To recognize the humanity in every situation. When it comes to the type of work I do, we are often taught to think of problems in the context of their technical components: here is how we will deploy this, these are the various types of technology we will use to solve the problem, etc. But we aren’t just dealing with technology or robots in our case. We are dealing with an individual’s particular experience. Therefore we must factor in empathy when we choose which technical path is the best suited for the challenge at hand, and create a safe culture and environment so we can talk about and learn from our mistakes.

What drew you to CH leadership?
They valued vulnerability, honesty, and recognized that strength isn’t trying to maintain the illusion of perfection. Leadership set the precedent where expending energy to protect ourselves from judgment was regarded as an anti-pattern. Instead, sharing our errors and collectively learning from them is something to be celebrated.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?
I enjoy playing piano, doing various crafts like woodworking and building electronics. I also like taking care of my 50+ plants I have at home. I enjoy giving myself space for creativity outside of work.

How would you say technology can work better in healthcare?
A lot of the problems we face in healthcare are not actually technology problems, they’re systemic issues. Technology is the infrastructure that allows you to do things better. In all honesty, we probably shouldn’t even notice the technology that’s involved in facilitating our care because if we are, then it’s likely because it’s not working as it should. We are surrounded by technology so we don’t think about how good the technology is but instead how unremarkable it becomes — how seamless the transition is from having a need to finding a solution.

What’s your favorite quote?
“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.” – Anne Lamott

Fun fact about me:
I’m a voracious consumer of information around neuroscience and how people work and connect with each other.