QuHarrison Terry is marketing director at Redox of Madison, WI. He has co-founded several companies and is a 2016 graduate (computer science) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I rarely reach out to ask someone to be interviewed, but Lorre talked to you and said you are fascinating. You have a lot of interests and accomplishments for someone fresh out of college – volunteer work, art, advertising, fashion, and now working for a healthcare technology startup. How did you get interested in all these seemingly unrelated areas?
As you probably can tell from my interests, I love creating. When I got to college, I was either going to be an engineer or a computer scientist. The reason for that is that with engineering, you make things with your hands. As a computer scientist, you create these digital experiences that either live on the back end, or extended interactions that we interact with and engage with from the front-end perspective.
One thing I noticed in college was that I didn’t want to sit at a computer screen 12 to 15 hours a day and let that be my only interaction with creativity and making things. But I did want to understand the logic of how you build things from a digital perspective. That’s what got me to where I am today.
I’m very grateful for my learning the behind the scenes and the logic of how you make an app, or how you integrate an API with a third-party service or provider platform, because it’s super helpful for automating things such as marketing. Or even in fashion, when I worked in that area. I was able to automate the process of making line sheets. It’s like the blueprint. If you want to make a garment or do anything in the cut-and-sew world, they have to make it to specifications and none of that is digital. Having the computer background and bringing it to these non-traditional platforms or areas that you don’t traditionally see a computer in was super helpful.
I see healthcare as the same thing. I’m at Redox. We happen to be an API platform, but healthcare itself is not digital.
How did you get yourself up to speed on healthcare?
Honestly, Mr. H, I wouldn’t even put myself in the same league as anyone that does healthcare IT or is familiar with the ins and outs of healthcare. I’m very much new to the field, very much still learning every day.
What I’ve done to get up to speed and stay afloat thus far is following a lot of the industry publications. At Redox, I’m blessed to work with a lot of people that are not only proficient in the field, but also have opinions. That’s one thing about our team –everyone knows what they do very, very well. Healthcare expertise is something that I’m surrounded by daily, so if I have questions, I can literally send off an email or a Slack message and get a response or find some materials where I can get even more of an in depth of an answer.
How do you apply your experience with marketing and social media to healthcare, and how does your approach contrast with that of companies that have been in healthcare IT for a long time?
The first thing I would say about healthcare IT is there are very few marketers, which is inspiring, because you get to set the path that everyone else is going to eventually go down or pave new paths off of. The first thing that stuck out to me is that healthcare people traditionally speak the healthcare vernacular that they’re taught. They live in that world. But it’s very hard for a person that lives outside of the healthcare realm to interface and engage with what’s going on.
The first thing I did from a marketer’s perspective was say, how do we get across our professional message, but do it in a way that it’s not audacious, it’s not boring, it’s not the proverbial healthcare jargon that you’re familiar with? We’re not knocking the industry. That’s just how it is. But from an outsider’s perspective, we do need to make it so that people can become interested in healthcare and bring some of the innovative technologies to the space. That’s where I started.
What is it like working in a startup environment?
The startup life is not for the weak-hearted. [laughs] If you have a weak heart, you probably should get something that’s a bit more stable, where your job doesn’t change every six months. Because in a startup, we’re very much creating and building the company from nothing to something. The culture around it is fast paced. There’s a lot of ambiguity associated with the culture. At most times, you’re learning 24/7 and you’re applying what you’ve learned in real time as well.
From an outsider’s perspective, the cool thing about working in a startup is you can see your impact a little bit quicker than if you were working in a big corporation. Oftentimes a startup has fewer people, so you have a bit more responsibility. Startups are magnets for Millennials, because Millennials traditionally want results now. They want to see immediate impact. They want to get real-time satisfaction. Other markets and other generations are used to the concept of putting in hard work and seeing a return over time.
I think that’s why there are more Millennials in startups traditionally today. Also, big startups are a bit newer. Previously, if you wanted to start a startup, access to venture capital wasn’t probably as easy as it is today.
How do you see your generation as being different from those in healthcare IT who are their 30s or older?
I’m a marketer, so I always go back to the people and the emotional side of things. As people, I don’t think we change. We like different things for different time periods, and things were different in certain time periods. We’re more receptive to the culture from the time period that we grew up in and that formulated our childhood. For Millennials in the workforce, we are a part of the first generation to grow up with the Internet from birth to now.
We have opportunities that weren’t offered beforehand to the incumbents before us. If you are a VP of marketing today, you probably didn’t have access to Google. You could go and research every single campaign that was ever run in healthcare. Or if you’re in the automotive industry, that industry as well. Millennials have access to these large databases where there’s just a plethora of knowledge that allows us to move a little bit quicker, but it also takes away from the experience bucket, because you can go Google something today and get an immediate response or answer to whatever question you have. You don’t have to really search or experience it as much. So we’re rich in knowledge, but weak in experience and actual lessons learned.
I think that there’s a gift and a curse associated with that. We’re going to fall a little bit harder than the people before us. But at the same time, we’re going to move a little bit faster.
I read your piece on citizen journalism upending the traditional journalism model. Is your generation inherently less trustful of big corporations, both as employers and as information sources?
Totally. When we look at journalism today and we look at journalism in the future, the one thing that everyone is aware of is brands like CNN, brands like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, they’re not reaching the Millennials in the same capacity that they had previously done for generations beforehand.
I think there’s two reasons for that. One, we have an information overload, to the same concept that I just explained earlier where we as Millennials can go and Google something and get an immediate answer. We don’t have to rely on one source of truth for certain answers. Whereas previously, before the Internet, you watched CNN. That was one of the few options that you had amongst ABC and NBC and whatever other channels were available at the time to get news information. Whereas now, you can go to a very specific source that only covers technology news or healthcare news, such as HIStalk, or even automotive news if you wanted to learn about cars.
There’s a lot of sites and publications that only offer that information. That was there 10 to 20 years ago, but it predominantly existed in the form of magazines. Magazines were monthly, annual, biannual. They weren’t a publication that’s 24/7/365 in real time.
What I’m most excited about on the solo journalist and just the future of journalism is that you no longer have to be associated with a big brand like a Hearst or a Vox Media to have a journalism career. You can have a blog, and as long as you can figure out the distribution part of that equation, you can have an impact and have readers that come directly to you, which is interesting because now the solo journalist is also responsible for selling ads and making income off of that.
In that article, I touch on the journalist engineer. They have to be well versed at sales, computer science, journalism of course, and a few other things in order to really manifest all the gifts that are there. But the coolest thing about it is the brands like New York Times, CNN, Vox Media, and Hearst are no longer at the go-to source. It’s actually people. It’s going to be interesting to see that transition unfold and be uncovered. I think it’s going to happen within the next five to 12 years.
The argument against that change is that people tend to follow people whose beliefs match their own instead of seeking unbiased, professionally researched information that could change their minds or make them smarter.
I say you have partisan and non-partisan beliefs in contemporary media, so I’m less worried about that. There was a huge spotlight put on that side of the industry due to our previous presidential election, but humans are smart. We oftentimes say people are dumb, but people are smarter than we think.
There’s a reason why certain television programming and content that is put out there appeals to a certain audience and demographic. But the people that want the knowledge that they’re seeking — that’s either unbiased or is presented in a way where they can develop their own opinion — that that will be out there. Journalists that continue to uphold the journalism integrity that is associated with modern-day journalism will have large, large, large followings. Then, for the journalists that are opinionated, they’ll be very much like the modern TMZs of the world, because that’s just how it goes. It’s like yin and yang. You need the opinionated person and you need the unbiased “Here’s the raw facts” like the BBC. You can’t have one without the other.
Oftentimes, when we put a spotlight on it, it seems like the TMZs of the world garner all of the attention. But then you’re not looking at who’s actually looking at the BBC. There’s no spotlight put on, like, “What did BBC break, or what did CNBC break yesterday?” I think it’s twofold. We’re going to have more opinions, but we’re also going to have more reliable sources on very niche subjects and topics that we didn’t have before.
A good example of this is Wikipedia. Most people, in the early stages of Wikipedia, were worried about the integrity of an open-source model, especially an encyclopedia. When I was growing up in grade school, we couldn’t use Wikipedia, and now my little brother can. But it’s very similar. Anyone can go and edit a Wikipedia article and write whatever they want on anyone on Wikipedia, but we’re basically relying on the community to keep it intact and to keep the integrity of that data true.
You wrote about your experience in using an AI-powered app rather than a trainer to dramatically decrease your time to run a mile. What potential do you see in healthcare?
That’s the reason I’m working in healthcare today. Technology such as artificial coaches, Elon Musk’s Neuralink that merges the human brain with artificial intelligence, augmented reality, reprogrammable human cells, brain-operated prosthetics, and the list goes on … all of that technology excites me because we are at the precipice of the next frontier in computing — humans as the computer, or we as cyborgs, whatever you want to call it. In order for us to evolve to the next state in Darwin’s theory of natural evolution, we’re going to have to figure out how to merge the human brain with the technical side. How do we put computers in the human?
That’s one area where you’re going to see me focused on a lot in the next year or so. I have this concept of the inevitable human. Slowly but surely, we’re going to get to a point where computers and humans are synonymous. They’re one. We’re already kind of there, because if you take a cellphone from a lot of kids, they would feel like they’re losing an arm or a limb already because they would feel disconnected. I know that’s especially true for my little brother, who is 14. It’s especially true for some of my peers who are addicted to Facebook already.
But the thing about it is, in order for this to actually happen, healthcare has to evolve and catch up. We have to bring some of the innovative technology, such as the AI assistant and even the actual mechanical technology like prosthetics, to this space. We have to get them caught up to speed. They need health data. They’re going to need access to the medical record. They’re going to need access to the health system.
That’s an area where we’re going to have to advance. I think that there’s going to be a lot of money and a lot of pressure put on that. Look at Apple. They’re coming in to the interoperability space. Elon Musk is finally kind of moving into healthcare. It’s an exciting time for healthcare technology.
What does your ideal life look like?
Ideally, I’m going to start another company. That’s probably three to four years down the road.
Twenty years out from now, I want to be a master creative. Not just an artist, where I’m going to just make things, but someone that creates things from zero to 100 and has experience working at all facets of building something. I want to be able to have the ideas, but also work with the person to build the idea, and also work with the people to distribute the idea, and also work with the people that have to implement the idea, et cetera.
I see myself as an artist, a creative person that expresses themselves. It’s very Millennial of me to say that, right? But it’s like, you can’t take the creator out of the man, but you can take the man out of the creator.