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Inside the Hinge Health Mobile Team

Joe Palmieri, Senior Software Engineer, shares an inside look on what it's like to work on the mobile engineering team building Hinge Health’s digital musculoskeletal clinic.

Published Date: Apr 7, 2022
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Our Hinge Health Experts

Joe Palmieri
Vegas native. Likes building pretty things via coding and woodworking.

Joe Palmieri, Senior Software Engineer, shares an inside look on what it's like to work on the mobile engineering team building Hinge Health’s digital musculoskeletal clinic.

What attracted you to work in tech, and specifically at Hinge Health?

I arrived at my career as a software engineer in a kind of roundabout way. Although I had a strong interest in everything computer-related when I was in high school, I decided to major in Philosophy in college. I love Philosophy (and I’m glad I studied it), but that major doesn’t exactly set you up for a well-paying job when you leave school. I took a job doing customer service at a web-based printing company, basically taking a large volume of phone calls each day. It was a very stressful job, so after almost a couple years of that, I started looking around for something else.

My first job in tech was for a company which made a web and mobile app which was designed to help people enhance certain areas of their cognition through exercises which felt like games. I wanted to work for this company because I already loved their product and thought it was doing some good for the world. I applied for their customer support position, and once I got the job, I realized they were in over their heads with a huge increase in user growth. Since I had some novice programming experience (and engineering resources were little to none for our team), I took it upon myself to figure out how to automate anything I could. That work was recognized, and (over many years) I evolved into a software engineer at that company.

I later felt like my career as an engineer was stagnating, so I again started looking around for a new job. Lately it seems like tech companies are often in the news for not-so-great things, and I think the sentiment towards tech companies has become less positive–and I think for good reason: there are plenty of companies out there that are doing ethically-questionable things, or plain taking advantage of people. With that in mind, I think it’s important for people who contribute to the success of tech companies (i.e., the people who work for them) to make sure they're contributing to something that’s clearly making a positive impact on this world. A colleague recommended Hinge Health, and after seeing the product and hearing what it was doing to help people manage their pain, I was interested and excited. I luckily got the job and have been here for over two years now.

What are you responsible for in your role?

My work mostly involves planning and developing features relating to the onboarding experience of our users. I’m one of the more tenured software engineers at the company (we’ve grown a lot lately!) so my experience and historical knowledge, particularly in the React Native user-facing app, is valuable to my teammates when we are in the design phase (e.g., when gauging the complexity of one UX option over another), as well as when it comes time to execute those designs (e.g., when determining what code we need to write, and where it needs to go). I’m also in charge of keeping track of the tech debt that is created by our work, making sure these tickets are detailed enough for an engineer to pick one up and be able to work on it without having to ask many questions, and helping to prioritize these tickets so we can add them to upcoming work cycles. Additionally, I review pull requests (for my team and others) to offer feedback for the work of my colleagues.

I contribute to cross-team architectural discussions (which we schedule regularly to make sure our apps are developing in a healthy manner) and “office hours,” where engineers like myself help resolve questions and difficulties for other engineers who are often new to the company and need a little help to unblock their work. I also created and help manage the engineering blog that this post is published in.

What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?

We recently worked on a new feature that will allow users to log into the app via a text message sent to their phone instead of having to enter their email address and password. I’m excited about this because it should significantly reduce the friction that our users can have when trying to start our program. We noticed a decent amount of users were having trouble figuring out which email address and password they entered when they created their account, and that sometimes those users end up abandoning the program at that point. We want our users to be able to easily get into the app and start benefiting from it, and I think this will help them do that.

After finishing my work on that project, I recently moved to a new team which is creating a new experience using computer vision to detect a user’s body position. The new technology will help people more easily use the product.

What do you enjoy using for mobile development?

Before Hinge Health, I had never done mobile development, and it seems like this isn’t uncommon for many people I’ve met who work in React Native. React is an extremely popular web framework, so it seems like most web developers either have used it themselves or are at least familiar with its concepts. Having familiarity with React makes it pretty easy to start developing for mobile with React Native. Simply said, I think that’s what excited me the most at first. Mobile development seemed scary to me when I was still in the web world; working with native languages seems very different from writing for the HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that I had become so accustomed to. React Native takes a lot of the pressure off of that by giving you an environment that is somewhat similar to web development. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like there’s nothing to learn about mobile development when you first start developing in React Native, but it makes the learning curve less steep.

I find React development intuitive, fast, and powerful (if done correctly). There are also a lot of tools that I’m used to with JavaScript development that are able to be used (in some form) within a React Native project, since everything is abstracted to JavaScript. It’s nice to be able to keep settings somewhat similar when switching between web and React Native projects. Additionally, I like that I’m still able to switch back to web projects and not feel like my knowledge has become obsolete or that I need to brush up on React or JavaScript in order to write quality code.

Why should mobile engineers consider working for a digital health company like Hinge Health?

As I’ve said earlier, I think it’s important to work for companies which are making some kind of positive impact, and I think health companies have an opportunity to do this. The U.S. healthcare system is imperfect, unfortunately, and there are gaps in it which can be filled by companies which rethink the system and utilize emerging technologies to provide products and services related to those gaps. I think Hinge Health is a good example of this.

Musculoskeletal pain is something everyone experiences at some time in their lives, and our current healthcare system could be a lot better at addressing it. Our product makes it easy and free for someone with MSK pain to access tools and support to help them manage that pain. It’s great to hear customer testimonials explaining how they’ve been in less pain since they’ve started the program, and how they’re able to once again do the things they’ve been missing out on because of their pain. Those testimonials make me feel like I’m contributing to a company that’s doing something good for the world, and that keeps me motivated.

About Hinge Health

By pairing advanced wearable sensors and computer vision technology with a clinical care team, Hinge Health is pioneering the most patient-centered digital clinic for musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders. Available to millions of members, Hinge Health empowers people to reduce chronic pain, opioids, and surgeries. Our engineering team is growing and we’re hiring for mobile engineers - join us at hingehealth.com/careers

Credits: Cover photo by Gunnar Sigurðarson on Unsplash