Office Hours: I’m Chief Technology Officer at Carbon Health. I’ve previously worked at Netscape and served as SVP of Engineering at Napster and Udemy. I’m Claire Hough.Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Claire Hough, Chief Technology Officer at Carbon Health where I lead a team of 70 people. Carbon Health is a tech-enabled healthcare company that delivers virtual care experiences. Our mission is to democratize healthcare through technology.

I have over 25+ years of experience as a leader in technology and engineering. I’ve helped over a half dozen companies grow and scale to deliver impact-driving products and services, including Netscape, Napster, Nextag, and Udemy.

In 2016, I was named one of the San Francisco Business Times' Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business.

Ask me anything about leadership in engineering, people management, being an effective servant leader, product, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @clairehough!Elphas – please ask @clairehough your questions before Friday, December 10th. @clairehough may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
^ Hello Elphas - Just a quick update: @clairehough will be answering your questions on Monday, Dec. 13th - so you have a few extra days to get your questions in! 🎁
Hello Claire!What had been the biggest difference moving from director or VP into the executive space? What qualities do you think are most important for an executive leader?
Executive leaders provide company-level leadership, whether it involves strategy, OKRs, organizational design, or culture. It's essential to build trust relationships with other executives while balancing your organization's needs and setting up for success.
Hi @clairehough, Thank you for taking the time out of your day to host a session. I wanted to get your insight on some of the common trends you're seeing in the telehealth sector, especially with the digital transformation that started due to remote work?
Depending on whether you are asking this question from the provider's point of view or the patient p point of view. some services have been effective. How about you and I set up a call to discuss many aspects of Telehealth that have been tried and true? Some experiences are still in experiments. I would be happy to discuss improving the patient experience through virtual and in-clinic primary care and RPM.
@clairehough77 I would love to connect and learn more about the industry and the trends. Let me know when you're free for a 15-20 min chat!
I would love to jump into this too! Not sure how much time you have @clairehough77, but maybe a group office hour could be more efficient?
Interested to hear about this too!
Hi @clairehough thanks for taking the time to be here. I’m building a health tech company and am early stage. What are some of your learnings from building in healthcare compared to other industries?
We are serving an industry that is very fragmented and has not been at the forefront of innovation. That just means we have a lot of work to do, not just from a technology point of view but also from the care delivery point of view. It is essential that we create our care programs from the patient and provider's point of view while keeping accessibility, security, and compliance in mind. I am happy to hear you are building a health tech company because we have so much work. Remember you will make an impact on healthcare with technology, i.e. healthcare first! Define your mission and keep it as a Northstar. Make a difference in every life of patients and providers! All the best!
Hi @clairehough! Thanks so much for doing this :) As someone who is working in leadership roles in tech, could you share some advice on how you got there?For context, I am currently still in university and one of my dreams is to be a CTO one day, I've done multiple software internships, spent some time working on my own venture for a bit leading development, and now have a full-time software job lined up post grad. Would love to hear any tips on how to work towards leadership roles as well as any book/podcast recommendations you may have! Thanks in advance :)
Look for growth opportunities wherever you are. Find a manager who will invest in your growth and work with you on your more immediate goals of expanding your skillset. In engineering, they look for technical skills and sound technical judgment in a leader. Learn as much as you can to excel in your area. Take initiatives to contribute to the team goals or company goals and deliver results to show that you can get important things done. If you see opportunities within the company to step into a leadership role, ask to be considered. You may also ask to get an outside mentor through platforms like Plato or SoundingBoard.We now have many more resources to tap into for leadership and engineering management. Some of my favorite books are:- High Output Management: Andrew Grove- Radical Candor: Kim Scott- Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the Management Track: Will Larson- Elegant Puzzle: Will Larson- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: Patrick Lencioni- Principles: Ray Dalio- Turn the ship around: David Marquet
@clairehough77 Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my question! This is really helpful advice and I'll keep it in mind as I continue in my career :) Really appreciate it!
Hi Claire!What has been your experience with promotions? How do you make the case for yourself for a promotion, and have you ever felt the effect of a glass ceiling / that women are judged more harshly when it comes to promotions?
Unfortunately, we still have companies with a glass ceiling, and they set higher standards for women when it comes to promotion, and that is NOT okay. Companies should have a career leveling matrix that should be published to everyone. Everyone should be able to see what skills and contributions are required for promotion. Your manager should help you with the goals to achieve the next level of advancement. Ask for specific feedback on how you can show you have mastered the next level of skills.If you do not have a manager who can guide you through your career growth, it is time to think about looking for another opportunity either within the company or outside of the company. You all have a valuable, marketable skill set. Find a conscientious company that proactively champions DEIB and is committed to a fair and equitable promotion process
Hi Claire! How did you first get into management? What advice do you have for people wanting to transition into management type roles? Thank you!
I was promoted based on the needs of my organization at the time. They chose me based on my skills and their belief I can get things done, and I didn't get a lot of support or mentorship on how to be a good manager. It took me a long time to learn all the responsibilities of the engineering leader beyond technical skills and execution. First, I had to let go of doing the technical work myself. I needed to learn to delegate and allow other people to learn the skills to get the job done! If you love seeing your teammates grow and are committed to their career growth, the management track is a good career track to consider. If you want to continue to solve problems yourself and you get a lot of satisfaction from completing the work yourself, staying on the individual contributor track may be a better option. In most companies, there are these parallel career tracks and you can be successful at either one depending on where you draw your satisfaction and joy at work. If you decide on the management track, make sure the company is offering education, training, and mentorship. Continuously ask for feedback and be open to learning!
@clairehough - You're an inspiration, thanks for taking time. I have a few questions below. Question 1) When is the moment you decide (if you do) that you 'stop coding as a CTO' and let end up more in the management arena? I often found many co-founding CTOs I've spoken with, do so very fast when they end up hiring and scaling. Question 2) What was it like to work at Napster (with Shawn Fanning, whom I had the privilege of meeting years ago) and how do you feel now about the music industry and NFTs/blockchain and new platforms that are being monetized by artists in web3 in a P2P manner? Question 3) How was it like working at Netscape? What do you feel is anything comparable in tech today (for me I see web3 booming)?Question 3) As a woman engineer and CTO, what advice would you have to give to someone who would rather be a Principal Engineer or SVP vs CTO (without being a co-founder) vs. Co-Founder and CTO? Question 4) Did you ever feel conflicted as taking on a technical leadership position you didn't feel ready for yet if it was offered to you? Did you end up taking it, or did you put this off and why?Question 4) Did you ever have any entrepreneurial ambitions and as an investor or CTO?Question 5) I see that you'e been a CTO at several companies, and in particular for Lyte, transition to an advisor. Is this the typical route you've seen for more senior technical management who are investors (and not founders), and is the idea to help scale up a company's technical chops in a specific area and then call it quits? Thanks again for taking time to answer questions.#GoBears
Q1: My answer is to stop coding as soon as possible. If you are a founding CTO with a few engineers and the team is not growing, you may be able to do non-blocking development or work on productivity tools when you are not helping the team be more productive. There is so much to do as an executive and as an engineering leader, I don't believe you can be an effective IC at the same time. Q2: I still have fond memories of Napster and working with Sean and the team. It was a company that disrupted the music industry. Everyone at the company was committed to migrating the technology platform to the DRM-enabled secure platform that was subscription-based, much like Spotify today. We built it and showed that it could work, but no major labels were willing to license their music. I am a big supporter of Web3 and Artists and any content producers controlling the distribution and monetization of their content.Q3: Please see my answers to Drew above.Q4: I learned to choose my companies carefully, perhaps not soon enough, but I learned to say "No" to many opportunities. The reason may vary but primarily based on whether I can find the passion for contributing and be successful. I am not afraid of learning new things, but I want to be in the right environment to build and support a team that can succeed.I was a company's founder once, and I am an angel investor and I like to invest in companies with a social mission. I also belong to Operator Collective, an investment fund that brings people from diverse backgrounds to invest and support companies.Q5: Every case is different, but it is not uncommon to stay connected to the company and advise the CEO and CTO when you transition out.
Thank you so much for your very thorough and thoughtful responses @clairehough77