David McGuire, OTR/L — Product Manager

Sr. Product Manager — David McGuire

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This week’s spotlight is on David McGuire, OTR/L, who has been a product manager at naviHealth, and is now a senior product manager for HST Pathways!

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What is your full name, title, and company name for your current, primary role?

David McGuire, OTR/L

I just started a new role as Senior Product Manager for HST Pathways. Previously, I was Product Manager at Optum/naviHealth.

HST Pathways logo

What additional roles do you currently have?

I’m an AOTA Affiliated State Association Presidents (ASAP) chairperson, and I sit on a couple of advisory boards for OT/OTA programs.

Where are you located?

Nashville, TN

Where did you go to OT school, and what year did you graduate?

Tennessee State University, 2013

What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?

I started in an inpatient setting, where I completed my first Level II fieldwork. I was fortunate that they held a spot for me until I graduated and passed my boards. It was a nice first OT job because I knew the staff, processes, and EMR.

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In what setting(s) did you work, and what types of patients did you treat?

Inpatient, a little outpatient, but primarily acute care. I eventually moved to a neuro unit, where I was one of the primary OTs on that floor. 

What did you enjoy about your early roles? What didn’t you enjoy?

I loved the acute setting, being able to work with patients as soon as they were medically stable. I ended up on the neuro unit, and working in the neuro ICU was one of my dreams. The team was great, and I still miss them.

Working in a university hospital with a lot of bureaucracy is one of the reasons I left. I enjoyed the departmental leadership, but the hospital leadership was poor.

What else have you done since then, prior to your current role?

I left the clinical setting and worked as a pre-auth reviewer, which was essentially utilization management. I was promoted to Clinical Team Manager after a few months, and stayed in that role for approximately two years.

I’ve been the president of the Tennessee Occupation Therapy Association (TNOTA), and that led me to co-found a company called dabr Interactive. We built products with a focus on CE management from an individual and organization/association level. Unfortunately, I shut that down earlier this year, but still have some ideas that I would like to bring to market. 

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When and why did you decide to do something non-clinical?

I started dabr Interactive prior to transitioning, and really enjoyed that process and learning about software and technology. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was actually doing product management.

In my clinical role, I became frustrated with the bureaucracy of a large institution. I loved the acute rehab department, but knew little would change at the organization level. The pay was another issue, and I didn’t feel like a valued part of the organization.

What are you doing these days?

I am now a product manager, and absolutely love it. At naviHealth, I worked with business and clinical leadership on improving our software that our clinical team uses when completing authorization requests.

Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?

Solely non-clinical at this point. I miss my team, and I do miss interacting with the patients. I’ve thought about doing PRN work, but I have two kids, and family time is more important to me.

How long have you been in your current role?

I started at naviHealth in September of 2019, and transitioned to the product manager role in late March of 2022. Just recently, I began my role as a senior product manager for HST Pathways.

What do you wish you would’ve known before going into this role?

There is no degree for a product manager. I truly believe it’s a learn-by-doing role, and the most important thing is to have a working knowledge of the “product”.

Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?

I took a few LinkedIn Learning courses that a director recommended as part of the naviHealth onboarding for PMs that join the company. I do believe if I was attempting to move into a product role at an outside company, there might be some value in specialty certifications I would take. There is a lot of information out there that you could do on your own, both free and paid.

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How did you find your way into product management?

I saw a presentation in summer 2021 from a product team member, and the presenter was an SLP. I connected with her, and started asking questions about her transition into the product world. She allowed me to shadow, and also connected me with her director.

They were upfront that they didn’t have any open recs, but did expect them later in the year. There was interest in bringing another clinician to the product team, and I had value as being an end-user of the software. Once a spot opened up in early February of 2022, they reached out and I went through the application and interview process.

Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the job?

I revised my resume and tried to highlight any past experiences that I had with software, leadership, and anything I could apply to the product world.

Some of the things I highlighted:

  • That I was a super-user for a new EMR that was implemented at a hospital I worked at.
  • My extensive volunteer leadership experience.
  • Important projects that I oversaw or managed through my career.

How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?

I have people reach out multiple times per week to have a conversation about moving into product. I get those requests both internally and through LinkedIn, and usually have calls two to three times per week.

What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you? What types of tasks and responsibilities fill your time?

It’s a mix of many things:

  • Prioritization work
  • Meeting with stakeholders
  • Setting expectations
  • Reviewing product backlog
  • Managing multiple projects
  • Communicating with multiple stakeholders, internal users, product colleagues, etc.

I also read various trades to stay on top of market trends.

What are some of the rewards of your role? What are the biggest challenges?

I like seeing the tangible results. During my time in a clinical role, that was the most rewarding. For example, seeing a hemiparetic CVA patient begin to move an UE and seeing their excitement.

I still consider myself new to the product world, and I know I have a lot to learn. I want to be a great PM to support my products and my team. There are always learning experiences, and I’m perfectly fine as long as I’m failing forward.

How did your clinical background prepare you for this role? Which skills transferred?

I think there are a lot of parallels between a product manager and a therapist. We evaluate a patient/product, formulate a treatment plan/solution, test our treatment plan/solution, and then continually make adjustments when necessary.

Working through a treatment plan and a product lifecycle is a similar process, so I think a therapist makes a good product team member.

Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to patient care?

Significantly better. I get holidays off and also receive annual bonuses if I meet my goals. There is also a lot of flexibility with the role, which I like.

What type of person do you think would do well in your role?

Key traits are being detail-oriented and having great time management skills. You should be a people person, have a good personality, and be effective when delivering good or bad news.

Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?

My last company, Optum/naviHealth, has OTs, PTs, SLPs, and RNs that are part of the clinical review team. There are also a few clinicians on the product team.

Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?

There are a number of blogs, books, and websites that anyone interested in product can access. LinkedIn has Product School, Medium is a good resource, and Inspired by Marty Cagan is a well-known product book.

What is next for you? What are your high-level career aspirations?

I love the start-up world and entrepreneurship. I’m excited about my new role at a smaller company. There will be a lot of opportunity for professional growth within the company and a PM role.

What would you teach to today’s graduate students in your profession, if you had the opportunity?

Start building your network while you are in grad school. Most people in the therapy world are pretty open to connecting and having conversations.

Whenever I speak to a group of students, that is the most important advice I give them, and I’ve been doing that since I was president of the TNOTA.

Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?

Commitment requires persistence. Figure out what you want to do and know that you are going to run into roadblocks.

Whether you’re in a product, customer success, sales, or any other non-clinical role, this holds true. We have a unique skill set that translates to multiple roles outside of the clinical world.

There are a lot of people who’ve made a transition and don’t hesitate to reach out to them! If they don’t respond, find another person you’d like to connect with.

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