Tiffany Shubert is senior product manager at Relias

Senior Product Manager – Tiffany Shubert

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Today’s spotlight features Tiffany Shubert, a physical therapist who works as a senior product manager at a healthcare training and performance company.

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What is your full name and title at your current job?

Tiffany E. Shubert, PT, MPT, PhD
Senior Product Manager, Relias

Where are you located? 

Chapel Hill, NC

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

UC San Francisco/San Francisco State University, 1997, MPT

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

I worked for Kaiser Permanente in their San Francisco outpatient clinic; I saw all types of patients in the outpatient setting.

Kaiser was doing individual treatments as well as group classes in the late 90s, so I was exposed to many ways of treating patients. I worked outpatient full time for 3 years and then part-time for 17 years.

What did you do after that, and for how long?

I transitioned to a project manager position for a research study and then applied for a PhD program

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

I loved treating patients and solving problems. 

However, I felt that treating a single problem was too limiting, meaning that I felt I was not making a big enough impact.

When and why did you realize you wanted to do something non-clinical with your background?

About 5 years ago. I felt that I was not making the impact in the clinical or research setting that I wanted to make, so I decided to move into industry and use my knowledge base to inform product design and development. Many startups were making products for older adults without any clue of what an older adult would want or need to improve quality of life. 

How did you get into the world of product management?

For the last 1 ½ years I have been exploring the role of “Product Manager.” 

I started as a PM with a small startup, Wizeview, where I worked closely with a small team to develop a product to streamline the information collected in a home visit (not therapy-specific information). For example, the technology automated the collection of the client’s medications. You simply take a photo with your device of the medication. 

The information is uploaded to the cloud, analyzed by AI and then the medication list automatically generated. I worked closely with clients to understand the workflow and build out features that were high value. 

You’re using past tense…so, where are you working now? 

I then transferred these skills to a position as a senior product manager at Relias, an online education content company. In this role I work with rehabilitation organizations and individual practitioners (PT/OT/SLP/RT) and learn about their education and training needs and then develop courses, content, and features to meet those needs.

My days are filled with interviews, research, analysis, and more. 

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

Solely non-clinical, but I miss patient care. I would still see patients part-time, but I experienced a non-work related injury that has limited my ability to do patient care. 

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How long have you been in your current role?

I started this job at the beginning of 2020.

How did you find your job?

I was recruited on LinkedIn. 

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

This was a completely different recruitment process. Because I was recruited by an agency, I worked closely with that agency to determine what key information needed to be on my resume. It was important that I demonstrated depth and breadth of clinical experience along with product management skills. 

What was the interview like for the role?

I met with all stakeholders in my product. Because Relias is a large company, this ended up being about 10 people. I met with team members in my product line, the content team, marketing, sales, engineering, UX, and the head of the product group. 

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

No, though I participated in several entrepreneurial programs and have intentionally expanded my marketing and finance skills. 

How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?

People have been very supportive and excited that there are therapists who want to fill the gap in continuing education, in order to better the profession.

What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you?

Very busy! I try to spend 3-4 hours a day doing “discovery” work. 

  • Meeting with current clients, sitting in on sales calls with new clients, testing prototypes, doing market research to understand how changes in policy will impact practice, understanding the market forces on the profession, researching what the needs are of both clinicians, supervisors, and organizations and making sure our product meets those needs. 
  • Meeting with stakeholders across the organization and building relationships. 
  • Working with staff writers to help develop engaging and relative content. 

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

Challenges – Product requires building relationships and engaging stakeholders. The product team is small, and things get done through collaboration. This can be very frustrating when stakeholders are not aligned. Other challenges – Working with a lot of unknowns, figuring out how to assimilate a lot of information quickly, integrating financial information into product lines, working in a tight budget. 

Rewards – Opportunities to have a huge impact on the profession, opportunity to create great products that my colleagues love.

How do you think working as a PT prepared you for this role? Which skills transferred?  

Clinicians are the ultimate product managers—we work closely with a customer (patient) to identify their problem and collaborate on an effective solution for them. These skills have been essential to this role. 

Editor’s Note: Check out another spotlight on a clinical product manager.

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

Hours: probably slightly more than a staff clinician
Pay: more than a staff clinician; similar to a leadership position

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

  • Someone who has strong communication and collaboration skills
  • Someone who is detail oriented, but does not get lost in minutiae 
  • Someone who has strong analysis and communication skills and is willing to take risks 

Do you work remotely or on-site?

Trick question? The company is all remote right now (due to COVID), but when I took the position, it was to be an onsite role with the option of occasional work from home. 

Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles?

Yes! We hire rehab clinicians into all of the roles listed below.

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

Yes – I read the SVPG blog and the book Inspired and Empowered by SVPG group

I read “You Can’t Know it All” by Wanda Wallace and listen to her podcast – “Out of the Comfort Zone”

I took “Launch The Venture” entrepreneurship program, as well as the Collaborative Operating System basic training.

I also have used Pragmatic Marketing Foundations.

What is a typical career path for someone in your role?

There really is not a “typical” path to product management. Many of my co-workers are not clinicians. They built their skill sets from Client Management. 

The other common paths are people with marketing and design backgrounds or engineering. I don’t think it is so much about your title or training, but I do think it is a lot about your personality that makes you a good fit for this role. 

What is next for you? What do you want to do with your career long-term?

I want to build out my skill set to be stronger in market and financial analysis and also I want to take a coding course so I have a better understanding of how engineers solve problems.

I feel like so much technology is created for clinicians by people who do not truly understand the problems we face. The more clinicians we have in product management roles, the better the products will be. Ultimately, I would like a general product manager role where I mentor other PMs to create great things for our colleagues and our clients.

What would you recommend to someone who is considering going into a role like yours? 

I would say you know way more than you think you do and be confident and proud of the value you bring. 

What would you like to change most in your profession, and why?

I would like for the profession to truly be reimbursed for evidence-based practice. I find, in post-acute care and geriatrics, practice is dictated by reimbursement, not by evidence. 

Therapists are not incentivized to evaluate and treat the individual patient—they are incentivized to maximize reimbursement, and they need to do this in order to stay solvent. 

This has created incredible challenges to provide evidence-based, patient-centered, quality care, and it limits the ability of PTs to apply all of the science of best practices to clients. 

If you could give yourself one piece of career advice you wish you had during your PT school program, what would it be?

Be confident in my knowledge base and explore where my skill sets fit in.

If you could teach anything to today’s graduate students in your profession, what would it be?

The importance of documentation and to always question if you are being told to see every patient the same frequency and duration and do the same thing. 

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

Go for it!

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