Meet a Dragon: Alona May
Meet Alona May, Komodo's Commercial Data Strategy Senior Manager. She shares her pivotal career changes, data detective work, and passion for cultivating supportive communities in the workplace.
You started your career as a clinical research nurse. How did your experience in nursing prepare you for your experience at Komodo?
I started off as a clinical research nurse at a large cancer hospital where I was responsible for administering the chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and experimental treatments for patients in Phase 1–3 clinical trials. The role was fascinating because we conducted many first-in-human trials; however, we continuously faced the same challenge: the lack of technological advancement in the healthcare industry was impacting our efficiency. For instance, our standard-of-care interventions were documented in the hospital EMR; however, study data was collected on paper and managed in a separate system. I quickly realized we could make small process changes using technology – like Excel spreadsheets – to help expedite our administrative work so that we could get back to what matters most: seeing our patients.
That experience ignited my passion for health tech, and as a result I decided to pursue a Master of Health Informatics at the University of Toronto. From there, I went into healthcare consulting. When a job opportunity arose at Komodo, I was so excited that I decided to move from Canada to San Francisco, a city I had only visited once! I decided to change my whole life, but it was worth it for this full-circle moment: in my first year at Komodo, I helped a customer launch a medication whose clinical trial I’d been involved in years before!
Being a nurse prepared me for working at Komodo by giving me a deep appreciation for the people who are ultimately impacted by our business: patients. That is something I keep in the front of my mind with every decision I make.
Tell us about your journey here at Komodo. What drove you to move into data strategy after starting as a Customer Success Manager?
I started as a Customer Success Manager (CSM) on the West Coast, where we had a small but mighty team of just four people. It was like being a startup within a startup, making it a perfect growth opportunity. I always say, “I feel like I grew a second brain on the Customer Success team because I learned so much.” Prior to the role, my background was more on the Clinical and Medical Affairs side, so being a CSM really pushed me to learn about how to be a meaningful thought partner for commercial customers. It really opened my eyes to all the powerful applications we could have in the sector and made me realize that I have a real passion for data strategy.
And now you've been on the Commercial Data Strategy team for a little over a year. Can you tell us about what that role entails?
I like to think of the Commercial Data Strategy (CDS) Team as being like The Beatles (except none of us are Ringo… okay maybe I am the Ringo of the group). We are all individuals with unique experiences and expertise in the healthcare industry who come together (see what I did there?) to empower and support our field-facing teams in evangelizing the value of Komodo’s Healthcare Map. Our team culture definitely subscribes to the gestalt theory.
One of the most impactful aspects of the CDS team is that it’s a highly tenured team. In a team of four, we collectively have 85+ years of industry experience. Our presence on a call can help bring instant industry value to our customers. We can speak the strange legacy data language, translate, and ultimately bridge the gap between the old world of data aggregators and the new world of data at Komodo.
What are your favorite things about working at Komodo?
There are so many! One of the biggest has been how much support I’ve received to pursue my passions - particularly as a person who has many ideas that go in many different directions. I get to work with incredible mentors every day and I’ve never felt more supported in my personal and professional goals than I do at Komodo.
You helped introduce Dragon Pride last year. What was it like to bring this group together and kick it off, and how has it progressed in the last year or so?
When we were still in the San Francisco office, I sat next to Connor Lohman, who is now my co-chair for this group. We often chatted about how Komodo has amazing initiatives and how great it would be to have a designated space for the LGBTQIA+ community and allies. When COVID hit, we realized there is no better time than the present, so off we went to launch Dragon Pride! The group is designed to be Dragon run, so members are trusted to create their own activities aligned with our values.
Our latest speaker events really reflect that mindset. Dragons have brought in mentors and colleagues they admire to speak about their experiences and clinical research. Each session has been incredible thus far and I can’t wait for more!
So you helped start Dragon Pride, and are also involved in Varanidae. What’s driven you to get so involved in these “extracurriculars” beyond your day-to-day data strategy role?
When I was in high school, I was that annoying kid who was on every committee and my personality hasn’t changed one bit! Seriously though, there’s something incredibly valuable about having a designated space and community where you can advocate for the causes you believe in. I’m also privileged to have incredible colleagues that share the same vision and I’m grateful that we can partner together in developing these groups.
It’s been awesome to see how both Dragon Pride and Varanidae have gained traction within the organization and how Dragons have used them as jumping-off points for all sorts of initiatives, such as our Varanidae mentorship program. It’s been really rewarding.
What’s been the biggest pandemic-sparked change to your life?
I used to travel all the time for in-person meetings so, in many ways, my life is a lot less hectic now than it was a year and a half ago. And while there have been challenges adapting to pandemic life, I gained a lot of perspective from being a frontline nurse. I can’t compare any big challenges I faced while working on slide decks in my pj's at home to the incredible heroism of my HCP colleagues during a global pandemic.