How many people get to say …

About three months ago, I left a job that I had been at for 21 years. In this day and age of rapid turnover of workers, especially in the technology fields, 21 years is a lifetime. As I have described in previous posts, it was during these years that I truly put my combined skills of medicine and software development to use, and created an electronic medical record (EMR) system that I am truly and greatly proud of.

I can honestly say that there is nothing on the market that matches its functionality and ease of use, specifically for my former employer. It was a custom tool based on a huge foundation of my own ideas and vision. When I recently described my principles for the design of an effective EMR, I based these on my 11 year experience of designing my own system. And I am also proud to say that I received very positive feedback.

So, after 21 years, why would I leave? It wasn’t a salary issue, per se. It wasn’t the people, per se. I still believe, actually, that my former employer has the potential to provide a level of healthcare which would be revolutionary in this country.

People don’t get to use that word – “revolutionary” – very often. We all start out young, with our hopes and dreams, and march forward into the business world, assuming a relatively easy victory. These days, it seems as if companies and specifically startups are having tremendous success across the board. One almost gets the impression that all you have to do is rent some space, get some computers, write up a demo version of your application, and then the money just starts flowing in. In fact, there are a number of major players who are openly stating that the present trend of investment in startups is not sustainable. But that is a topic for another post.

I have been a consultant to various investors and investor groups and I personally interviewed multiple teams, each presenting their ideas and start up status. I can honestly say that the majority of the ideas presented were excellent. The presenters themselves were well-educated and well-versed in software and hardware design.

But then, the moment of truth would arrive. We would begin to look at the numbers, specifically potential market, projected costs, time to first version for distribution or amount of sales to date, other potential sources of investment and much more. At times, it truly seemed as if the only way for a start up to get significant funds for further development, was to already have an investor who had put in a significant amount of money as well as serious sales (which makes it very difficult for the “man with a plan” but no established company). It seemed that for most startups, finding initial investors was near impossible.

After the interview and review of the market analysis and funding, we would often tell the startup representatives that there was still a lot of “homework” to do. Most times, I could see their faces fall. It was so evident to them that their product would fly off the shelves [either virtual or real shelves] and they clearly felt that only a fool would pass up the opportunity to get in at the ground level. More so, there was often the expectation on the part of the start up team that the value of the start up was far more than the investor team had calculated. There’s really no other way to put it but to say that the startup market is brutal. A reader of my blog posts once commented that the start up world was a crusher of dreams. And I think that is very accurate.

So we return to my situation. Why did I quit? I had a steady job with a steady salary working for a company with potential. I have to tread very carefully here because I do not, in any way or form, wish to minimize the amazing people that I worked with. Suffice it to say that the reason I left, was that I felt that my naïve vision for my previous company was not being realized.

Naïve, in my case, does not mean immature or silly or impractical. I personally have a very black and white attitude towards most of the things in my life. When I give of myself to an idea or principle, I give the most I can. There are consequences to living in such a way and with such a work attitude. My family can attest to that. But I didn’t care. I was working toward something grander than myself. I was an architect working on building Camelot. How many people get to say that?

So what did I achieve by leaving. As minor as this may sound, I wanted to make a statement. I’ve known other people who made statements. They would often stand on the top of soapboxes in the middle of some large park and scream out for all to hear how they have the solution to all of the world’s woes. Interestingly, people who wish to make a statement are actually large in number, but the number of them who actually do it, is relatively small.

I personally am very fortunate. Actually, I am extremely fortunate to have received tremendous support from my wife and mother. I am building up a list of clients who appreciate my skill set. Thankfully, I am busy with new projects, and all is good in the world again. In fact, my clients are also looking to improve healthcare. So I still get to follow my dream of being part of a solution for improving the quality of health care in Israel.

And what of Camelot? Does it remain? Have its walls been broken through? Truth is, I don’t know yet. Time will tell. There is a marvelous movie called “Kingdom of Heaven”. It tells the (hollywood version of the) story of the Crusades when the Muslims eventually took Jerusalem from the Christians (who had previously taken it from the Muslims … you get the idea). At one point, the question is raised as to the sense in all of this battle. And the answer is “If it (the Kingdom of Heaven – peace amongst nations in Jerusalem) lives only for a while, it still has lived”. I think we all should find our Camelots and strive to build them. But in this world, Camelot lives for a time and eventually falls. But while it lives, it can do amazing things. And once again, how many people get to say that they did amazing things in their life?

Thanks for listening

About the Author
Dr. Nahum Kovalski received his bachelor's of science in computer science and his medical degree in Canada. He came to Israel in 1991 and married his wife of 22 years in 1992. He has 3 amazing children and has lived in Jerusalem since making Aliyah. Dr. Kovalski was with TEREM Emergency Medical Services for 21 years until June of 2014, and is now a private consultant on medicine and technology.
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