Getting Ahead

This Software Engineer Is Using Code to Help People Heal From Chronic Pain (and Her Team Is Hiring!)

person standing outside wearing a red coat and brown winter hat
Sona Beilarava, a senior software engineer at Hinge Health.
| Courtesy of Hinge Health

Sona Beilarava’s parents expected her to follow in their footsteps and pursue a medical career. Her mom is a nurse, and her dad (and his extended family) are all doctors. But her passion for math led her to a software engineering path instead.

After graduating from Belarusian National Technical University, Beilarava landed a job at a big consulting firm. One of her projects happened to be an app for a health-tech startup. “I suddenly understood why almost every member of my family decided to work in healthcare,” she recalls. “I also realized that code can help improve people’s health. And that blew my mind.”

A few years later, Beilarava and her partner moved to the United States, where she couldn’t shake her desire to work in a health-focused sector of the tech industry. Her partner came across a job posting at Hinge Health, an all-digital clinic for joint and back pain. After doing some research, Beilarava says, “I had no doubt that I wanted to join this team. And here I am.”

Here, Beilarava shares what she loves best about the company culture, how women engineers can create a supportive network, and why working in healthcare tech is so rewarding.

What attracted you to work in tech, and specifically at Hinge Health?

I genuinely enjoy architecting, making, changing, and leading technical solutions. My other passion is learning, and the tech industry provides tons of educational opportunities. During the interviewing process for Hinge Health’s position, I had a chance to meet the team and ask questions about company processes and culture. I discussed technologies and solutions with the team and was happy to learn how passionate they were about the company and the product they make. It is imperative to be surrounded by people who share my obsession with building solid and long-lasting solutions.

What are you responsible for in your role?

My team’s work is focused on building a tool that would allow physical therapists to set up individualized exercise programs for users. As a backend engineer, I’m responsible for the data and getting it from the client application into the database and back in a secure, quick, and reliable way.

What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?

The company and its user base are growing at an unprecedented rate, and the backend systems should be ready to handle that growth. So we’re currently rebuilding the core of the system in a way that would let us efficiently scale up to meet demand. My team’s tool will allow us to increase the number of users eligible to use Hinge Health. I believe the product we’re building can change people’s lives for the better, and the idea of making it more widely available inspires me.

Why should software engineers consider working for a health company like Hinge Health?

Even though working with a health-focused company requires more responsibility, it is an absolute pleasure to read testimonials from our users. Seeing real stories from people who were able to improve their lives after many years of chronic pain finally gives a clear understanding of why you are waking up and coming to work every day. And you still get all the benefits of working in a traditional tech company, too!

What do you like best about the company culture?

Hinge Health workers care. I like that people are passionate about what they do and find the best ways to do it. I also like the communication culture here. Another thing is the work-life balance: Despite having many balls in the air, people understand the importance of taking time off to recharge. Rest is essential during times like these when we all are locked up in our homes.

What does it take to succeed as a software engineer at Hinge Health?

Working in a hyper-growing company means developing quick, high-quality solutions. And that’s only possible when you have good communication culture, especially during the pandemic. In my opinion, having a good balance between focus-time and meetings is the key to success. We are working hard to find this balance and are adjusting our processes all the time and because of that, being flexible is also an essential part of being a software engineer at Hinge Health. We have to adjust our decisions to the ever-changing circumstances of hyper-growth quickly.

What has been the key to your success working in an industry where women are often underrepresented?

Luckily enough, the companies I’ve worked with so far all had strong equality culture. Even though I didn’t have many women among my coworkers, I never felt uncomfortable or discriminated against. I hope that my “lucky” work record in engineering will soon become the norm and won’t be considered exceptional or outstanding. This is possible if tech companies focus on making engineering more attractive and accessible to women. At Hinge Health, we have a Women’s Employee Resource Group. We’re brainstorming and achieving new ways to promote gender equality and improve women’s situation in our company and tech in general.

What advice do you have for women looking to follow a similar career path as yours?

In my experience, the engineering community is welcoming, both in Eastern Europe and here in the U.S. Participating in conferences and meetups helps to build a professional network and learn a lot of good stuff. I’d recommend being curious and asking questions. You’ll be surprised how many people will be happy to help. For beginners, I'd advise joining the Women Who Code community. After moving to the states, I didn’t know where to start building my career, and I found it helpful to participate in meetups hosted by the group. Seeing lots of empowered women sharing their stories in tech was extremely inspiring.