Reformed Litigator | WTR 24

Reformed Litigator | WTR 24

Darci is a former health attorney that is now assisting in the healthcare extraction of rules and regulations to the electronic age.

Direct Download:

MP3 Audio | OGG Audio | Video | HD Video | YouTube

RSS Feeds:

MP3 Feed | OGG Feed | iTunes Feed | Video Feed

Become a supporter on Patreon:


Show Notes:

Full transcription of previous episodes can be found below or also at


ANGELA: This is Womens’ Tech Radio.
PAIGE: A show on the Jupiter Broadcasting Network interviewing interesting women in technology. Exploring their roles and how they’re successful in technology careers. I’m Paige.
ANGELA: And I’m Angela.
PAIGE: So, Angela, today we’re interviewing Darci Freedman and she works at the same company as me. She’s actually my bosses’ boss, so it’s pretty fun to get her on and talk about the awesome ways the company was founded , and how we’ve involved women right from the get go and all the kind of cool things we do as a company.
ANGELA: Yes indeed. It is a good interview. But, before we get into it, I just want to mention that you can support this network and this show by going to I think our lowest subscription, and you might be able to go lower, but our lowest subscription is $3.00 a month, and that supports all the shows on the network. It keeps us up and going. We have a lot of technology podcast, other ones, that you can check out in addition to Women’s Tech Radio, and just show your support for the show there.
PAIGE: And we got started with the interview today by asking Darci what her role is at the company.
DARCI: I manage a team of about a dozen people who handle the acquisition of content for a proprietary platform that is targeted towards non-legal regulatory professionals in the compliance arena. So, a lot of big data.
ANGELA: Wow, that is a title. That’s great.
PAIGE: Yeah.
ANGELA: That says a lot and nothing at the same time.
DARCI: I know.
PAIGE: And it’s so beautifully jargonized.
ANGELA: It is, yes. That’s exactly.
PAIGE: So, for full disclosure for everybody on the show, Darci is actually one of my bosses, and so we work for the same company. And I am one of those people that she managers in her awesome way to help acquire this content — although, you make it sound like we’re pirates. I know of like it. We’re going to acquire content.
PAIGE: Which we’re not.
ANGELA: I know.
P; We use open government data to do this awesome work.
PAIGE: So, I know Darci, that you have kind of an interesting non-traditional story. You are actually not a technical person by background. What is your actual background?
DARCI: All right, here it is. It’s interesting. I’m an attorney. I am a former litigator. Actually, the way I say it is I’m a reformed litigator. Which, if you were a legal audience you’d be laughing hysterically at. But, I was a health lawyer, and basically I had the corporate job where the hours were enormous and the time commitment was just huge, and it just took a huge chunk out of me personally to do that. And I was, you know, I really enjoyed it, but after I had my first child I just really didn’t see how it was going to jive practicing and that level of commitment, and kind of the drain on me personally and in my personal life with how I wanted to raise my child. So, I actually stopped working for eight months after I had my first child. And I didn’t do anything. And that wa really weird.
PAIGE: Except be a parent, which is a full-time job.
ANGELA: Which is enough.
DARCI: Well, right. Yes. I didn’t do anything for air quotes “work”. Of course, I was doing a ton at home with my son and I had a kind of extreme situation with his birth, but when I started thinking I would like to get back to my intellectual pursuits and start something professionally, I had a relationship with somebody and he had a startup company. It was in the health arena. He said, why don’t you come work for us and start doing some writing. You know, you’re a subject matter expert in this area, come on and do some writing. And so, that’s how i started. I actually worked with a couple of other attorneys at this startup and anybody in startup experience knows, it’s kind of all hands on deck. You go in, you’re not in a defined role. You throw in any help you can render in any way that is needed at the given moment. And so, I started learning about the platform. How we acquired content for it. And things just kind of snowballed from there.
PAIGE: So this was a tech startup that you got involved with?
DARCI: Yes, and then it was later — I think it was 2007 we were acquired by a large Dutch based publishing company and, you know, I’ve been at the company for almost a dozen years now, and it’s been really interesting time to watch publishing and traditional print-based communications and tools, and the transformation of that into electronic products and workflow tools. So, we kind of — we were this startup that was acquired by this big publishing company, and we really pushed the envelope, because we didn’t have this huge project plan with dates planned out for ten years. That’s just not how we operated. And we really kind of were — we were known in the beginning as a bit of rabble rousers, because we didn’t conform to this kind of corporate ideal, and the normal way that a publishing company did things.
PAIGE: It’s almost like you got to come on — you know, we talk about technical debt, and it’s almost like the other company had publishing debt.
DARCI: They did, and they still do. I think most publishing companies are still working to move towards electronic, but to me print was something that I had only done in my legal background and it was not something that I did at this startup. We were all electronic. Indeed, the person who founded the company had another company — another startup at a different point in time, and he was the first person to put the federal register, which is this huge daily document that the federal government puts out that says here are the laws, and rules, and regulations from all of these agencies for the day. And that used to be only in print. I mean, just huge rainforest that were killed publishing that. And he put that federal register online in electronic form, and so he was very innovative. And he had this fabulous model, which was exactly in tune with what I wanted. He thought, there are all these really, really talented technical and non-technical women that want to raise families, and want to have a great work life balance, and he hired them. And he hired them into all of these different kind of scenarios. You could work from home, you could be in the office, you could work at night, you could work during the day when your children were sleeping if you were at home watching them. And he really capitalized on a lot of talent that otherwise really didn’t have an outlet or a place to go.
PAIGE: I didn’t know that actually. That’s really fantastic. So, do you think that made a huge difference with the way the company was kind of founded and got started, like to have that flexibility, but also to have that female talent onboarded so easily?
DARCI: It absolutely did. And I benefited from that model, and it is exactly how I operate today. In fact, I think when I came on board, other the actual founder of the company, I don’t think that there was — there was only one other man. Everybody else was a woman, and they were all over the country. At that time I think it was Denver Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire. Texas, and that is still the way I operate today. I just want people that are really talented. And there are a lot of really talented women out there, but here are these kind of barriers that we bump into.
ANGELA: Right, Paige briefly kind of talked to me about what you guys do, and it definitely applies to me, or applied to me, I guess. I worked in the medical industry for a while and I got to learn the retail side of it. What we would do is we would go onto like the DSHS website and print out these massive fee schedules, like you said, a forest, you know?
ANGELA: And everybody would have one at their desk. We had these desktop things where you could hole punch and then slide sections in, and it would be about 12 inches long full of all these different things. And we’d have to tab the pages, and of course, they release a new one almost every quarter. How does what you guys do change that?
DARCI: Well, in the beginning, because your example is right on. Fee schedules, code boos, that’s right up our alley. We have a whole line of coding and reimbursement products. I actually have to fight against that type of historical perspective on a daily basis. This just happened to me yesterday. I will literally have people that scan and PDF pages of the hard copy code book and send it to me and say, it doesn’t look like this. We need to make it look like this. These are people that I work with in the products that we’re developing. And I have to say, no we’re not trying to make — the online electronic experience in looking at a book, you have to move away from the antiquated notion that all you’ve done is take the book and put it up online. I mean, that’s a PDF.
ANGELA: Right.
DARCI: That’s very different from a workflow tool. A book that is in electronic format that you can actually use. So, that’s something we’re constantly struggling with. And the way that we kind of get — I push the envelope. We ask those questions. Why? Why would I reproduce exactly what’s in the book?
ANGELA: Right.
DARCI: I mean, unfortunately I have to buy — I buy those books so that I can say, but yeah look, this is — it doesn’t work the way they’ve set it up. Let’s restructure or modify some of the meta tagging so that we get search results in a certain way, and kind of get people away from the notion of, oh the book is electronic, it’s online, but it should be exactly the same as the hard copy.
ANGELA: Right, well to support that, what we’d have to do, specifically if we were shipping diapers. There’s a lot of age restrictions and quantity restrictions on that on a monthly basis. But also ,certain ICD-9 codes have to be used with it, and then that determines — and then also HCPCS codes. So, you have to use the fee schedule, the ICD-9 book and the — you know, so having an online resource — none of them say — the ICD-9 code doesn’t say, you also need to choose this HCPCS code with it, or this quantity limitation. What I did, which is like sudo what you guys do, is I modified our proprietary software so that it had identifier codes that would automatically tell the customer service rep, hey it has to be this diagnosis, or hey it’s this quantity. You know, you can’t have more than 150 or whatever. So, I tried and I made a cheat sheet that combined all three of those resources that really helped streamline then. But, I am super excited. I really want to check out your product now, because I think it could really help. I still have a relationship with that former employer.
PAIGE: That’s hilarious. You just named three of the things that make my head hurt, because I go in and I’m the person that does all the interlinking between ICD-9 codes and HCPCS and our current regulations.
ANGELA: Oh my gosh, yeah.
DARCI: It’s a lot. We do have a set of tools and a set of reimbursement calculators that we’ve developed that work, as Paige just indicated, in conjunction with the more explanatory material you might read out of the code book.
ANGELA: Right.
DARCI: ANd so, we put in different elements in the UI that flag things for folks.
ANGELA: Exactly. Right.
DARCI: So, you know, a little red flag, literally. If you want to code this, you have to think about this. It’s extremely complicated. I will tell you, I had — this is something that I fight against a lot. It’s really interesting. I have really, really talented developer types that we work with and we’re doing a revamp of some of those tools and calculators. We have a database fellow that, I mean, he knows the ins and outs of Medicare and Medicaid and all of — you know, ICD-9, ICD-10, HCPCS, CPT. I mean, he just knows it. He has a subject matter expertise, and then he’s a database guy. We hired him specifically because of that expertise. He was getting in pulled in all of these other directions and I kept hitting a wall. I kept saying to these folks, you know, we need this fellow back to work on these products. He was hired for this. Oh, we have other database folks. They’re used to working with really complicated data. They can dig into it. And we exposed it to them and they were like, wow the health care Medicare, Medicaid, medical coding, reimbursement payment is extremely complicated, and they backed right off and said wow you really do need to oftentimes have some underlying subject matter expertise in order to handle this type of data.
ANGELA: Yep. And I know, I worked on a federal grant in King County for a little while, here in Washington, called New Freedom. I was actually the pioneering purchasing agent for that. I would meet with the people going on to the program and try to figure out what they should their government dollars to make them more independent. That was the new freedom part. It was really hard, because I had come from mainly the retail side of things. Not necessarily services. And now I could offer a wide range of, you know, they could hydrotherapy or massage, different things. And it was so hard to find the fee schedules and know that I had the right one and figure out what they could get covered and not have to use their dollars for.
PAIGE: We’ve kind of talked about two different angles of your job. You work with a publishing company and you work in the medical field. Which of the two do you think it’s been harder to drag into technology?
DARCI: I would say publishing, without a doubt. And the reason for that is simply financial. For Medicare and Medicaid, the government has — generally, when they make a change and they want a program or a payment system to go electronic and be more modern in that sense, they do incentive programs. So, we will pay you more if you move in this direction. And then, they have a period of time that’s kind of — then the incentive payment goes away and if you aren’t where you need to be from an electronic perspective, you will get a penalty. So, that’s how they do it. So, they’ve been — providers and folks in health care industry payers/payees, they’ve been motivated by dollars. Publishing, I think it took them a long time to wake up to the fact that they weren’t going to be able to sale books on paper forever. I mean, really.
PAIGE: Yeah, I have to say, being in some of the meetings I’ve been in, it was really surprising to me that meetings this year people are still talking about growing the print publishing business.
ANGELA: Mm-hmm.
DARCI: Mm-hmm. I know that our company has made it a decisive part of their BDP to move from print to electronic. The dollars show that that’s where you need to be. And not just electronic, right? So, we need to move beyond, you know, I tend — we all fall prey to using these terms, but not just electronic, to workflow tools. Things that you can — that just integrate into your job and make it easier. So, that’s where we hope to be headed. There are a lot of barriers there, but there are some really good things that have been going on too. We — Paige, not on the team you’re on directly, but on some of the other teams that I manage, we have started with agile scrum and that’s helped a lot. That’s helped a lot and brought us a lot forward with development activities, but you still run into some walls with management who want a nice waterfall timeline.
ANGELA: Speaking of, what is Paige’s work ethic. No, I’m just kidding. I thought I’d slide that in there somewhere.
PAIGE: That was very subtle.
ANGELA: Yeah, I know, right?
DARCI: Well, you know, so here, I will kind of indirectly respond to that. We are a thin and trim team of people, and we handle a huge volume of data compared to some of our counterparts in other parts of the company. We may have been rabble rousers initially, but when you look at our bottom line in terms of the number of people that we have on the team and the actual content that they process, the volume of data is just huge compared to some of the other parts of the company that really get bogged down in process. So, to that end, we are a highly producing team and it’s because of the people. I really think it’s because they have a lot of flexibility. I always say when I’m hiring somebody, you need to have some core business hours that you’re available for meetings and whatever else, but I’m flexible. You can work when you want. You can work the hours that you want. We have some of those mad programer types who are working at 2:00 a.m. and that’s when they’re beautiful stuff is outputted. And then we have others who keep to a more traditional schedule, but I think that in part it’s that flexibility. That recognition of creativity. Which, I think people don’t often think goes along with a tech role or a tech background. I think they think of some person in front of a keyboard and all these white numbers running up on the screen, but there’s a lot of creatively in tech and I think you just kind of have to let that happen and out of it these amazing things come. That’s what I think of my team and everybody who’s on it.
PAIGE: Yeah, the flexibility at the company is what keeps me creative, keeps me going, so I totally agree. I think being a modern facing company and having a remote workforce and managing it so well has been an amazing experience for me to be part of. I wasn’t sold on remote work before, but now it’s part of my life.
DARCI: I think ten years ago, I mean I was working remotely ten years ago. I think that now — ten years ago people used to say, working you have to manage that and not everybody can work remotely. Everybody can work remotely. You just have to have management and a team that are in communication and that’s all you really need. There’s a lot of to-do that’s often made about remote teams. A lot of that is logistics, and I don’t really think that people need to be in an office, as long as you’ve got the open lines of communication going. I think then you’re good.
ANGELA: What tool do you use most to keep in communication with your team?
DARCI: For development purposes we use VersionOne for all of our tracking of our backlog items. It has a conversation tool and we use that, I would say primarily.
PAIGE: And VersionOne, for people who don’t know, is an agile software development process management tool.
ANGELA: Is it the number 1 or spelled out? Do you know? Number 1?
DARCI: Oh, it is spelled out.
PAIGE: It is spelled out, yeah.
ANGELA: You had a 50/50 chance there Paige.
DARCI: I think it’s all –
PAIGE: It’s bookmarked on my browser.
DARCI: I think it’s all one word too with the –
PAIGE: Yeah, VersionOne.
DARCI: And then, of course, we use some of the other chat type of tools. But I would say in VersionOne there’s a lot of conversation that happens in that tool. There’s a dedicated kind of team meeting room that you can design and we use that quite actively.
PAIGE: My team uses Skype a lot.
DARCI: Yeah.
PAIGE: So, Darci, we’ve talked some about being the small lean machine team inside the bigger company, and being kind of originally founded as a women’s centric company. Have you found transitioning into the bigger company with kind of it’s more traditional setup with gender norms difficult or have you had any pushback there?
DARCI: It’s a yes and no answer. The head of our company is a woman. The head of the business unit that I’m in is a woman, but those aren’t per se the tech parts of the organization. So, from that perspective that’s really heartening that I work for a company where the CEO is a woman, and the lead in my business unit is also a woman. And there are several other women in key roles. Not as much in the technical part of the company. And that’s been a little bit disheartening. We had kind of a restructuring in the last few years, and I remember my first exposure to the more kind of technical unit that kind of came out of that. And going into a meeting and being very exciting and having the head of that put up a slide deck so that we could see who all of his people were. And I just remember thinking, wow that’s pretty white, and that’s pretty male, and middle aged. It was really a little off-putting. So, we’re working to change that. I have a lot of really talented people on my team that I can see moving up through the ranks that I try to get a lot of exposure to. I think that’s one of the things that I really try — I try to do it for my entire team, is really get them exposure to the other parts of the company and other technical groups and organizations in the company, so that they can hopefully rise up through the ranks. But I think there are unfortunately some barriers there. I’ve experienced them myself. Sometimes they’re really subtle. Sometimes they’re more overt, like an org chart that reveals that it’s just all men.
PAIGE: What would an example of a subtle one look like?
DARCI: Actually, it just happened fairly recently. Basically we had — there was a technical issue with a resource and he was being kind of cross-utilized and we needed him on something, and he was supposed to be a dedicated resource to our project. Myself and my business counterpart, who happens to be a woman, reached out to our appropriate chain of command and flagged the issue. Ended up in a telephone call with a bunch of other senior level managers and myself and the other person who had raised the issue. And I got on the phone and it was just one of these conversations where it started — you know, it’s a very subtle thing. It’s actually been in the news a lot lately, this notion of subtle prejudice or subtle sexism. The Google conference that they had where their CEO kept interrupting their CTO, and he did that much more than he interrupted anybody else on the panel. It was kind of one of the things like that. They weren’t aware of the nomenclature and the tone with which they were handling the conversation. And it was — instead of it actually being an issue, it was let’s get on the phone ladies and let’s talk about the facts. Let’s try to tone down the emotion. It was that kind of tone to the whole conversation.
DARCI: And I just kept getting angrier and angrier as the conversation went on, because I thought, I don’t understand what’s going on here. I have a valid issue based in hard numbers that I can show to you. I”m not being emotional. You know, it was that kind of thing. And i called them out on it. I instilled a lot of panic in the few moments that I called them out on it, but I just said I need to raise your attention to an issue, and I don’t know if you’re aware of what you’re doing here. Here’s what you’re doing. You’re starting the conversation off saying that we need to talk in facts. Somehow suggesting that the two women on the phone and the issue that they have raised is not fact based, it’s more emotion based. And then you’re using language like that. I think we were described on the phone as acting like the walking wounded and needing to tone things down and rachet back the rhetoric. All of these kind of phrases and terms that you would — I just was like okay, it’s not 1920.
ANGELA: Right, meant to knock you down a peg.
DARCI: Right. Do you realize what you’re doing? And I had calls — of course they freaked out right, because I called them on it. I had a couple of good calls afterwards with the individuals that were on the phone. One, who was very thoughtful and said I didn’t realize what I was doing, but I have four daughters and they’re just starting their careers, and I want to understand where you’re coming from and what you’re thinking, explain it to me. And we had a really great conversation. The other person, I think, that i had a conversation with, he thinks of himself as a lot more involved than he actually is — tried to tell me that that’s how he always runs his calls.
ANGELA: Oh my goodness.
DARCI: And if I’m on a call with other folks, I will see that they are run indeed the same way.
PAIGE: Well, either way, regardless of if you’re a woman or not, that’s not a great way to handle a call.
DARCI: I agree. I agree, but it definitely had that related to kind of patronizing and you guys are emotional and you can’t really handle this kind of thing. I was like, whoa what is going on here? So, even in a company that is trying to evolve, those kinds of things happen. To me, the most important way to handle those things is to call people out on it. I think we have developed in some way this culture that — where you get this negative backlash for saying anything, right? And I’m just not going to be a part of that. If I feel uncomfortable with the way something is going down, I’m going to let you know.
PAIGE: If you see something say something, right?
DARCI: Yeah, exactly.
PAIGE: No, I totally — it’s the biggest problem with privileges. You don’t understand that you have privilege if you have it.
DARCI: Right.
PAIGE: The only way to see it is to not have it.
ANGELA: Right. Or to be called on it.
PAIGE: Yeah, that’s — exactly.
DARCI: Yeah.
ANGELA: Perspective shift.
PAIGE: It’s our responsibility too to participate in the conversation. We can’t just sit back and say we wish things were different.
ANGELA: Right.
DARCI: Absolutely. I think it’s really important — I have these two little — I ended up with two sons, and a male dog, and two male cats, and my husband.
ANGELA: Oh my gosh.
DARCI: So it’s like the alpha-male. I work really hard in trying to call their attention to these kinds of things. Even if it’s just really simple language things.
ANGELA: Thank you for listening to this episode of Women’s Tech Radio. Remember, you can go to and from there you can do the show dropdown and find all the Women’s Tech Radio shows. You can also use the contact form to contact us directly, or you can email us
PAIGE: The Jupiter Broadcasting website also has our RSS feed or you can find us on iTunes. We’re also for transcripts of the show, or you can follow us on Twitter @heywtr.

Question? Comments? Contact us here!