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Joanna Peller, UK Health Lead, Palantir Technologies

What has been your path to power?

After growing up in Boston Massachusetts, I moved to the UK to study Mathematics at UCL. I began my career as a software engineer in commodities at Goldman Sachs. I joined Palantir as a forward deployed strategist in 2016, where I joined a team focused on manufacturing and supply chain solutions. In March 2020, I started work on helping the NHS deploy the Foundry platform to form a single source of truth for the Covid-19 response and power operational decisions across the organisation. I now lead our health work in the UK, which spans everything from vaccine supply chain optimisation to elective recovery and beyond. 

What impact has the pandemic had on demand from your clients?

Over the last two years, we’ve witnessed the toughest health crisis of modern times. The Covid-19 pandemic has not only changed the very nature of our work, it has changed the significance of our outcomes as well. While the heart of our health work has remained centred on improving patient lives, the pandemic has given this mission new meaning. 

 

In the UK, this meant that we needed to support the NHS in solving its largest peacetime logistical challenge as quickly as humanly possible. Local and national leadership needed the data infrastructure that would allow them to see the true picture of infection spread and critical care capacity. As I look towards the future of the healthcare sector, I have no doubt that data-driven decision making will become the foundation for improving patient outcomes. 

Do you get a seat at your clients’ strategic discussions? If not, what will it take to get you there?

As the healthcare industry continues to respond to unprecedented levels of change and demand, the integration of data, decisions and operations has become increasingly important to strategic planning. As a solution provider that’s often called upon to help our customers derive value from the data their organisation is already creating, we are invited to the strategy table to illustrate what’s possible. With Foundry, the time between having those strategic discussions and deriving value can be a few days, and sometimes a matter of hours.

 

Once our customers begin to witness how Foundry can transform their ability to leverage the resources already at their disposal, they begin to understand the magnitude of possibility. Our healthcare customers are so invested in enabling outcomes for their patients that they continue to find new problems to solve and we are very humbled that they choose to work with us to help solve them.

 

What are your key areas of focus for the business in 2022?

As we look ahead at 2022, our focus is simple: we want to continue to work with a broad range of healthcare and life science organisations to improve patient lives. It’s been a tremendous honour and privilege to work with partners like the NHS on projects that have been so critical to pandemic response. As the UK continues its pandemic response and begins to tackle its next set of challenges, we are focusing our efforts on partnerships with organisations that are at the forefront of innovating patient care. 

 

How do you apply your leadership skills a) within your own business and b) on behalf of your clients?

One of the mantras integral to Palantir’s culture is “the best idea wins.” I’ve found that in order for the best idea to win, it needs to exist in an environment that is inclusive and open to diversity of thought. It’s not something we can take for granted. I have a responsibility to my colleagues, and our customers, to identify opportunities to foster an inclusive approach to collaboration. 

 

Enabling this type of inclusive collaboration is an integral component of our work with customers as well. Often, companies like Palantir are seen as the “outsiders” that come into existing businesses to “consult.” I see why that narrative exists, but that’s not how we work. Many of our healthcare customers have staff that have spent decades looking at the problems that we’re currently trying to help them solve with the deployment of our software. We never assume we have all the answers and rely on the expertise of our customers. When we build an environment that necessitates continuous, mutual learning and collaboration, we all win. 

 

What key skills or attributes do you consider have contributed to your success in this role?

Developing and nurturing a growth mindset has been the biggest contributor to my success. The concept was developed by psychologist Carol Dweck, who describes a growth mindset as one where intelligence is never fixed, but continually developed, and where trial and error is as an integral part of mastery.

 

Underlying this mindset is a simple motivation: an unwavering desire to learn. We all know that embracing challenges, learning from mistakes and listening to criticism is what we ought to do. But truly embracing a growth mindset has required me to want to learn more than I want to have the right answer. 

 

How did you develop – and continue to develop – these skills or attributes?

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by, and constantly working with, lots of very smart people. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t learn something from (usually more than) one of them. Palantir’s culture is also very conducive to a growth mindset – embracing the cycle of trying, failing and learning is a necessity for success. 

How do you ensure that your proposition keeps pace with your clients’ goals and requirements so that you are leading rather than lagging behind their demands?

One of the most useful features of Foundry’s design is its inherent flexibility. The solution is designed to adapt at speed, which in turn allows our clients to configure their tools and dashboards to reflect needs on the ground accurately. A compelling example of this flexibility was with the NHS vaccination roll-out. Foundry was able to integrate data from the rapidly-evolving supply chain, providing a consistent source of truth for thousands of NHS staff, who use it to make tens of thousands of data-driven decisions a day, from managing variable vaccine supplies to storage requirements. It also allows us to create tooling that anticipates future need, which can help inform and build relevant planning models. 

 

This flexibility also provides unique opportunities for our clients to experiment with new solutions with little risk or spend. Building out solutions in Foundry is always an iterative, ongoing process and, as such, we encourage our clients to imagine what a best-in-class solution would look like for their particular instance and we build to that. This means that they don’t have to be certain that what they build today will work for them next year, next month, or even next week. We’re able to partner with them to continually test, refine and rebuild, and the flexibility of Foundry is what allows us do that. 

Joanna Peller
has been included in:
  • 100 Enablers 2022 (EMEA)