Blogger Sampada Deshpande, D.D.S., author of the book “Persevering,” earned her dental degree in 2018 from the University of Washington. She is a recipient of a fellowship in the American College of Dentists, American Dental Association 10 Under 10 Award and Academy of General Dentistry 10 to Watch honor. Dr. Deshpande founded and hosts meetings of the New Dentist Business Club, a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit. She is also the product manager for SamsoSmile, a cloud-based website that automates dental insurance verifications and benefits for patients. You can reach her directly by visiting her website, sampadadeshpandedds.com.
“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.”
I graduated in 2018 and soon after, started to plan for a future as a practice owner. I thought that was the only viable option for me, outside of an associateship. I began learning about the business side of dentistry by listening to podcasts, attending seminars and founding the New Dentist Business Club.
When I moved to the Silicon Valley three years after graduation, I had the opportunity to work as a product manager at a tech company. We built several products together. My favorite was a vaccination and test tracker that would help businesses and governments care for their employees during the pandemic. While that was fulfilling work, I didn’t realize that the best was yet to come.
In winter 2021, I was asked to look for problems in the dental industry by senior management. I didn’t need to think too hard. I already understood our biggest problems, thanks to monthly meetings at the New Dentist Business Club.
Dental insurance was and is one of the most talked-about topics by U.S. dentists. If we could help dental offices in streamlining their processes and make this administrative hurdle disappear, offices would save tens of thousands of dollars every year.
What began as an incubation project is now a live solution with paying customers. I still remember the time I was on vacation in Italy when my lead engineer called me in for an emergency virtual meeting. We were collaborating with an important vendor and running into bugs. Within 40 minutes, we came to a temporary resolution. Later, I went off to enjoy dinner and wine with my husband. A week later, our engineering team, together with the vendor, found a permanent solution.
I also remember the exhilaration and nervousness when we got our first customer. Until our first customer, SamsoSmile still felt like an incubation project. After the first customer, we had achieved a minimum viable product. More importantly, my reputation was on the line. There’s no way you can fail now because someone believes in you and wants you to stick around long enough to help them. It is a huge responsibility and one we feel every day as doctors. As a product manager for a dental product, I felt it even more because I was sharing our solution with my friends. It wasn’t just professional anymore; it was personal.
When I think about everything that lies ahead of me — my vision of starting a practice and growing SamsoSmile — I sometimes feel overwhelmed. How can I do them both? And how do I continue to get better at resolving challenges, especially in technology? Technology is moving faster than anyone can even think of. It’s important to understand how dynamic it is. When I catch myself worrying about the future, the words of Sheryl Sandberg come to mind.
This is what she said when she was offered a position at Google:
“So, I sat down with Eric Schmidt, who had just become the CEO, and I showed him the spreadsheet and I said, ‘This job meets none of my criteria.’ He put his hand on my spreadsheet, and he looked at me and said, ‘Don’t be an idiot. Get on a rocket ship. When companies are growing quickly and they are having a lot of impact, careers take care of themselves. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat. Just get on.’”
Careers do take care of themselves. Take it one day at a time. Find what excites and thrills you. And once you are on that rocket ship, enjoy the view and have fun.
This post was a reminder to me and to you.
The ADA does not endorse any company or product mentioned in this article.