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Life’s Work: An Interview With Rashed Mujib Noman, Country Director, Augmedix Bangladesh

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Feb 1, 2021

Rashed Mujib Noman is the Country Director of Augmedix Bangladesh. Augmedix, a US-based provider of remote medical documentation and live clinical support, is “on a mission to rehumanize the clinician-patient relationship and address the largest pain point in the US healthcare system – the burden of documentation.” Born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Mr. Rashed has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, an MS from the University of South Carolina, and an MBA from New York Institute of Technology. Before joining Augmedix, he worked in senior roles at General Motors and the Boeing Company. 

In this intellectually empowering interview, Mr. Rashed, reflects on his early life and his journey to becoming who he is today, talks about Augmedix Bangladesh, how Augmedix operates as an organization, its ambition for the Bangladesh market going forward, and shares how much Augmedix has evolved over the years, explores why life is a nonlinear journey, and the hard work and hardships that we desperately want to avoid are universal and are part of our becoming and why we should actively resist the idea of overnight success and work hard on our goal if we want to make a difference and much more. 

Today’s Life's Work conversation is brought to you by our FS Marketing Solutions partners. Their support makes this work possible. Learn more here.

Future Startup

Thank you for agreeing to do this interview with us. Could you please tell us about your background, i.e. childhood, education, etc, and your journey to what you are doing today? 

Rashed Mujib Noman

I was born at Holy Family Hospital in Dhaka. My parents used to live in Shahjahanpur at that time. My father was an EPCS (East Pakistan Civil Service) officer who joined the service in 1967. As my father was a government employee, he would be transferred to different parts of the country often. I had an opportunity to live in and experience a good many districts with my family, especially Jamalpur, where we lived for quite a while. My uncle was a doctor in Jamalpur who advised my father to keep his family in Jamalpur so that our education would not be hampered due to the frequent transfers. At that time, Jamalpur was a good place for education. I’m sure it still is. Many of my classmates from Jamalpur have become doctors and engineers. 

We came back to Dhaka in 1990. My parents wanted me to become a doctor. So, at first, I got admitted into Mymensingh Medical College. However, soon I found out that I was good at understanding topics rather than memorizing them. Also, I was missing my family. So, I sat for the admission test of BUET and got accepted. Accordingly, I convinced my family and came back to Dhaka.

I graduated from BUET in 1997 majoring in mechanical engineering. In the beginning, I planned to stay in the country and start a business. Therefore, I got admitted into the MBA program of IBA, DU in 1998. However, my parents wanted me to pursue a Ph.D. and join the university as a faculty. I got admitted into the University of South Carolina in 1998. I completed my Master's from there although my parents and my professor wanted me to pursue a Ph.D. I decided to work for a few years before pursuing my Ph.D. I was offered a job at General Motors. I worked for General Motors for six and a half years. In the meantime, I completed my MBA from the New York Institute of Technology.

I joined Boeing in the mid of 2006. I worked there for 11 years in many groups which helped me to diversify my skill in different areas other than Engineering i.e. Supply Chain, Project Management, Analytics, Customer Support, ETC. However, I started considering coming back to my country in 2010. In fact, in 2011 I came back for four months to try out my luck here but the plan didn’t work out. Anyway, I was always looking for the opportunity to come back to my country. In 2017, when I heard that a San Francisco-based startup Augmedix was looking for a country director in Bangladesh, I decided to apply. Finally, I appeared for the interview and was offered the job. Eventually, I came back to Bangladesh. Since then, I’ve been living in Bangladesh. My wife has also completed her MBA from the US. She also works for Augmedix as a Corporate Tax Consultant for the US operation. I have only one younger brother who also lives in Bangladesh is an architect, runs his own firm, and teaches at BRAC University. 

Future Startup

How has your childhood and upbringing shaped your work and worldview? 

Rashed Noman

My mother graduated from Dhaka University in 1974. Her dream was to become a faculty member after graduation. But as I was born, she decided to put her dream aside and raise me instead. She was the one who made me believe that to accomplish anything in this world education is necessary. Now when I look back, I can sense that she wanted to live her dreams through me. She wanted me to have what she could not have for herself. 

I grew up in a strict environment, which I make fun of by calling “the boot camp”. We grew up as nerds. For us, extracurricular activities were writing essays, debating, etc. Once, I got the second prize in an essay writing competition in the whole country. During college, I tried sports but couldn’t accomplish anything remarkable. I am not good at music, but I am highly interested in music and love to listen to music.

Future Startup

As you mentioned you grew up in quite a regimented environment, how do you see it now?

Rashed Noman

I think the regimented environment worked out well for me. Scientists and psychologists say that besides institutional education, sports and playing musical instruments help us develop our mental health. If my mother knew this at that time, I’m sure she would encourage us to play outside and learn to play musical instruments. 

In the US, the participation of students in sports and learning to play musical instruments are mandatory. This is so because according to science a large area of our brain remains unused and playing musical instruments helps us to make that area active and healthy. I think if my parents knew this then, sports and music would be in my daily routine.

Nonetheless, I have no regrets. Because of my mother, I’ve come this far. Also, my father sacrificed a lot for his family. He had to stay in different places because of his job while being away from his family. Our future was mostly crafted by our mom.

Future Startup 

How do you think it has impacted your personality, your development, and your understanding of life?

Rashed Noman

I think it has had a huge impact. Though we had to follow rules, those had a limit. I had a lot of friends. Anyhow, we had to follow rules regarding going out with my friends and returning home before sunset. Hence, we were not spoiled. Otherwise, I’d grow up as an unsocial person. But, that has not happened. I have had a strong bonding with my peers.

My mom would always help others in need, and I’d always accompany her in all of her endeavors. That helped me to develop empathy and an altruistic nature in me. I can connect with people easily. 

Future Startup

Could you please tell us a bit more about your education life? 

Rashed Noman

My school was Jamalpur Zilla School, and I completed my higher secondary at Jamalpur Asheq Mahmud College. My mother always wanted us to study in Dhaka. However, my father was afraid he would not be able to afford it and suggested that our family live in Jamalpur. 

My mom went to school and college in Dhaka. She graduated from Dhaka University. Therefore, she was concerned whether or not we would fall behind the students in Dhaka because of the quality of education outside of Dhaka. Hence, in class six, she took me to Government Laboratory School & College to sit for the admission test there to evaluate whether I could pass and compete with others or not. Also after SSC, she took me to Dhaka college to see if I would be accepted. But, as she didn’t want me to live in a hostel, I had to stay in Jamalpur and appear for my HSC in Jamalpur.

When I went to the US, I studied very hard as I realized that to survive in a foreign country I needed good results. I wasn’t serious with my studies when I was in BUET. There was not a single club in BUET I wasn’t a member of. I wanted to enjoy my university life. Nonetheless, my result was not that bad. After going abroad, I decided to study hard to obtain a good GPA because otherwise there would be no one to support me. I had a pretty good time in the US.

Future Startup

You studied and lived in the US for many years. Could you please tell us a bit more about your life in the US, any significant events that you would like to share?

Rashed Noman

In our culture, we do not look directly in the eyes of our boss or a senior, and the only thing that forms a connection between the boss and the employee is work. But in the western world, eye contact is essential for proper communication. It took some time for me to overcome these cultural differences.

I went through two particular struggles during my early career in the US. In Bangladesh, we usually stand up when a teacher enters the classroom. But, when I worked as a teaching assistant in the US, students would not show such a respectful gesture as I would enter the class, which is okay in western societies. I had to struggle quite a bit in the early days to reconcile with these differences. 

When I joined the workforce, I also faced several cultural challenges. In Bangladesh, you stand up when your boss comes near your desk. However, in the US, this is not how you interact with your seniors at work. I used to talk with my boss only about work while my colleagues would talk about how they spent their weekends. It took me quite some time to understand and educate myself with these cultural nuances. 

Anyhow, I had to suffer because of these challenges. In fact, I fell a little behind because of these challenges. At first, I thought working hard only would be enough. But, it was not, which I realized later. I realized that hard work mattered only 80% of the time while the rest depended on networking. I had to learn all these things through mistakes. Eventually, it took me some time to finally understand all these realities of a new culture and orient myself accordingly. 

However, I think the new generation does not face such challenges. They are already accustomed to western culture because of movies and the internet. Today, we all live in the west on the internet no matter where our geographic locations are. 

When I applied for US universities, I had to send letters by mail. It used to take quite a while to make these communications. The application process was quite complex and lengthy and was not near anything that you have now. Today, it is very simple to apply for a US university or any university for that matter. This was not the case in our time.  

Future Startup

Why did you decide to return to Bangladesh? You certainly had to give up on better opportunities. 

Rashed Noman

There were many reasons behind this decision. The first reason was my family. The second reason was my country. As both my family and my wife’s family live here in Bangladesh, we wanted to spend some time with them. 

 I wanted to live in my country from the beginning. I wanted to contribute. Just like I’m indebted to my country, I’m also indebted to the US. I studied and started my career there. To that end, Augmedix has offered me a very unique opportunity. At Augmedix, we provide health care service for US health systems while we are creating employment opportunities for the youth in Bangladesh. Right now in this office, there are 400 employees. We are growing every day. This has allowed me to serve both my countries. It couldn’t get any better than this.

I don’t think going abroad is wrong. I went to a career session at BUET where I was asked whether students should go abroad or try to build their careers in Bangladesh. I answered “Both.” I think every young person should live abroad for a limited time. For example, if a student goes abroad for higher education, he or she will learn to communicate with the people from different countries, and if he or she works there for a few years, he or she will learn about  the professional life there. After that, if he or she comes back, he or she will be able to change this country with the knowledge he or she will have gathered abroad. Just because you love your family doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go abroad. Go there, learn, and come back.

Future Startup

You started your journey with Augmedix in 2017. Could you please tell us about your work as the Country Director of Augmedix Bangladesh? 

Rashed Noman

The journey with Augmedix is mostly an emotional journey. This is not a mere job to me, this is a mission that I have taken upon.  

When I joined Augmedix, I was briefed about the challenges Augmedix was facing in Bangladesh, such as not being able to find people who are proficient in English and are willing to work at night, etc. When I started working, I made a list of priorities and designed a strategy to let our youth know about Augmedix, why it is unique, and why they should take the opportunity to work at Augmedix. Today, we are a team of 400-people working for Augmedix. If the pandemic had not taken place, our team would have grown further. Even during this pandemic, we quadrupled. 

As the country director, of course, my no. 1 focus is the growth and expansion of the company. Augmedix is in four countries. But, Bangladesh is the backbone of our operation. 

We work in a unique model that aligns with the BPO model of this country, where we provide skilled human resources to provide services for the US market. At the same time, every software used at Augmedix has been developed in Bangladesh. We are simultaneously a software and a BPO company. Other services are managed from Bangladesh as well. For example, our HR team consists of six people in Bangladesh while there is only one in the US. Most of the back-end operations for the entire organization are run from Bangladesh. 

My responsibility is to ensure a smooth running of all these aspects of our operation, achieve efficiency, and ensure continuous growth of the company.

Life’s Work: An Interview With Rashed Mujib Noman, Country Director, Augmedix Bangladesh
Rashed Noman with Augmedix Founder Ian Shakil and the team | Courtesy: Augmedix

Future Startup

What is your management style? How do you deal with people?

Rashed Noman

My team could tell it better. I believe people need to work for me not because I’m their boss but because they like me. This is how I prefer to operate. I don’t like to coerce and push people to get things done. 

I explain our goals to the team, onboard them, consult with them, and make them a part of the entire process so that they own it and work for it. 

I tell them from the beginning that I’ll always explain our goals and if I don’t, they can ask me for clarifications. I try to listen to others’ opinions and try to make decisions based on their input. It’s not that democracy always works but I hear what others have to say so that I don’t have to be authoritative. 

Future Startup

Could you please give us an overview of Augmedix? 

Rashed Noman

Augmedix is a US-based startup. Usually, a startup is developed to solve a challenge. One challenge in the US healthcare system is the burden of medical documentation, especially the time required for a doctor to document his or her patient visits. On the other hand, appointing someone to do this task is expensive. As a result, doctors either work with only a handful of patients or they stay in the office for an extended period to complete all the required documentation. Apparently, doctors are trained to treat people not to do documentation. It reduces their productivity and efficiency. It is a major problem in the healthcare system. Augmedix started with an ambition to solve this particular problem for doctors. 

Our founder, Ian Shakil, came up with the idea that if we can live stream the doctor consultation sessions digitally and engage people to take notes of the sessions, it would make the entire documentation process easy for doctors. Doctors then can solely focus on their patients. It will save both time and costs for doctors. That’s how Augmedix got started. Now when doctors see patients, they live-stream the sessions to Bangladesh, and our teams in Bangladesh do the documentation for their respective doctors. It solves the problems for the doctors in the US, and it creates opportunities for people in Bangladesh. 

When a doctor in the US sees a patient, we live-stream the visit using our cutting-edge technologies, and our highly skilled and trained employees compose a summary of the treatment. Thanks to ISP infrastructure, we send the finished document to the doctor immediately, and the doctor can approve the same right away. Our customers are highly satisfied with our service. We save 35% of their time, and it’s cost-effective for them as well.

We have a software engineering team in Bangladesh that develops the software for Augmedix. We started our service with wearable (i.e. Google Glass) technology, and now, we do live streaming over the phone as well.

Future Startup

How big is your team now?

Rashed Noman

We have 400 employees in Bangladesh. In India, we have our operation expanded across seven cities, and we have branches in Sri Lanka as well. Right now, we are a team of 1500 people globally.

Future Startup

How does Augmatix operate? 

Rashed Noman

As you know already, our customers are mainly based in the US, and depending on the customer demand, we recruit and train people in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka.

Future Startup

How much fund have you raised so far?

Rashed Noman

So far Augmedix Inc has raised USD 125 million in the USA.

Future Startup

How are you doing as a business?

Rashed Noman

We have been investing heavily in R&D. If you focus on our operation, we have a healthy margin and fast-growing business.  

Future Startup

In the US, how big is the market?

Rashed Noman

The market is huge. To date, we have no competitors in the field of remote documentation service. We have competition in the field of transcribing (non-real-time scribing), but in the field of remote real-time scribing, we have not faced any substantial competition yet. We remain the leading and pioneering service-provider in this regard. 

In the US, there are about a million doctors. If only 10% use our service that’s approximately 100k doctors. Right now, there are around 650 doctors who are taking advantage of our service. 

Life’s Work: An Interview With Rashed Mujib Noman, Country Director, Augmedix Bangladesh
Rashed Noman attending Augmedix Recruitment Session | Courtesy: Augmedix

Future Startup

What are some of the challenges you are facing in the Bangladesh operation?

Rashed Noman

The problem is still the same as it was three years ago, which is to find the right people. As we have to summarize conversations between doctors and their respective patients in real-time, we need people with high proficiency in English. 

Another challenge is the timing. In the US, when it’s daytime, it’s night-time in Bangladesh. Working late hours is another challenge. People often don’t find it that attractive when you have to work at night. 

To tackle these challenges, we are partnering with universities. We go to campuses and talk to students. We are investing in building brand awareness in the market. To that end, I think the media can make people aware of our work. 

At Augmedix, we take care of our people. We have an excellent working culture. Apart from excellent competitive compensation packages, we provide meals for employees who work late at night. We provide transportation as well as access to a free gym membership. We are trying to make it as comfortable as possible for our people. What I have been trying to do is improve the reputation of the Augmedix brand so that our people feel proud of the fact that they work at Augmedix.  

Future Startup

Do you use any automation? 

Rashed Noman

We are heavily investing in the development of automation tools. In the US, the minimum time of a patient visit is 20 minutes and patients discuss many other topics along with health issues with their doctors. We are trying to develop an AI-based tool that will extract healthcare-related information from the conversation so that it becomes easier for our team members to prepare medical notes.

Future Startup

You joined Augmedix in 2017, how much has the company evolved over the past few years?

Rashed Noman

 Company has experienced 10X growth since I joined the company, employee population quadrupled, gross margin has become positive, and we have been able to establish the Augmedix brand.

Future Startup

Have there been any changes in terms of product and service?

Rashed Noman

In 2017, one of our major focuses was making our service stable. We have served more than a thousand doctors since we launched operation. Some of our early users faced some challenges with our product but we have solved those problems since. 

Our product is stable now. We know about the market more, we are adding new value-added services for doctors, and we are adding more benefits for our employees. We are a highly demanding company product-wise and operation-wise than what we were in 2017. 

Future Startup

Could you tell us about your culture at Augmedix?

Rashed Noman

We have an open and horizontal structure in the company. As I’ve already said, I don’t want my employees to listen to me just because I’m their boss. I want them to understand. This is a workplace where we believe in collaborative decision-making. Anyone can talk about anything anytime. We have a very friendly environment. We are like a family. We ensure transparency and mutual respect. 

On top of that, we value women's empowerment. I believe if 50% of the total population of a nation remains confined at home, that nation can’t progress. We want to make sure a safe and healthy atmosphere for our female employees. Currently, 25% of our employees are female but our goal is to increase it to 50%

Future Startup

For the Bangladesh market, what are your goals?

Rashed Noman

Augmedix Bangladesh is the number one service provider location among all locations for Augmedix and we want to serve 50% of the clients from Bangladesh.

Future Startup

When you decided to come back to Bangladesh you had to leave better opportunities there. How did you make that decision?

Rashed Noman

That was an emotional decision. I did not think through the pros and cons, etc. I wanted to return to the country and do something for the country, and I found an opportunity that I went for. 

People told me that I would not be able to live here for long. However, it’s been three years since I moved. Now everyone asks me the secret behind my stay. Right now, 400 people are working in this office, and most of them are freshers. This gives me tremendous joy. Also, I’m getting the opportunity to serve my country. I’m somewhat involved in many projects of the ICT division of Bangladesh. Whenever they call me, I try my best to support them. Besides, when universities contact me to offer some talk I always make myself available. I try to share my experience of living abroad for 20 years. I think I have something to offer, and I want to share it. 

Future Startup

You are quite active in Dhaka’s startup scene, and you’ve lived in the US and seen things there. What is your take on the startup ecosystem of Bangladesh? 

Rashed Noman

Our local companies are trying their best, and they are progressing. Today, I was a judge at a startup competition where hundreds of people came forward with their ideas, which was very exciting for me. Although some ideas are a duplicate of other successful ideas that worked in another country, I think that’s okay. Some people say there is no innovation. I say that’s fine. We will learn eventually. For example, Pathao, a successful startup in Bangladesh, leveraged the idea of Uber with some modifications suitable for Bangladesh’s market. So there’s no harm in imitating a successful idea I believe, and I think one day our young generation will innovate something new like Airbnb, Uber, etc. 

If you look at the software companies of Bangladesh, you’ll see that they are doing great! One of my juniors from BUET started Brainstation-23. Right now they are the largest software company in Bangladesh and serving American and European clients.

If you look at the BPO sector, we are working in the medical sector, Kazi IT is working in fintech, CutOutWiz is working in the image processing sector. We are touching all the sectors and it’s just the beginning. When I talk with people of the BPO industry, I see hope in their eyes to do something big. 

I’d like to thank the ICT division and the government for their efforts to build an ecosystem for startups. They are organizing competitions, providing funds, training, and all other necessary components to build a startup. I think we have the right people and the right infrastructure.

Future Startup

If you take a more critical perspective, what do you think about the startup ecosystem of Bangladesh? What can we learn from markets like the US?

Rashed Noman

I think people should study a little more. They can leverage online educational platforms. Nowadays many people say they want to build AI, they want to work on machine learning. However, when they are asked about the algorithms they would like to use, they can’t answer. I would suggest they prepare more and go deeper into the topics.

There are no shortcuts in life. People who try to follow shortcuts to reach their goals, stumble and fail. It is better to be prepared from the beginning, which will ensure better results. Young entrepreneurs should keep that in mind. It takes time to succeed.

An entrepreneur who is 24 years old, kudos to him or her for thinking something new. Anyhow, you have to pay the price to become successful. I’m 47. It took me a long time to reach this far. Still, I’m scratching the surface and I have a long way to go.

Future Startup

Tell us about a typical day of your life. How do you operate and work? 

Rashed Noman

I hardly sleep for more than 4 hours, which allows me to do a lot of things. Augmedix is of course my passion. I spend time in my office as much as needed. Once I was in the office for straight 24 hours straight, those are some crazy days but it’s important to focus on time management and work life balance.

On a typical day, I wake up, listen to music, have breakfast, answer the emails, and if I have an appointment with any organizations I volunteer for, I attend them. Then I come to my office. I try to study from time to time. Yesterday I had some spare time. So I studied IT security.

Future Startup

Do you use any tools to organize your work?

Rashed Noman

I’m still old school. I maintain a to-do list. Sometimes, I use MS Excel to organize my work. I keep a notebook with me to keep track of my schedule.

Future Startup

How do you deal with stress and challenges? 

Rashed Noman

In the past, I used to get stressed easily. But with time and experience, I have learned to handle it better. Usually, I’m very calm. When I have to email something important, I usually take a break after writing the email and save it as a draft. After a short break, I come back, re-read the email and send it. This method has always worked for me. 

Future Startup

You are involved with a lot of startup related activities in Dhaka and have seen the same in the markets like the US, what would you suggest to young entrepreneurs who are trying to build ventures in Dhaka?

Rashed Noman

I was talking with a founder of a startup a few days ago. He is a technical talent and has developed several products but if he doesn’t have a good marketing partner, his company will not grow. Hence, finding the right people is imperative. 

Some people ask how to find the right people if a startup doesn’t have enough money. I say, if you are the right person with the right idea, you’ll find the right people soon enough to invest in your company and you will find people to work for your company.

Future Startup

A couple of books you’d like to recommend to our readers. 

Rashed Noman

How to Win Friends and Influence People”

“Dream Big”

“Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I believe these books will help people a lot. Along with reading books I also encourage leadership training. I attended Dale Carnegie training when I was working for Boeing and this training has helped me a lot to be a better leader and better human being. 

Future Startup

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned in life so far?

Rashed Noman

Dream big, give your 100 percent with the right attitude and success will come to you. Success is different for different people. Whatever it is, if you have a dream and work hard for it, your dream will come true.

Future Startup

You have seen and experienced a lot in life. What are some of the most important things to you at this point in life?

Rashed Noman

I celebrated my 47th birthday a few days ago. Right now, the most important thing for me is what I can give and what I can do for people. My mom used to say “Try to help people, never harm them.” That is the philosophy I try to live by.

Conversation and edited by Ruhul Kader, prepared by Tithi Chowdhury

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