One on 1 with a Software Engineer

Welcome to JDRF Bay Area’s blog, One on 1, a series of interviews with people who live with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Members of our community talk about how T1D affects them, how they manage it, and what they have accomplished despite it. For this entry, we invited Garrett Jensen, leader of the JDRF Young Leadership Committee (YLC) of Silicon Valley, back to interview Dan Walker, software engineer and fellow YLC member. They both live with T1D.

GJ: What is your role in the JDRF YLC?

DW: I’m a member of the JDRF YLC general planning committee and have been on several subcommittees focused around JDRF Bay Area events, including One Walk and Tee to Table. I want to continue to increase the YLC presence and support at these and other JDRF events, as well as grow the impact of YLC among T1D young adults. My first JDRF involvement was as a participant in the then-called Walk to Cure Diabetes in NYC in 2008, the year I was diagnosed, and have been involved with YLC in Silicon Valley for the last two years.

GJ: Tell us a bit about your diagnosis.

DW: I was diagnosed ten years ago near the end of my senior year of high school. Not that there is ever a convenient time, but it was a lot to handle being diagnosed as I was getting ready to go off on my own to Israel for the summer and then college. Luckily, my mom recognized the symptoms and I was diagnosed before I became sick, but it definitely caused significant tension as I had been starting to enjoy independence and then the diagnosis reverted my parents into seeing me as their baby that needs protection. That said, over the years getting to know parents of T1Ds, I realize how fortunate I was to be diagnosed relatively late. Having a (young) child with type one diabetes is hard, and I’m glad that my parents did not experience that.

GJ: Why do you like being involved with JDRF YLC?

DW: Being engaged in the T1D community and meeting others who know the struggles and the triumphs has been a blessing for my sanity and emotional well being, and it has been great getting to know the other members of the YLC. I want to give back to JDRF and help with all the great work it does for the community, so the YLC fits perfectly into what I was looking for.

GJ: What’s it like being an engineer at Palantir Technologies and how do you manage T1D at work?

DW: I really enjoy being a Software Engineer at Palantir. I work with great people in a cooperative environment, where everyone is motivated by the work we do on important problems for some of the world’s most important institutions. The free meals and perks are a great plus too (they bring in kosher meals for me). Currently I work on Palantir Cloud (PCloud), which provides the infrastructure in which Palantir software is deployed for data integration and analysis.

I’m very open about my T1D at work, which is helpful if an alert ever goes off at an inopportune time or if I need to do something related to diabetes. There are no restrictions related to medical devices in the Palantir offices, but once I did have an occasion to enter a secure facility that handles classified data. Everyone had to leave their phones outside, and I was not even allowed to bring my pump! Apparently the USB port is of particular concern as a data exfiltration threat (anyone ever try and store files on a t:slim? Ha ha). Luckily, I do not need to do this often, and the one time was not for very long, otherwise I would need to figure out a solution. I’m told certain pumps can be approved to be taken in, or I could use syringes/pens temporarily.

GJ: What technology or research are you most excited by for T1D management?

DW: I’m excited that several closed-loop devices are nearing the final stages of approval and will be commercially available over the next couple of years! I’m looking forward to the hybrid closed-loop software update for the t:slim X2 since that is the pump I use. A little further out, but the prospect of a dual-hormone closed-loop device in the iLet (will initially be released as insulin-only) is really exciting as well. I was in a dual-hormone trial when it was called the Bionic Pancreas, and its ability to use glucagon to correct for lows/potential lows was fantastic. I really enjoy being a research participant in closed-loop trials – they provide the opportunity to experience the latest tech, get insider access to the research teams behind the devices and even have an impact on the interface through feedback, all while helping ensure this technology is safe and can be used by the community. I’ve been fortunate that Stanford is a site for nearly all closed-loop device trials and I live and work nearby in Palo Alto. Beyond that, it’s hard for me to be “excited” given the extended timeframe, but I’m really hopeful based on the research into encapsulation and beta cell replacement. Progress!

GJ: Have you hacked a pump using OpenAPS?

DW: Not yet – the restriction that only certain old Medtronic pumps can be controlled as part of the “hacked” closed-loop solutions out there has made me less interested and proven to be too much of a hassle to get supplies since I’ve never been a Medtronic user. I do really appreciate that Loop and OpenAPS exist and are open source, and I’ve seen it work quite well for people. I would love for it to be possible to use Bluetooth in a t:slim for use in a closed-loop system, but unfortunately it has not (yet?) been possible.

GJ: Favorite flavor of glucose tab? Go to low treatment?

DW: I keep kosher, so my go to low treatment is actually Jelly Bellys, which are certified kosher. I buy boxes of the sample packs online, which are perfect because each package has about 10g of sugar, so it makes it easier to not go crazy and over do it when I go low. They are also convenient for having in a pocket, bag, and literally everywhere I throw them. However, I’ve come to learn some people have strong opinions about eating a bunch of multi-flavored jelly beans together and think I’m some sort of psycho when I rip open the package and dump the entire contents into my mouth. I like to live dangerously.

Want to talk more? Find me on Facebook at @danielswalker or email me at!

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