June 1, 2022
3
Min read

“I lost my dad when I was 20. It's shaped my work ever since.”

Written By
Nausheen Eusuf
With thanks To
Albert Alises | Engineering Lead at Oliva

In many ways, Albert was a typical teenager. He loved music and played in bands. Like any self-respecting teenager, he could be angsty and rebellious. Among his peers, he was a trendsetter who wore skinny jeans before they were cool—or even sold for men in Spain, he claims.

Growing up in Barcelona, Albert lived with his mum, dad, and younger sister. They were a tight-knit family. At school, he enjoyed physics, history, philosophy, and social sciences. A gifted young man, he could play video games all day and still get decent grades at school. He didn’t take life too seriously.

But Albert’s real passion was music. After high school, he started a degree in telecommunications engineering at Pompeu Fabra University, with a focus on audiovisual systems engineering. His dream was to work for Dolby or Spotify, or perhaps score a creative role in the music industry.

Going to university also brought Albert closer to his parents. He started appreciating them more, and he bonded with his father over their shared love of physics and engineering.

“I’d tell him what subjects I was taking, and he’d say, ‘I did that too!’ Being a teacher, he’d get excited about the things I was learning.”

Albert was well on his way to a career in audio—but a sudden blow changed everything.

“It was totally unexpected”

It was the summer after his first year at UPF, and Albert was enjoying the holidays at home. 

One morning in late July, he was alone in the house. His dad had gone out, his mum was at work, and his sister was away on a surfing trip in Santander. He was still asleep when his neighbours woke him up. “Your dad’s not feeling well,” they said.

Albert jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. His father had collapsed just outside the front door. “It’s okay, I’m fine,” he tried to reassure everyone.

But Albert’s dad wasn’t fine—he was having a heart attack. An ambulance arrived and whisked him away. But he didn’t make it to the hospital.

“It was totally unexpected. He was healthy and active, and had just come home from the gym. His brother had died of a heart attack a month before. But other than that, there were no indications.”

Albert remembers having to break the terrible news to his sister, who immediately flew home from Santander. He muddled through the days that followed, dazed and reeling from the shock. He tried to resume his normal life and even went to a music festival, but “it was terrible.”

“I matured overnight. Before, I was like a typical teenager—goofing off, playing video games, not taking anything seriously. But after that, something clicked in me. I stopped being a kid.”

<quote-author>Albert Alises<quote-author><quote-company>Engineering Lead at Oliva<quote-company>

Left with his mum and sister, Albert felt he had to step up and take responsibility. When he returned to university for his second year, he felt like a different person.

Changing course

During Albert’s second year at UPF, one of his professors showed them examples of how to apply coding to biomedical image processing. He got to know another professor who was working on cochlear implants to help deaf people recover hearing.

These examples opened Albert’s eyes to the possibility of working in biomedical engineering. Albert started to rethink his career path. He still loved music, but he wanted to use technology to help improve people’s lives. 

“That was the turning point. I realised that my coding and engineering skills could be applied in the medical context to solve biomedical problems. And I could do that even without a biology background.”

Since his father had died of a heart attack, Albert reached out to a professor doing biomedical research in several areas—including coronary disease. They connected him to a researcher at King’s College London, who offered him a summer job as a junior software developer at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

Pioneering technology for life-saving surgery

That summer, Albert developed virtual reality visualisations to aid surgery planning for a heart condition in children. It normally requires 3 or 4 surgeries, and the goal was to reduce that number.

“I developed an advanced visualisation tool and the cardiologists absolutely loved it. Thanks to this prototype, the research team received grant funding to continue the project. It was very successful, and I was really proud.”

Albert had discovered a new sense of purpose and direction.

He went on to do a master’s in computational biomedical engineering, and over the next few years he used his coding skills to do pioneering work in advanced medical imaging. His projects ranged from visualisation software to help doctors plan complicated surgeries, to interactive neuroimaging tools to aid the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. 

Doing this kind of work made Albert happy. He was doing something that truly mattered to him.

 “I wanted to turn the challenges I faced into something positive and use my skills to help people, so that someone else wouldn’t have to go through what I went through.”

But eventually, Albert left the medical field. He wanted to be challenged and mentored so he could grow as a developer and learn how to do engineering at scale. That meant working at larger tech companies.

“I wanted to build products that would reach a lot more people and learn from the best so I can apply those skills later to causes that matter to me.”

And as Albert’s focus also began to widen, he realised that his engineering skills could have a positive impact on other worthy causes. 

Including one that had also impacted him in the past—even if he hadn’t realised it yet.

From neuroimaging to mental health

Albert didn’t have much awareness around mental health when he was younger. It’s only in the last couple of years that he’s become more aware of it.

“In retrospect, I recognise the grieving process and how it changed me. I became very serious. I withdrew into myself. Sometimes I was moody. I thought I was maturing, but actually I was grieving.”

Albert coped by “getting closer with friends,” “becoming more present”—and throwing himself into academic work with new meaning and purpose.

“I studied really hard thinking, ‘I gotta do this for my dad.’ Looking back, I think therapy would've helped a lot. I wish I could’ve gotten some support back then.”

<quote-author>Albert Alises<quote-author><quote-company>Engineering Lead at Oliva<quote-company>

Today, Albert is the Engineering Lead at Oliva. He was hired as engineer #1 to build Oliva’s therapy platform from scratch and hire the core engineering team.

“It feels amazing to work on a product that could help someone going through what I went through. That’s what motivates me at Oliva. That anyone going through a tough time is just a click away from getting help.”

Best of all, Albert knows how happy his father would be of all the work he’s done, whether in medical imaging or mental health.

“He’d say, ‘My God, you’re doing amazing things!’ He would’ve been so proud—Alises senior, the one and only.”

Oliva therapist portrait photo

5 tips for coping with loss

by Oliva therapist

Inmaculada Rodríguez Ángel

1

Be patient with yourself

Every grieving process is different—and so is the time you might need to recover. There are many factors that influence this. For example, it’s not the same to lose someone suddenly as after a long illness. Or to lose an elderly person vs. a young and healthy person. So if you need more time to heal, that’s OK. Be kind to yourself.
2

Don’t shy away from talking about the person

There is a misconception that the less we talk about the loss of a loved one, the less time it’ll take to recover—and the less painful it’ll be. But we should understand that the goal of the grieving process is not to forget the loved one, but to learn to live with their memory in a healthy way. Sharing with your loved ones and getting their support is essential to achieve this.
3

Return to the daily routine ASAP

It's important—and healthy—to get back to your daily routine after losing a loved one. It’ll help focus your thoughts on other activities. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid thinking about the loss, but it’s totally possible to continue living while processing grief. Stopping your life completely increases the chances of depression creeping in. Remember: your loved one would want you to get on with life and be happy.
4

Take care of your physical health

It’s normal for both our mental and physical health to be affected in the early stages of grief. Many people report problems with their appetite, sleep, and physical activity. But even if you don’t feel like it, try to eat healthily and regularly, and to sleep at least 6 hours a night. Doing exercise will help with your appetite and sleep, as well as improve your mood.
5

Follow rituals you connect with

Depending on your beliefs, there will be different rituals when you lose a loved one. Follow those that you identify with, and that you feel will help you the most. A mass, burial, prayer, farewell letter—the rituals associated with loss are part of the process and can be helpful to accept it.
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June 1, 2022
3
Min read

“I lost my dad when I was 20. It's shaped my work ever since.”

Written By
Nausheen Eusuf
With thanks To
Albert Alises | Engineering Lead at Oliva

In many ways, Albert was a typical teenager. He loved music and played in bands. Like any self-respecting teenager, he could be angsty and rebellious. Among his peers, he was a trendsetter who wore skinny jeans before they were cool—or even sold for men in Spain, he claims.

Growing up in Barcelona, Albert lived with his mum, dad, and younger sister. They were a tight-knit family. At school, he enjoyed physics, history, philosophy, and social sciences. A gifted young man, he could play video games all day and still get decent grades at school. He didn’t take life too seriously.

But Albert’s real passion was music. After high school, he started a degree in telecommunications engineering at Pompeu Fabra University, with a focus on audiovisual systems engineering. His dream was to work for Dolby or Spotify, or perhaps score a creative role in the music industry.

Going to university also brought Albert closer to his parents. He started appreciating them more, and he bonded with his father over their shared love of physics and engineering.

“I’d tell him what subjects I was taking, and he’d say, ‘I did that too!’ Being a teacher, he’d get excited about the things I was learning.”

Albert was well on his way to a career in audio—but a sudden blow changed everything.

“It was totally unexpected”

It was the summer after his first year at UPF, and Albert was enjoying the holidays at home. 

One morning in late July, he was alone in the house. His dad had gone out, his mum was at work, and his sister was away on a surfing trip in Santander. He was still asleep when his neighbours woke him up. “Your dad’s not feeling well,” they said.

Albert jumped out of bed and ran downstairs. His father had collapsed just outside the front door. “It’s okay, I’m fine,” he tried to reassure everyone.

But Albert’s dad wasn’t fine—he was having a heart attack. An ambulance arrived and whisked him away. But he didn’t make it to the hospital.

“It was totally unexpected. He was healthy and active, and had just come home from the gym. His brother had died of a heart attack a month before. But other than that, there were no indications.”

Albert remembers having to break the terrible news to his sister, who immediately flew home from Santander. He muddled through the days that followed, dazed and reeling from the shock. He tried to resume his normal life and even went to a music festival, but “it was terrible.”

Quote author photograph
“I matured overnight. Before, I was like a typical teenager—goofing off, playing video games, not taking anything seriously. But after that, something clicked in me. I stopped being a kid.”

<quote-author>Albert Alises<quote-author><quote-company>Engineering Lead at Oliva<quote-company>

Left with his mum and sister, Albert felt he had to step up and take responsibility. When he returned to university for his second year, he felt like a different person.

Changing course

During Albert’s second year at UPF, one of his professors showed them examples of how to apply coding to biomedical image processing. He got to know another professor who was working on cochlear implants to help deaf people recover hearing.

These examples opened Albert’s eyes to the possibility of working in biomedical engineering. Albert started to rethink his career path. He still loved music, but he wanted to use technology to help improve people’s lives. 

“That was the turning point. I realised that my coding and engineering skills could be applied in the medical context to solve biomedical problems. And I could do that even without a biology background.”

Since his father had died of a heart attack, Albert reached out to a professor doing biomedical research in several areas—including coronary disease. They connected him to a researcher at King’s College London, who offered him a summer job as a junior software developer at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital.

Pioneering technology for life-saving surgery

That summer, Albert developed virtual reality visualisations to aid surgery planning for a heart condition in children. It normally requires 3 or 4 surgeries, and the goal was to reduce that number.

“I developed an advanced visualisation tool and the cardiologists absolutely loved it. Thanks to this prototype, the research team received grant funding to continue the project. It was very successful, and I was really proud.”

Albert had discovered a new sense of purpose and direction.

He went on to do a master’s in computational biomedical engineering, and over the next few years he used his coding skills to do pioneering work in advanced medical imaging. His projects ranged from visualisation software to help doctors plan complicated surgeries, to interactive neuroimaging tools to aid the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. 

Doing this kind of work made Albert happy. He was doing something that truly mattered to him.

 “I wanted to turn the challenges I faced into something positive and use my skills to help people, so that someone else wouldn’t have to go through what I went through.”

But eventually, Albert left the medical field. He wanted to be challenged and mentored so he could grow as a developer and learn how to do engineering at scale. That meant working at larger tech companies.

“I wanted to build products that would reach a lot more people and learn from the best so I can apply those skills later to causes that matter to me.”

And as Albert’s focus also began to widen, he realised that his engineering skills could have a positive impact on other worthy causes. 

Including one that had also impacted him in the past—even if he hadn’t realised it yet.

From neuroimaging to mental health

Albert didn’t have much awareness around mental health when he was younger. It’s only in the last couple of years that he’s become more aware of it.

“In retrospect, I recognise the grieving process and how it changed me. I became very serious. I withdrew into myself. Sometimes I was moody. I thought I was maturing, but actually I was grieving.”

Albert coped by “getting closer with friends,” “becoming more present”—and throwing himself into academic work with new meaning and purpose.

quote author photograph
“I studied really hard thinking, ‘I gotta do this for my dad.’ Looking back, I think therapy would've helped a lot. I wish I could’ve gotten some support back then.”

<quote-author>Albert Alises<quote-author><quote-company>Engineering Lead at Oliva<quote-company>

Today, Albert is the Engineering Lead at Oliva. He was hired as engineer #1 to build Oliva’s therapy platform from scratch and hire the core engineering team.

“It feels amazing to work on a product that could help someone going through what I went through. That’s what motivates me at Oliva. That anyone going through a tough time is just a click away from getting help.”

Best of all, Albert knows how happy his father would be of all the work he’s done, whether in medical imaging or mental health.

“He’d say, ‘My God, you’re doing amazing things!’ He would’ve been so proud—Alises senior, the one and only.”

Oliva therapist photograph

5 tips for coping with loss

by Oliva therapist

Inmaculada Rodríguez Ángel

1
Be patient with yourself

Every grieving process is different—and so is the time you might need to recover. There are many factors that influence this. For example, it’s not the same to lose someone suddenly as after a long illness. Or to lose an elderly person vs. a young and healthy person. So if you need more time to heal, that’s OK. Be kind to yourself.

2
Don’t shy away from talking about the person

There is a misconception that the less we talk about the loss of a loved one, the less time it’ll take to recover—and the less painful it’ll be. But we should understand that the goal of the grieving process is not to forget the loved one, but to learn to live with their memory in a healthy way. Sharing with your loved ones and getting their support is essential to achieve this.

3
Return to the daily routine ASAP

It's important—and healthy—to get back to your daily routine after losing a loved one. It’ll help focus your thoughts on other activities. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid thinking about the loss, but it’s totally possible to continue living while processing grief. Stopping your life completely increases the chances of depression creeping in. Remember: your loved one would want you to get on with life and be happy.

4
Take care of your physical health

It’s normal for both our mental and physical health to be affected in the early stages of grief. Many people report problems with their appetite, sleep, and physical activity. But even if you don’t feel like it, try to eat healthily and regularly, and to sleep at least 6 hours a night. Doing exercise will help with your appetite and sleep, as well as improve your mood.

5
Follow rituals you connect with

Depending on your beliefs, there will be different rituals when you lose a loved one. Follow those that you identify with, and that you feel will help you the most. A mass, burial, prayer, farewell letter—the rituals associated with loss are part of the process and can be helpful to accept it.

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