Archive for the ‘How I Got Here’ Category
Clinical, Compliance and Quality Management Systems
My career journey began 3 recessions ago. Having not yet attained my college degree, I left the east coast for Texas which, at the time, had a booming economy. I arrived there with only $600 cash, but a wealth of ambition and confidence that I could make it on my own. Day one brought the first of many lessons to be learned, this concerned economics. In addition the security deposit on my first apartment, rent was payable for the month in advance. Highly-motivated by a now tiny cash reserve, I set out to find a job and did so on day three.
I worked at the small quick copy franchise for two years, waiting on customers at the counter, doing artwork layout, processing orders and purchasing supplies. In addition, and what may go down in history as one of the biggest stretches of my career, I was required to call upon businesses in the immediate vicinity to see how we might be of service to them. Me, cold calling? Approaching complete strangers and asking them to buy something from me? Terrifying at the time; but everyday practice at this stage of the game.
Having shown an ability to handle anything sent my way, I was offered a position in the owners’ new business and the chance to relocate to beautiful Austin, Texas.
The new business was not a copy franchise, but an office equipment dealer that sold copiers, typewriters (does anyone remember them?), and the supplies and service necessary to maintain them. This would be where I used my first computer, and still remember the enormous 10MB hard drive beneath my desk that sounded much like a small aircraft about to take off, and the eight inch floppy disks used to back up the system.
Over a period of nine months, I worked closely with a contract programmer as the business expert, to customize an off-the-shelf point-of-sale and inventory management software package to meet the needs of the business. Ever-curious, I watched in great detail as she wrote and compiled the Basic code to achieve the desired functionality. About six months into the contractor’s engagement, her in-office visits were only required once per week as, at that point, we were down to minor adjustments to items such as invoice formatting and report layout.
As my curiosity got the best of me, I began to make some of the changes requested by my boss independently; ever-careful to make a full backup of course, just in case my confidence overshot my capability. From there I was hooked, and made the leap shortly thereafter to a hospital management company to fill the position of Computer Operator in a shop that employed the use IBM mid-range systems including the System 36/38 and AS/400.
I would spend four years there increasing my knowledge and developing my supervisory skills before the next recession would hit, resulting in the elimination of my position and providing a four month sabbatical to determine my next move which was, surprisingly, accepting a lesser position at the same company – but only for a short period of time because I was simply unable to revive the passion and drive I once had.
Next I moved on to become a Systems Administrator at a then small company that assembled and sold micro systems, along with customized point-of-sale software, to automotive parts retailers. Though I gained extremely valuable skills in the three years I was there, the nuances and politics of its hierarchical family-owned culture were not for me.
My next four years, spent in a variety of roles at a workers compensation insurance provider, would position me for a leap to the Director level in my career, as it gave me the opportunity to manage the technical support center, network operations and a few other key IT positions. But something was missing. I was achieving professional success and the perks that come along with it, yet I felt no real connection to the industries I was working in. In healthcare, I saw the extraordinary costs associated with procedures performed and medicines administered during a patient’s stay. And working at the corporate office of the hospital management company, I also saw the Mercedes and Jaguars leased for company executives, even as the second national recession of my adult life worsened, profits continued to decline, and the company underwent reductions in force. In the insurance industry, though not as pronounced as the inequities I had seen in healthcare, I felt an emphasis to minimize amounts paid for claims whenever possible.
Thankfully, the career connection I had longed for was just around the corner, and I’m as passionate about the world of clinical research today as the day I got the call from a recruiter inviting me to interview at a contract research organization (CRO). So much so that, 15 years later, I still remember the bridge that I was driving on when my (very large!) mobile phone rang, the direction I was headed, and the beautiful blue skies of an autumn Texas day.
Of course I didn’t know what a CRO was when first approached, but after spending a few hours researching it and discovering that I could become part of an industry committed to advancing medicines and healthcare, I was determined the job would be mine. With my confidence and capabilities now in sync, I was offered and accepted the position.
Finally feeling as if I were part of the solution versus the problem, I engaged like never before; assembling a small team of IT professionals, some of which I had worked with previously, to assess and address the issues associated with the highly anticipated Year 2000 date roll-over, or Y2K – what I now refer to as “why 2 what?” given the virtually unnoticeable impact come that fateful day.
Though not a recession, but a downturn in contract awards from pharmaceutical companies to CROs, I would once again find myself looking for a new job having intimate knowledge that the company would soon cease to exist. Because my knowledge was ahead of the curve, there was time for me outline my game plan for my next move and, in doing so, not only had I decided that I was I going to get the specific job in the industry that I wanted, but I was also going to live where I had always wanted to live. Hello, Southern California.
I would spend just over 10 years at that CRO, and had the privilege to serve in a variety of positions. After being hired to clean up operational inefficiencies and restore customer confidence in their IT function and doing so successfully, the company underwent its first acquisition, after which I was offered a promotion within Clinical Operations to improve the quality, profitability and adherence to timelines and deliverables. Using the same formula I had to optimize the IT function, similar and immediate gains were made. This formula, which I refer to as “total alignment” is a personal blend of things I’ve learned while attending school (I had then earned my B.S. in Bus. Admin. with a concentration in International Business) and leadership skills I had used successfully in the past.
After three years in Operations and several key improvements, the COO would approach me about a third position within the company. Like the first two, they were centered on the need for me to identify opportunities for improvement, implement them and then measure their success. In this final role, intended to leverage my background in IT, Operations and proven track-record of implementing improvements, my key charge would be to create a synergy between people, process and technology and would turn out to be one of my most exciting roles I’d ever had.
I’ve always loved a challenge, as well as leading and inspiring people to achieve their true potential. Only this opportunity came with a twist. I would have to do the same, but this time, I would have no direct authority over those I was leading to define and implement the improvements. Fortunately, my past had prepared me for such a role, and I was able to achieve the required results via a thoughtful balance of what some may call “the carrot and the stick.”
Unfortunately, economics would once again intervene; this time, in the form of a global financial crisis. Though, initially, the company was unaffected due to a strong backlog of business sold but services not yet performed or billed, the backlog would continue its decline, necessitating that the company undergo a series of restructurings to preserve cash and maintain profitability. Despite this, I am proud to say that it was the best-managed company I have ever had the pleasure of working for in my entire career.
Make no mistake; this is not a story of recessions, but one of resilience. I am certain that I, my former employer and our global society will go on to achieve many successes in the future, because life’s challenges are no match for determination, innovation and sheer momentum.
I look forward to updating you on the next stop in this incredible journey known as life!
Who I Am Now
Over 20 years experience in leading the analysis, design and implementation of global systems and solutions. As a seasoned consultant to process owners, my primary focus is conducting research to identify best practice technology solutions based on functional needs; manage the selection process for technology solutions, including preparing Requests for Information and Requests for Proposal, leading vendor demos, scoring and pricing negotiations; partner with IT Leaders and business Leaders in the strategic planning, organizing and directing activities necessary to ensure optimization of application solutions; and participate in the communication, training and change management needs in the implementation of the automated solutions.