Each week, JWMI profiles students and alumni in its new featured series “Winning Voices.” Learn about our diverse community and what sets our program apart from those who have experienced it. For more great “Winning Voices” content, click here.
Director of Health Information Technology
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I started with NC DHHS in July of 2017, but I have been involved in healthcare IT for most of my career. As director of health IT, there are a few different facets of responsibility to my role. I am responsible for spanning across Departmental and Divisional boundaries to align health IT efforts across the state, working to ensure the right resources are focused on the right things. Also, I partner with public and private healthcare stakeholders in the design and delivery of innovative digital health solutions to provide high quality, cost-effective services for all North Carolinians. My responsibilities also include the data management and governance strategy across the Department. With this, I am actively engaged in work supporting our transformation of Medicaid from Fee-For-Service to a Managed Care program. My office also supports the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program, known by many as Meaningful Use. In support of this program, I have a team of 9 who oversee the attestations, audits, incentive payments, and outreach. Last but not least, I recently received a promotion, taking responsibility for IT strategy and operations for the state-operated healthcare facilities in NC. This includes managing a team of 105 staff providing IT services to three psychiatric hospitals, three alcohol and drug abuse treatment centers, three developmental centers, three neuro-medical treatment centers, and two residential schools for children all of which are inpatient or residential facilities.
Why did you want to get an MBA?
In 2015, I had just completed my Bachelor’s degree and was at a bit of a crossroads in what I wanted to do next. I was torn between pursuing an MBA or starting a company. I have been home brewing saké for quite some time and was pursuing the option of opening a saké brewery with a tasting room. While I was writing the business plan, doing the research, and exploring financing options, I was also contemplating my career (which would also provide funding for this business venture). Ultimately, I decided to press the pause button on my business venture and pursue my MBA. I’m glad I did! Once I complete my online MBA, you can bet the saké brewery is my next venture.
In today’s workforce, advanced degrees are almost compulsory for advancement. It’s understandable; there are certain levels of implied credibility which come with degrees, certificates, and industry certifications. For me, not only did I want an MBA, but I also wanted an MBA which would be a differentiator and standout above other MBA programs. Jack Welch principles were familiar to me as GE Healthcare the company I was working for, IDX Systems Corporation, in 2005. I picked up Jack’s book Winning, and as I read the book, it resonated with me and helped solidify some of my leadership principles. When I learned Jack and Suzy had launched the Jack Welch Management Institute in partnership with Strayer University, I knew this was the differentiated MBA program I was looking for!
How has the JWMI curriculum helped you in your career?
I recently received a promotion. I now manage a team of 105 people and am responsible for IT strategy and operations for the state-operated healthcare facilities in North Carolina.
The curriculum at JWMI is relevant to the work I am doing today, and this is a differentiator in the workplace. I have leveraged materials to effect change in operational behaviors and in building high performing, cohesive teams. My foundational operating principles, which align with Jack’s leadership philosophies, are:
- Respectful Candor
- Employee Empowerment
These principles, coupled with my leadership style have enabled me to build strong working relationships across a hierarchy of roles and effect positive change in the organization. I always seek to overdeliver, which results in receiving continual praise with regards to the level of detail and high quality of my deliverables.
This has resulted in several opportunities for me, most recently of which was an expansion of my role to include the IT strategy and operations for our state-operated healthcare facilities which encompasses 2,812 beds, across 14 facilitates.
How are you applying JWMI Healthcare concentration curriculum to your job? Do you feel this content relevant in today’s marketplace?
I’m still in the program (only six classes left!), so there is much more to come. However, I can say these materials always seem to have immediate relevance. In fact, during my last course, “It’s All About The Patient,” we were studying supply chain management. I’ve always had awareness and a fundamental understanding of this area, but certainly not the level of appreciation that I had gained after studying the services and impact that this function has on healthcare operations. The next week, as part of my newly expanded responsibilities, I was participating in meetings where we were directly talking about some of the supply chain interactions and impacts to current contracts for some of our IT services. The coursework could not have been more timely!
It is nice to be in a program where there is specific relevance for today and the future. I have been frustrated in prior college-level courses struggling to find content in the material that I could leverage and immediately apply to my work today. Whether it is financial management, people management, marketing, leadership, business communication, or healthcare operations, there are elements of the course content that are relevant to the work I am doing and can be readily applied today.
What’s been your most rewarding experience in the program?
There have been numerous rewarding experiences throughout the courses I’ve taken so far. The “ah-ha” moments that occur during course readings, the new insights and perspectives from the dialog on our weekly discussion questions, and the learning and honing of skills preparing and delivering assignments. All of this work I have found to be rewarding. My most rewarding experience though has been the feeling of accomplishment! Week by week, assignment by assignment, and class by class. As I continue to press forward in achieving my ultimate goal of a JWMI online MBA, I feel a great sense of accomplishment as I complete each step along that path.
What strategies did you implement to manage job, family, life and an MBA?
Navigating home, work, and class life can be a challenge. My wife and I have a blended family of eight children, two daughters-in-law, two grandchildren, one fiancé, four girlfriends, and a cat. Between holidays, birthdays, vacations, and daily life they keep us busy!
Fortunately, my family has been supportive and helped me manage the right focus and balance for us. I make use of books on Audible when they’re available; this helps me stay on top of the reading assignments. I use my time while commuting to and from work, or when traveling to other locations for meetings to listen to the chapters assigned for the week. I also try to make sure I let my family know what my class schedule is and weeks I have assignments due. This has helped because they then know Wednesday nights I have to make sure I get my discussion question posted, and on Sunday I need to have my other remaining work submitted. It doesn’t necessarily make things any easier, but at least the household has an awareness of my operating rhythm and where there might be schedule conflicts so we can try to get ahead of them when possible.
I also set some realistic expectations for myself. As much as I would love to double up on courses and knock out this MBA, I know this would be a considerable challenge. So, I am likely taking a little longer than most in the program. I take one class per semester and have had to take a couple of semesters off to manage our relocation to North Carolina and some health issues. This strategy works for me, while it’s not the fastest path, the end goal is within reach. And, it does ensure I can focus and commit the time I need to get everything out of my coursework.
What advice can you share with new students embarking on the Jack Welch online MBA journey?
My first word of advice is to persevere! Once you decide to pursue your MBA, don’t give up, don’t quit. I recall a phrase I learned many years ago when I was learning a martial art. One of the tenants was an indomitable spirit, which loosely defined means to never give up even when things look insurmountable, stay focused, stay strong, and press forward. Set your course, even though you may need to make adjustments along the way, stay focused and determined. There will be days when you’ll want to quit, don’t!
I have found that using OneNote has been very helpful in my coursework. I created a notebook titled JWMI, and then I create a new section for each class I take. Each week I create a new page and copy the reading assignments, discussion question, assignment information, learning journal, essentially everything due that week to that page. Then I write up my discussion question, learning journal entry on this page for each week. This keeps all my work together in one place and I can refer back (or use the search function) to work from prior weeks as needed. I now have seven sections, which are the seven classes I’ve taken, within the notebook that I can easily reference at any time. I’ve found this extremely valuable and helpful in leveraging content and learnings from prior courses to help enhance and add to the work of my current course.
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