Behind every accomplished individual is at least one person who helped shape his or her career and pave the way to success. In recognition of these mentors, healthsystemCIO.com has developed a blog series that provides a forum for health IT leaders to acknowledge those who gave them an opportunity to excel and taught valuable lessons along the way. It’s a chance to give back to those who have given so much of their time and attention. If you are interested in contributing to this series, contact Kate Gamble.
In my life, I have been lucky to have a number of wonderful mentors. My family has always worked hard and been ambitious and goal-oriented. This is why my mom was a very successful nurse and my dad a successful leader and business partner. My dad took care of his company and his people. I remember growing up he would always keep his employees working even when work was slow. He cared so much about helping others that he would put himself under pressure to take care of them.
He would, from time to time, make difficult decisions, but he believed in treating people equally and fairly. I remember he worked every weekend — not because he had to, but because his team was working and he wanted to make sure his customers and his staff had what they needed. My parents taught me many valuable life lessons. I still ask for their advice on a regular basis.
Through my parents’ mentorship, I actually decided to take my own career path. I love working with people and helping others, so I made the decision to work in healthcare. I started my IT career at 18 and rose through the ranks very quickly. I was fortunate during my short transition to become a regional CIO over three hospitals at age 25. The regional CEO, Joel Fagerstrom, gave me a great deal of opportunity, and I enjoyed stepping up the challenge.
I found that being a young CIO has its challenges, but it also provides a lot of opportunity. Joel saw something in me and gave me a chance to grow my career. He has and continues to be a great mentor that I talk with on a regular basis, both about personal and professional matters. Joel is still one of the first people I call today when I have a problem.
Mary Eagan, Jerry Nathan, and Chris Blakemore also helped guide me in my role and provided mentorship to me in many different capacities. I continue to speak with these mentors as often as possible, and I appreciate their advice and friendship. Each of them has taught me something different about how to lead, manage, and make decisions.
The great thing about having so many great mentors is the ability to receive valuable feedback and grow. The people that are willing to provide feedback do this because they care about your growth. Asking for help is the simplest form of asking for mentorship. I always ask others for feedback, and this is how I believe my mentors were able to open up with me. I have continued this with others in my current organization and found that it really helps me to make better decisions.
There are people that will want to mentor you, and you need to decide if they are the appropriate person. I have, on several occasions, said no, or avoided certain situations when I didn’t think it would lead to appropriate guidance. Therefore, it’s important that you pick the right mentors, as this relationship will mold your style and approach. It is important as well for your mentors to be open to your style.
The key is for your mentor to feel like the issue is yours and that you already have a solution, but you would like to better understand their opinion on the matter. You can’t take everything to them; you have to choose what’s important and you have to decide what you want to do with their feedback. It’s also important for them to know what you did with their feedback. The key is to have a trusting relationship with your mentor in which you can freely discuss anything, and that must work both ways.
I was fortunate enough to achieve many of my goals as a young professional, and I wanted to give back to others. My team and I created a Co-Op and Mentorship program for our local University and for our IT department. This proved to be very beneficial for our managers, staff and our local university. I have always been passionate about helping people, especially when it comes to helping them grow and learn. I find it amazing when people who want to learn take the opportunity to reach out for help. If done properly, I see it a sign of confidence — not weakness.
There is a great sense of satisfaction in seeing others grow, especially when they work hard and care about each other. This has created lasting relationships that I cherish with my mentors and I appreciate them more than they know.
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