When a great opportunity comes along, you don’t pass it up — even if it happened much sooner than anticipated. That’s the mindset Jennifer Greenman adopted when, in September of 2014, she was promoted to CIO at Moffitt Cancer Center when Mark Hulse took on the role of Chief Administrative Officer. The plan for Greenman, who was hired as senior director of application services, was to succeed Hulse eventually, and so even though it was an accelerated path, it was still one she happily took. In this interview, she talks about the innovative work being done through the Total Cancer Care initiative, the proactive approach she takes with security education, how Moffitt hopes to continue to improve patient engagement, and the biggest challenge in stepping into the CIO role.
- Competing for IT talent
- Coming to Moffitt as applications director
- Succeeding Mark Hulse — “It was an ideal situation.”
- The CIO learning curve
- Strong leadership — “It has been essential for my own success.”
- An environment of trust
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This was a great opportunity to work for Mark Hulse, someone that I had known previously and always held in very high regard.
My specialty in IT has always been more on the applications and projects area. So I think that in some respects, learning the key concepts, the key terminology, and best practices as it relates to infrastructure was a real learning curve for me.
The key to any CIO’s success is having strong, independent leaders on their team who they can entrust to perform their role with a high degree of confidence. I would say in my own career it has been essential for my own success.
As a leader, I value trust above nearly all other qualities. It’s important that I trust the leaders and team members within my organization to perform their role independently with a high degree of competence. It’s equally important that I conduct all my professional and personal interactions in a manner that creates an environment of trust.
Gamble: When you talk about competition in the area, is it a lot of healthcare organizations or just in general IT as well?
Greenman: We face competition at both levels. Within some of our more specialized or healthcare-oriented roles, we do have a number of other very prominent and successful healthcare organizations in the region that tend to recruit similar types of skills sets — for example, Cerner applications analysts. But we also compete certainly across all industries for more technical skills sets, and that can be a real challenge at times for us.
Gamble: That’s definitely been a common theme in health IT, especially when you’re talking about the people who have that experience or certifications especially.
Greenman: Exactly. And of course, living in Tampa is not a bad place to be, right? So the good news is we have a lot of people who are interested in relocating down to this region, and that does help us with recruitment.
Gamble: Yeah, I can imagine. Northeast winters are not fun.
Gamble: Now, when did you start with the organization?
Greenman: I started working at Moffitt in July of 2013.
Gamble: And that was in what role?
Greenman: I started as the senior director of application services.
Gamble: And then at what point did you assume the CIO role?
Greenman: In September of 2014, I was promoted to CIO.
Gamble: What was it that drew you to the organization?
Greenman: Well, first and foremost, I would say the most significant drivers for my decision were Moffitt’s reputation as an outstanding employer and healthcare provider. And additionally, this was a great opportunity to work for Mark Hulse, who is Moffitt’s former CIO and someone that I had known previously and always held in very high regard.
Gamble: When you did arrive there, was there any expectation or knowledge that he was going to be leaving, or was it just something that happened once you were already there?
Greenman: There was no expectation when I came to Moffitt that I would move into this role. Mark was actually promoted to the chief administrative officer of Moffitt in early 2014, and was wonderful enough to position me to succeed him as CIO, which was an amazing and incredible opportunity for me.
Gamble: So, when you were transitioning to that role, he was with the organization. I imagine that was something where you were able to reach out to him with questions?
Greenman: Yes, it was an ideal situation.
Gamble: What would you say was the toughest part about transitioning to the CIO role?
Greenman: That is a good question. I did formally serve as CIO at Bayfront before coming to Moffitt — that was my prior organization, Bayfront Health System in St. Petersburg. That was my first real experience as the chief information officer and really the first significant leadership opportunity in the areas of infrastructure and operations.
Prior to serving as CIO, I was the director of applications and projects at Bayfront, so I guess you could say my specialty in IT has always been more on the applications and projects area. So I think that in some respects, learning the key concepts, the key terminology, and best practices as it relates to infrastructure was a real learning curve for me, particularly at Bayfront when I was first in that role. It was a great opportunity and certainly I learned a tremendous amount in that environment, but that was a bit of a learning curve there. Fortunately, when I came to Moffitt and moved into this role, I didn’t have such a learning curve at that point. I’m trying to think, here at Moffitt, I’m sure many things come to mind.
Gamble: Right. I’m sure it did help having that CIO experience. I would imagine having experience in projects has also been helpful in transitioning.
Greenman: Yes, very much. To answer your question, I do think, generally speaking, that the biggest challenge probably for any CIO is really evolving from the operational mindset to the strategic mindset — really staying out of the weeds, so to speak, and really being able to function at that higher level and think in terms of future state vision as opposed to current operational priorities, which can be very effectively handled by a strong leadership team.
Gamble: Would you say that one of the keys in being able to get a little bit away from the weeds is in either delegating or knowing that there are already good people in those roles and trusting them with those details?
Greenman: Absolutely. The key to any CIO’s success is having strong, independent leaders on their team who they can entrust to perform their role with a high degree of confidence. I would say in my own career it has been essential for my own success — having very, very strong leaders on my team.
Gamble: You had said that Mark Hulse kind of put you in succession for the role. As far as you can recall, was it something that did surprise you at first, just having that conversation with him?
Greenman: Yes, actually, it did. I was not expecting, first of all, that Mark would be moving into a new role, although it was certainly well deserved. But also, I certainly did not anticipate this opportunity being available to me so soon after arriving to Moffitt.
Gamble: But did you know that you wanted to take it?
Greenman: Yes, I had very much enjoyed serving as CIO at Bayfront, and really was very excited about the opportunity to serve in the role at Moffitt. Given our reputation for operational excellence and innovation, I knew it would be a wonderful career opportunity for me, and also something that I would find to be personally and professionally very rewarding.
Gamble: The last thing I would ask is, along those lines of leadership, I can imagine it might be difficult to determine what kind of leadership style you want to have. You had held the CIO role before, but was it challenging to figure out what kind of style of leadership you wanted to have?
Greenman: Yeah, I do think it took time to develop a sense for what I felt would be most important as a leader. What I will say is, as a leader, I value trust above nearly all other qualities. It’s important that I trust the leaders and team members within my organization to perform their role independently with a high degree of competence. It’s equally important that I conduct all my professional and personal interactions in a manner that creates an environment of trust. I’ve learned from Mark and other mentors in my career, as well as my own experience, that it is important to provide this degree of autonomy and allow my teams to determine the best way to approach an effort.
In some cases, my approach may have been different, but this is immaterial if the outcome is favorable. This level of delegation is important for my own effectiveness as a leader as well. Now, if the outcome is unfavorable or an inappropriate course of action is taken, my trust may be eroded and intervention becomes necessary, but I won’t let these occasional negative events influence or alter my general inclination toward trust.
Gamble: That definitely makes a lot of sense. When you’re dealing with the type of care that’s provided at Moffitt and what’s needed of the IT team, that trust certainly is essential.
Gamble: All right, we’ve definitely covered a lot, and I really appreciate your time. The organization is really doing some incredible work, and I know that our readers are going to enjoy learning about it. So thank you so much for taking the time to talk.
Greenman: My pleasure. Thank you very much, and if you have any questions or need any clarifying information, just let me know.
Gamble: Will do, thank you.
Greenman: Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much, Gamble.
Gamble: Sure thing and I hope to see you again, hopefully in the fall?
Greenman: Yes, definitely. I will definitely try to be there.
Gamble: Well, thanks so much and I will be in touch.