Thinking about reinventing your professional self? It can be scary to leave your comfort zone and take your career in a new direction, but it can also be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.
At 49, I am CIO of a cutting-edge organization helping more than half a million Medicaid patients in my state. In addition, I teach at Columbia University, and I’m invited to speak and write about issues in my industry. You could say that I’m emerging as a thought leader. In short, I’m exactly where I want to be at this point in my career, but the evolution hasn’t always been easy. Here is what I learned along the way.
1. Timing is crucial.
It sounds like an oversimplification, but it’s true: You have to be ready for reinvention. You can’t do it with competing priorities. At least I couldn’t. It takes too much focus. Ever since I started my IT career in the financial services industry in the late 1980s, I’ve dreamed of becoming a CIO in a field where I could use my skills to make a difference in people’s lives, but I put the dream on hold for nearly 20 years after my son and daughter came along. That’s patience.
My priority was not about taking risks to advance my career, but about job security, about ensuring I gave my kids a good home and a blue ribbon education. For two decades, my commitment to my kids superseded everything. It wasn’t until they were both accepted at Yale in 2012 that I set my sights on my own dreams.
2. Doors will open when you’re ready.
The same year my children were accepted into college, an opportunity came along that was a significant step toward achieving my CIO goal. I had moved into healthcare IT program management in 2005, and in the seven years that followed had earned my stripes leading implementation initiatives in a variety of challenging environments.
I had also achieved my CPHIMS certification from HIMSS. So when the offer came in 2012 to be Deputy CIO with New York City Health + Hospitals, I was prepared to step into the role. Sure, I’d had ladders placed in front of me at other points in my career, but this was the first time I was truly ready, willing and able to start climbing. Before I knew it, I was managing 40-50 people across five hospitals in the South Manhattan network. And I began to focus seriously on growing into the CIO persona I had long envisioned for Tonguç Yaman.
3. Don’t hesitate to do what you need to do.
I knew the vision was limited by my education. I had received a B.Sc. degree in Computer Engineering from Boğaziçi University, an Ivy League school in Turkey, but I needed to expand that education beyond computers and into the public health arena if I wanted to strengthen my role in the healthcare industry. I enrolled in the Executive Master of Public Health program at Columbia University — a significant time and financial investment, but one I felt essential to take me where I wanted to go.
I also very deliberately began networking and expanding my contact base, which got a shot in the arm when I enrolled in the CIO Boot Camp program during CHIME 2015. I also received CHIME’s CHCIO designation after Boot Camp. It gave me the confidence to apply for a new position as the first CIO of Advocate Community Providers (ACP), and to move my name to the top of the pool of candidates there. I got the job. (Read more about the experience in the article I wrote for Inside CHIME.)
As I approach my 50th birthday in 2017, as I near completion of my eMPH degree and watch as my children, now college graduates, take their places in the workforce and the world, it feels good to know I can positively impact the lives of so many people in my new role as CIO at ACP, a network of physicians, specialists and community-based provider organizations delivering high-quality care to Medicaid patients in New York.
It also feels good to know that the stars have aligned to put me in a very exciting place today — a place where I can use my knowledge and experience to help fulfill an important humanitarian mission. The journey certainly didn’t happen overnight. (I spent a lot of time visualizing the professional I wanted to be, inspired by Amy Cuddy’s research on how our body language can affect our minds, which in turn can affect what we become — but more on that in a future blog post!) The rollout of Tonguç Yaman 3.0 took time, but I’m confident it’s a version that is positioned to achieve great things.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse by Tonguç Yaman, CIO at Advocate Community Partners and a graduate of the CHIME CIO Boot Camp program.