With the exception of a rare few, most career paths are riddled with bumps, potholes, and detours. Fortunately, they’re also filled with opportunities for those who are paying attention — and are willing to try a different direction. And that direction, according to the leaders we reached out to, can just as easily come from a family member as it can from a director manager or colleague.
Below are the responses to this question:
Is there a person or even a single conversation that impacted your career and pointed you in the right direction?
Gretchen Britt, VP, Information Technology, Liberty Hospital
I’ve had several people who have believed in me and sparked the confidence I needed to take the next step. I would have to say that the single conversation that made the biggest impact on my career was with a physician, Dr. Kay Gerster. We were doing a procedure and I told her I was thinking about going back to school for my RN-BSN after working at the bedside for 10 years. I was interested in leadership and growth but knew I would need to further my education. She then filled my bucket with confidence and said, “You have to do it.” She wrote an amazing letter of recommendation. Not only was I accepted but I was awarded a full scholarship from our hospital foundation. This set me on the path to discovering all the opportunities in nursing and led me to healthcare IT.
Chuck Christian, CTO & VP of Technology, Franciscan Health
I know this may sound corny, but my wife was the one who pointed me in the direction of technology back in the middle 80’s when I was working as a manager in a busy radiology department and was implementing a patient and order management solution. She pointed out that I was a total gear head and that moving into Information Systems would be a smart career move. She followed me everywhere we landed, and we raised four awesome daughters in the process. She is a critical care nurse, but put her career on hold to be Mom, something that she was really good at.
Terri Couts, SVP & Chief Digital Officer, The Guthrie Clinic
I was a Pediatric Open-Heart nurse serving on a hybrid team that allowed me a lot of autonomy to learn and directly impact pediatric patients. I used my knowledge of the impact of technology and how it could hurt or help my care of those patients and transitioned to an informatics role at that hospital. I was able to stay connected to patient care because the work I did directly impacted the ability of those nurses to care for patients. I have always been driven by purpose and less by money. When I had the opportunity to go into consulting where I could use my skills to help other hospitals, I felt like I was challenging my values. I confided in a physician with whom I was close about the opportunity I had and the struggle that I was facing internally. His words were: “In healthcare, titles and roles are important, but it’s the heart and compassion you bring to them that truly matters. Your decisions should be guided by what’s best for the patients, their families, and the dedicated healthcare professionals who work tirelessly to make a difference.” I knew I had a greater calling. And while it may have brought more financial benefits, the true reward was the number of patients I could serve by transforming how healthcare uses technology. I still use his words today when I am faced with a decision that might take me on a different path than expected.
Tanya Townsend, Chief Information and Digital Officer at Stanford Children’s Health
Early in my career as I was transitioning roles into leadership, I struggled with no longer feeling like I was “producing” something tangible every day like I did when I was personally deploying systems or hardware. A great mentor reminded me that as you transition to leadership, the job now is to lead. Providing direction and support to many team members is my role as a leader, and I’ve been so thankful to influence others’ careers and success through that lens.
Zafar Chaudry, SVP and Chief Digital & Information Officer, Seattle Children’s
My uncle, who was a cardiologist, encouraged me to be a physician. He told me that I should dream big, and if I got halfway there, I would still be very successful.