I’d like to share my journey as a retired English teacher currently serving as the CIO and Chief security and privacy officer for Family Health Care in Northwest Michigan. How I got here is a fascinating story, though far too long to condense into one article. Suffice it to say that if an English teacher can become an IT leader, so can you.
I attended my first CDW conference in October 2022. I hadn’t attended a conference in a very long time. I generally find IT conferences to be above my head; I’m not trained in IT and don’t have my hands in IT. I’m a user and a pusher, but not a fixer. That’s also the case for healthcare conferences, since I’m not a medical professional nor do I provide direct patient care.
However, when I attended CDW’s Executive SummIT, I was blown away by the content and walked away energized and ready to move forward on a strategic path that felt fresh. (Since that first conference, I’ve attended twice more and felt the same energy each time.) But, as much as CDW has embraced a diverse workforce, it was alarming to see that so few attendees were women.
I’ve been working in technology since 1997. It’s long been a man’s world. I thought things would have changed by 2022, but I was wrong.
I approached my CDW healthcare account representative, Ben Gentry, with this concern and suggested a story about my own transformation from English teacher to IT chief.
According to some research, women may be shortchanging themselves when it comes job searching, chiefly by not applying for roles unless they feel 100 percent qualified. In contrast, men often apply for jobs they are not fully qualified for, knowing that they can learn. Because of this, I’m certain that there are many capable women who have not advanced into positions of IT leadership because they feel that the men on their team are more knowledgeable.
How Your Strengths Apply to Health IT
As far as I’m concerned, everyone who works for me is more knowledgeable than I am, but my unique strengths and experiences allow me to help them function as a team to achieve great things for our organization, even though I am not traditionally trained in IT or healthcare.
This is a plea to women like me, who can — and probably do — lead, but don’t show up in audiences made up of technology leaders.
We need you. We need the way you think, the way you organize. Are you a project manager? Can you see the forest as well as the trees? Are you organized? Can you help someone else get organized? Can you trust your team members but provide support to them along the way? Do you know how to hire slowly and carefully and how to fire fast? Are you honest, hardworking and ethical? Can you tell a good story? Can you be kind and respectful while being firm? Can you be direct while being respectful?
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If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then go for that IT leadership role!
What’s the first step? Take advantage of opportunities offered to you, regardless of specific background and training. I left education for IT because the organization that approached me liked the way that I think. I approached the job that the company created for me in my own way, and we discovered that my expertise was a great fit.
Yes, I knew a few things about IT. But as an educator, I knew a lot about people, and that’s what it took to bring together disparate personalities to accomplish goals and help close sales.
What do you have to lose? Even if you try and fail, you’ll learn something about the industry and about yourself — and perhaps add a few new connections to your network.
I hope to see you at the next CDW SummIT.