07 March 2018
In honor of International Women’s Day 2018, I sat down with a woman that I am very fortunate to know – Julie McGuire from Texas Children’s Hospital. Julie is a healthcare executive making strides in her career whilst ensuring the success of those in her team and organisation. Her inspirational, yet practical advice is something you’ll want to take note of!
Tell me about your career progression into your current role.
I have had an interesting career progression. I am a clinician by background, and started out as a nurse here at Texas Children’s. Through a mix of different opportunities and advanced education, I became a Paediatric Nurse Practitioner. About 10 years into my Texas Children’s career they began to implement the Electronic Medical Record and I was asked to be a member of the project team. I was very excited about the opportunity, and my first role within technology was as an educator for the electronic medical record.
From there, they opened a formal position in Information Services as a manager of the clinical applications associated with the electronic medical record. I’ve had the opportunity to grow, not only with my responsibilities for the EMR, but other technologies as well. I developed from a manager into a director in about three and a half years.
You made a major career change from being a Nurse Practitioner to Information Technology. How did that change come about?
My first role within technology was as an educator. I had the opportunity to take my experience of being a nurse and a provider to educate other nurses, advanced providers, and physicians on how to use the EMR. I bridged the gap between a clinician – understanding clinical workflows and how to treat patients – and how to use technology as a tool to effectively and efficiently take care of our patients, whilst continuing to provide quality care.
What are your thoughts on diversity within the healthcare industry?
Diversity is important no matter what the industry is! Not only ensuring equality between men and women, but also between people of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds. We all bring different perspectives, and when you have problems to solve it’s great to have those differing perspectives. If everyone in your team is of the same mindset, you may end up trying to solve problems in the same way over and over again. That’s the definition of insanity, right!? Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.
With different types of people at the table, you have an opportunity to solve problems in a different way – you have the opportunity to grow as individuals and learn differently. Especially in healthcare, we have the chance to meet the needs of the diverse people we serve.
If you had to choose, what’s the one factor that has helped you the most in your career?
Taking chances. When the door has opened, just taking that chance. Also, ensuring that I have the right mentors. The majority of my mentors in my life and career are women. I’ve had a senior-level executive mentor here at my organisation for the last six years. I really value women mentors – there are three women off the top of my head (my current leader, my mentor, and my sponsor) who are all women.
I don’t want to leave out the men that have provided guidance to me over the years. There’s some key guidance and advice I’ve received from former leaders, whom I sought out for guidance because I admired the way they approached problems.
Something I’ve learned the importance of is having a sponsor versus a mentor. Having a sponsor is key – in the tenure of my career, I’ve just recently discovered the significance of that. You have to truly understand the difference between the two. A mentor provides advice and guidance. I am able to walk through scenarios either before or after they have occurred with my mentor. This gives me the opportunity to process and grow for the next similar scenario. So, what’s a sponsor? A senior level executive who invests in you and your success, someone invested in your upward progression, and helps promote visibility. It’s important that you are specific when building relationships and seeking guidance with leaders that you admire that you clarify the role you are asking them to play.
What are the benefits of diverse teams and diverse organisations?
I look at not only gender diversity and different cultures, but even different span of life. You have your seasoned folks who have been around, and have seen lots of problems so they know how to troubleshoot them. I will tell you, the younger generation that’s coming in (often labelled ‘millennials’), I feel that I have been challenged to grow with them. They think differently and they think out of the box. That diversity also helps when trying to solve a problem. Not to mention that our patients now fit that demographic. Our new moms coming to our clinics with high-risk pregnancies are of that generation. If we don’t have those folks helping us to develop solutions and technologies that are patient-facing, then we may not be meeting those generational needs.
As a leader, you have to be open-minded to have that diversity on your team. You have to be willing to listen and be in awe of what you get when you take some of those chances. I’ve taken the risk a couple of times with brand new grads and it has paid off immensely. Even when we feel we need more tenured experience to get the job done, bringing in a new graduate can positively challenge the entire team.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #PressforProgress. What does that mean to you?
On the national front – do we truly get equal pay? Dollar for dollar, for the same type of jobs? When women choose to have families, via natural ways or adoptive families, are we truly not penalised for taking that time off in our career? Do we achieve that work-life balance being a working mother? How are we continuing to press the idea that you can have a successful career and
It also means, what are we doing for each other? Sometimes, I think women are our own worst enemies. We need to look at ourselves, and how we're supporting each other, not just in our organisations but externally. Ensuring that we’re promoting the right actions and values. Stop negativity amongst women in our organisations and our society, and truly support each other. Those things can continue to proliferate the male versus female dynamic in leadership. Be encouraging of other women’s successes.
What’s your advice for leaders who want to create a more diverse and inclusive culture?
For one, knowing the makeup of your team, and knowing where the skill gaps are when you’re hiring. Think not only about experience, but other traits and behaviours and aptitude that come with time. Your team is like a puzzle. If you have all the same pieces, they won’t fit together. If you have different pieces, you get the full picture.
You also have to consciously and subconsciously understand what you have today, and where you are going as you're hiring. Maybe a team member doesn’t have a skill set here, but if they understand the vision of where I’m going, that’s the candidate I want. You must find people that think differently. Look for people who will help to drive your organisation forward. I’m only as successful as my team.
My 2018 word is growth – to challenge and grow myself, I need people that are going to challenge me. I need people that are smarter than me. I don’t want to be a dictator or an authoritarian, I want to lead and that means people need to grow and lead with me. Who is the person that’s going to take your organisation to the next step? In the technology world, it’s such a vortex and things are always moving. You have to be nimble, and you need a team that thinks that way too.