This week, HIMSS is celebrating National Health IT (NHIT) Week. One of the areas of focus this year under the overarching theme of “Supporting Healthy Communities” is “Accelerating Workforce Development – encouraging women in HIT and STEM careers.”
To that end, Sentry would like to take this opportunity to recognize the many women in our organization, from leadership to IT to customer service, who are an integral part of delivering the cutting-edge technology and world-class expertise that help our hospital and health system customers make strategic business decisions and serve patients around the country.
We sat down with Kim Jacques, our Chief Information Officer, to hear more about her career in IT and the work she does at Sentry.
Sentry: Tell us about your career. How did you end up in HIT?
Kim: I worked in financial IT for 30 years, at Capital One and other organizations. When I met Travis Leonardi, Sentry’s CEO, and the other leaders here and saw their passion for improving healthcare and driving costs down, I started to think about how my skills could apply to that goal. Here, I get to use technology to solve day-to-day business problems and really impact healthcare.
Sentry: Can you share your experience as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field?
Kim: There’s definitely a stereotype about men in IT. All the movies and TV shows depict a frail man in glasses sitting behind a computer. It’s even in our colloquialisms; people say, “Call the IT guy.” It’s never, “Call the IT gal.” And maybe there’s a stereotype for a reason – currently, only about 18% of chief information officers or chief technology officers at big US firms are women, according to The Wall Street Journal.
But for women to succeed in health IT, they have to learn not to be intimidated by the status quo. The secret to IT is not being the smartest; it’s the ability to talk not just about technology, but about technology as a vehicle for solving business problems. You get a lot of people who want to talk about the tech, but not as many who can connect it to how to improve business processes, and if you can’t tie it to a business problem, you probably shouldn’t be paying for it.
Sentry: What can women bring to HIT? Why is it important for them to be in this field?
Kim: There are so many directions and career opportunities within IT. For example, by working in IT at Sentry, I’ve learned so much about the business of healthcare and that’s opened up entirely new avenues in my career. You can really learn IT from the perspective of any industry.
I think women shied away from IT for many years in part because they thought there wouldn’t be enough work/life balance or that it might not be a good career if they wanted to raise a family. But the industry has changed. So much of what we do in IT now can be done remotely, and women can absolutely excel here.
What women need to overcome in order to be successful in IT is the stereotype and the fear. As long as you are confident and you know your subject matter, you can succeed. The women I’ve seen in IT throughout the course of my career have really hit it out of the park.
Sentry: Can you tell us about mentorship work you’ve done for young women looking to work in IT?
Kim: Women often are not exposed to IT careers early enough. We should be sharing these options with children in Girl Scouts and similar organizations so they learn not to be intimidated by science and math.
When I worked at Capital One, I worked with an organization called Women in Technology International, where I spoke with women in high school and college about IT careers, and what I would tell them is, don’t be intimidated and know your worth. As I mentioned, there are so many directions an IT career can take you.
And confidence is so important. When men are confident and assertive, it’s good leadership. When women are confident and assertive, it’s sometimes not received quite as well. Which is why it’s important for women to build confidence and a sense of the value they bring to the table early on.
Finally, women need to support other women and hold each other up. It’s so important to have a network of women that you can ask questions of, share challenges with and learn from.
Sentry: What is your role at Sentry, and what’s your favorite part of the job?
Kim: I’ve been at Sentry about two and a half years, and I’ve spent a great deal of that time on strategy and road-mapping, looking at how to apply our technology to business outcomes, such as improving our customer service or helping hospitals reduce the cost of healthcare. I ask questions to push the uses of technology beyond what we think it can do: How can we reduce implementation time? How can we address customer service questions before they escalate? How can we get customers the answers they seek in two clicks instead of five? Why can’t we automate a certain process? It’s about learning what is important to Sentry, what differentiates us, and then applying technology to that.
The best part about working here is the leadership. From the very top all the way down, they all have such a passion for healthcare and they know the field so well and that has been inspiring. The message is very strong here – we care about affordable healthcare.
I often talk to our customer support team and so many people here have a family member who has been impacted by illness or by healthcare, or they’ve seen caregivers change lives and they have meaningful reasons for being in this field. That’s something you don’t see every day.
Also, as I get older I learn more and more about how much good healthcare matters. And I can also look towards retirement and know I’ll be able to look back and think, I really did something here. It wasn’t just bringing a server online or building a data center. I’ve worked on solutions that really made a difference, in our economy and in our country. And that’s an incredible opportunity.