Leadership Profile # 1 — Mary Owen — Operations Administrator — Mayo Clinic

An informational interview can be valuable for both the individual seeking the interview, and the knowledge therein, but also the individual and organization from whom the knowledge is being sought. It’s an informal conversation or meeting in which a potential job seeker is searching for information and advice on the organization and its culture, possibly the industry, and their career. In addition, it’s a great way to expand their professional network. The organization, on the other hand, can gain insights in to the individual seeking employment (or considering new options) and can assess whether there may be a potential fit. This helps the organization with recruitment by building their candidate pool for potential future hires. To note, an informational interview is not a job interview.

One of the informational interviews I conducted was with an individual in an adjacent area to where I currently work. The following is a summary of the meeting.

The Contact

•Name: Mary Owen

•Title/Position: Operations Administrator — Rochester

•Company: Mayo Clinic

•Industry: Healthcare

Questions About the Contact (Career, Company, Industry, Skills, Success, Etc.)

Please tell me a little about your background (education, work history, etc.). Do you have an advanced degree of some sort (e.g., MBA, MHA, etc.)? Have you always worked for Mayo Clinic? How long have you been an OA for GI? Do you have other areas of responsibility? What other experiences (Mayo or non-Mayo) do you have? Mary has a Nursing Degree from Winona State and is very close to attaining her MHA from St. Mary’s University. She has worked at Mayo Clinic her entire career. She has been in her current role (Operations Administrator (OA) for the Department of Gastroenterology (GI)) since 2011. She is also sits on various committees (i.e., Department of Medicine (DOM) Outpatient Practice Committee, Operations Coordinating Group (Assistant Secretary), and Mayo Clinic’s Fee Committee) and was formerly on the Clinical Practice Committee’s Space Subcommittee.

Having worked at Mayo her entire career, Mary has had a variety of experiences and held a number of roles. She was originally hired by Rochester Methodist Hospital as a nurse. She held various roles, including supervisory roles, within the Infusion Therapy Center and Transfusion Medicine, as well as the Department of Lab Medicine and Pathology (DLMP). Mary eventually became an OA within DLMP and was responsible for three large divisions. After spending approximately 13 years in this role, Mary was named the OA for GI.

What key skills are required in your position on a day-to-day basis? How about that of an Operations Manager? We talked about the key skills necessary for an OA, as well as an Operations Manager, to be successful, and the following were noted: leadership skills (forward, strategic thinking); managerial skills (e.g., dealing with personnel and related issues); analytical skills; knowing what it’s like to work with physicians and having the ability to partner with them and yet understand each other’s roles; the confidence and ability to ask questions. Because of the complexities in healthcare and with Mayo and with the size of Mayo, etc., it’s important to ask questions when you don’t know or understand something.

What parts of your job do you find most challenging? As to the most challenging parts of her job, Mary explained balancing the desire to drive change and make improvements and yet not telling the physicians and physician leaders that you know the practice and know how to make such change(s) occur can be challenging. In addition, an OA has to be careful not to focus so much on the various metrics but also on the people and patient part of the business. The primary value of “The needs of the patient come first.” must always be at the forefront of decision-making, etc.

Are there any negatives to your job? As for any negatives to the job, the hours can be demanding, but Mary is cognizant of balancing that. In addition, the expectation that you’re always going to be available can pose challenges.

What do you find most enjoyable / rewarding? The most enjoyable or rewarding part of Mary’s job is working with all the wonderful people.

How would you describe the corporate culture at Mayo? As to Mayo’s corporate culture, Mary talked about how this truly does work and it has for years and years. It’s a physician-led and committee-driven organization. Mayo’s employees truly believe in the mission and values. Mary did comment that when something at Mayo is implemented quickly and without much support, there is many times failure. Mayo doesn’t typically operate in a quick or fast-paced mode.

Questions About Communicating for Leadership (Best Practices, Problem-Solving, Motivating Others, Change / Innovation)

How would you describe yourself as a leader? I asked Mary to describe herself as a leader and she denoted visible, approachable, available, supportive, a team player, and not dictating.

Will you please tell me about a story about a challenge you faced as a leader? How did you solve it? How did it change you? The challenge Mary commented on was with regard to the SOFT system implementation within DLMP and needing a physician partner to help communicate the message surrounding the changes, etc. There was a lot of change management and education involved, and the vastness of the project overall was taxing.

Could you tell me a story about a time you need to deal with a difficult person or have a difficult conversation? When first becoming an OA within DLMP, Mary had to deal with a number of personnel issues, including terminations. This was very challenging but necessary to move the team forward.

Will you please tell me a story about a time you needed to communicate to get a group of people to change? Again, Mary talked about the SOFT implementation within DLMP.

Questions Seeking Advice for You (Background, Skills, Resume, Job Search and Interviewing)

What educational and “experiential” preparation would you recommend for someone who wants to advance in this field? Mary recommended getting involved in various projects (e.g., departmental or divisional projects) and also understanding and communicating the goal and my role in this when seeking future opportunities. Also, I need to ensure I am receiving ongoing supervisory opportunities as well.

What qualifications do you seek, or are sought, in a new hire (OA, OM, Other Operational Role)? The response here was managerial and leadership skills, analytical skills, knowing what it’s like to work with physicians and having the ability to partner with them and yet understand the respective roles within the leadership team, the ability to ask questions.

How do most people enter this profession / your position? Seems like Mayo typically hires within for OA positions — do you agree? What about the OMs? Mary did agree that most OAs are hired from within Mayo. The OMs can come from a variety of areas, but again, they primarily do come from within Mayo as well.

What do you think of the experiences I’ve had so far (see DRAFT resume)? For what types of positions would my experiences and skills qualify me? We talked about my experiences prior to Mayo and those at Mayo these past 18+ years and the potential roles I may want to pursue in the future. Certainly, I may consider pursuing a Manager or Director position within Finance. In addition, I may want to consider a position within the practice, such as an Operations Manager or a Business Analyst. There are a number of potential opportunities at Mayo with my background and with the size of Mayo.

Can you recommend any roles or experiences I should take before proceeding further with a job search for some sort of administrative or operational position? Here, Mary again talked about the importance of volunteering for and/or participating in projects, whether it be in my specific department or division (Finance / Management Accounting) and/or with some of the clinical practice areas I support.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Reflect on the interview experience. What did you learn? What were you surprised by? What conclusions or main ideas can you take away from the interview? What will you do differently in the future now that you have had this experience? I very much enjoyed my conversation with Ms. Owen and developed a network connection accordingly. I certainly gained some insights in to a supportive role (operational or administrative role) within the practice. There are many facets to the OM and OA roles and they can certainly vary some based on the clinical practice area, the physician leader, etc. Some great advice Mary shared is with regard to continuing to pursue project roles and to get involved with a project or projects that will allow me to exhibit existing skills and yet grow and develop and gain new ones as well.

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