Jean: Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory” of how you became a founder?
Growing up, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. My mother worked as a home health aide, so I had an insight into helping vulnerable patient populations at a young age. Understanding what caring for patients meant and the work that goes into it inspired me to pursue a pre-med and sociology degree at Columbia University. After graduation, I pursued a healthcare administrative fellows program at a hospital in the Bronx. This experience shined a light on a problematic area within our healthcare system — communication between acute and post-acute care. Patients I cared for would be discharged and sent to post-acute facilities like skilled nursing facilities. Once they were discharged, we had no idea how they were doing, where they went or even if they wound up back at a hospital. It was a total black hole.
I took what I learned in the Bronx and partnered with several classmates at Harvard to enter the idea of bridging acute and post-acute providers into the Harvard Business Plan competition. While preparing for the competition, we laid the groundwork for a company, developed use cases for the technology, interviewed potential users and started to adjust our platform based on product feedback. We won the competition and, shortly after, went on to join TechStars Boston, and then raised funding to launch a real company, known today as CarePort. CarePort connects hospitals, post-acute providers, payers, and ACOs for better collaboration around care transitions and patient care.
Jean: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Everyone’s voice matters no matter where they sit in the organization. All of us at CarePort have embraced that way of thinking. For example, when we were building out our new office earlier this year, there was an option of private offices for the senior leadership team. Instead, we chose an open office where everyone sits together. So, my door is always open (literally because I have no door).
Also, while it’s not something that we necessarily set out to do, in building this kind of culture, we have organically attracted many talented women. Women make up a significant portion of our team, including in our product and marketing leadership roles. I am proud that we’ve built a place where other smart women want to work.
Jean: Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We recently announced a first-of-its-kind integration solution between Jackson Health System’s Cerner EHR and the CarePort Care Management platform. Integration is important for users in healthcare but hard to achieve because of patient privacy and security concerns. As a result, users are often jumping between multiple systems. With Jackson Health, we connected Cerner and CarePort so that users could sign on to both solutions with one login. More importantly, when a user moves between Cerner and CarePort, they can keep the patient in context — meaning information about the patient in Cerner is available to users in Care Management. By connecting systems via single sign-on and keeping the patient in context, we’re eliminating the need to jump back and forth between solutions. What we’ve launched with Jackson Health provides a great seamless experience.
Jean: Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
A book that I recently re-read is Weetzie Bat, by Francesca Lia Block. This book centers on a girl who doesn’t quite fit in, but unlike traditional young adult fictional stories about misfits who then become popular, the protagonist does not seek to be accepted. Instead, this book celebrates her uniqueness and individuality through a series of adventures in LA — some of which are very entertaining. It’s a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but by the time you finish, you realize it’s much more substantive than you would have expected it to be. My husband remembered me talking about how much I loved the book growing up and then surprised me with a new copy when we took our delayed honeymoon last year. I loved revisiting it.
Jean: What are your “5 Lessons I Learned as a Twentysomething Founder” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Spend your time building a team, not a company: An idea is nothing without its innovator, and a company is nothing without its people. The most important aspect to building your business is getting the right team in place. There is so much that is unknown or ambiguous when first starting a company; you need the best people around you to help figure it out. It’s critical for entrepreneurs and new founders to make building the team a priority.
2. Love the hustle: As a young founder, you always are trying to push the envelope. Whether it’s because your customers want to try something new with your product or it’s an idea spun by your employees, you always want to be able to do more.
3. Be ready to love your entire business, not just the mission: Being a CEO, you have to enjoy a lot of different tasks and roles. You are operating as the leader of the organization, which means, you have to put one hand in operations, one in marketing, one in sales, one in HR, and so on. That’s way more hands than any of us have, so it can be tricky to navigate it all. That balancing act will sharpen over time. In this day and age, there is a lot of pressure to focus or specialize, but I could never operate that way. I always thought my generalist nature was a weakness until I became a CEO. At CarePort, I’ve come to appreciate that being interested in many things can be a strength.
4. Understand the difference between managing and leading: Leadership is being able to guide people towards meeting long-term goals, providing big-picture thinking and taking risks. At the same time, as a manager, you need to help your team do the blocking and tackling. Being able to play both roles is key. As CEO, I’m focused on both execution to succeed today and preparing us for what’s ahead in the horizon.
5. Manage your time 50/50 between strategy and tactics: When you’re starting out, it’s easy to spend 75% of your time on the tactical projects and only 25% of your time on overall strategy. As the founder, it’s important to be balanced between the tactics and the strategy. It doesn’t mean dividing time between the two 50/50 every day. At regular intervals, however, you should account for how you are spending your time and ensure that you are dedicating enough time to the big picture. Being mindful of this has really helped me as a leader and CEO of a growing organization.
Jean: Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this.
J.K. Rowling. (I promise I read other genres besides young adult novels!) I’ve wanted to meet her ever since I saw her commencement speech a few years ago. I loved the way she spoke about failure — as a stripping away of the inessential — that through failing, we become our authentic selves. And of course, I admire her accomplishments and her deep commitment to philanthropy. But candidly, it would be difficult for me pass up an opportunity to ask a question about Harry Potter over tea and scones.
— Published on June 27, 2018