Walk us through your CIO path. How did you decide to pursue a career in technology, and how did you progress to your current organization?
My love for technology started at a very young age. My father was an executive at Bell Labs (part of the original ISDN development team!). My earliest memories are gathering around the teletype terminal we had in our house and playing the text-based game, Colossal Caves Adventure. I don’t think my ten-year-old son will ever truly understand how far gaming has come! Fast forward to college, and although I enjoyed technology, I didn’t want to sit and program all day long. At that time, there really weren’t any IT Management degrees, so I created my own by majoring in Economics and minoring in Computer Science at Rutgers University. After college, my career centered around network operations and infrastructure. I eventually found my career leading to the health care industry and the opportunity to step into various technology leadership roles. Before my current role, I held IT Director positions in a sizeable Senior Care organization and later a toxicology lab.
Tell us about your company. Speak to the industry, size of the company, and the services provided to your customers.
Perhaps the best way to describe our staff is in our name. The word Merakey is inspired by a modern Greek word, meaning “to put something of yourself into your work; or to do something with soul, creativity, or love.” Our staff lives this out on a day to day basis.
Merakey is a leading, nation-wide health care provider. We offer a diverse mix of services, including programs for mental health, addictive diseases, education, foster care and permanency, autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, older adult services, and many more. We operate in 12 states and pride ourselves in developing innovative solutions and new models of care to meet the needs of the over 50,000 individuals and their families that we serve.
At the core of that care is our 10,000+ employees. Perhaps the best way to describe our staff is in our name. The word Merakey is inspired by a modern Greek word, meaning “to put something of yourself into your work; or to do something with soul, creativity, or love.” Our staff lives this out on a day to day basis. It is because of their dedication that we have been able to develop such a unique continuum of care.
What are your top 3 – 5 (ongoing) main priorities as a CIO in your organization?
The quick answer – Security, Security, and Security. The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way we work, both in how our employees access technology and how we provide care to our consumers. With this, our need to continue to secure and protect the enterprise has only increased. However, although security is critical and always top of mind, there are other strategic areas for which I am responsible. In healthcare, there is an ever-going movement to value-based care and new payment structures based on clinical outcomes. To support this, I have strategic priorities around improved use of data analytics and the continued utilization of our Electronic Health Record.
How do you decompress from your role as a technology executive? What do you do for fun?
I enjoy running and try to do that at least 2-3 days per week. However, my real passion in life is music. I’ve played bass guitar since college and run a small home studio in my basement. I continue to pursue every opportunity to learn and expand my knowledge around music – creating and performing as much as possible. I am currently in an original Christian rock band, Prophet Priest.
Can you list your top 1 – 3 books that you would recommend for a technology leader to have on their bookshelf/Kindle?
The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim – An excellent book, especially for new CIOs that may have come from the network operations side of the house as I did.
Wild at Heart by John Eldredge – Although not a leadership book per se, an excellent read on discovering and pursuing your passions in life.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey – An oldie but still relevant. It’s the one book I go back to repeatedly.
Can you share a specific quote that is a source of inspiration for you as a leader?
We succeed at our best only when we help others succeed.Jim Collins
Please share a recommendation or testimonial on the benefit that you see as a member of this CIO Professional Network.
Contrary to what my 20-year-old self so adamantly believed – you actually can’t know it all. Our world moves so fast, and knowledge sharing is such a critical part of being a great leader. I have found the CIO Professional Network to be a great place to share and collaborate with my peers. The group is genuinely helpful and willing to share and support one another.