#HealthITChicks Spotlight Interview: Dorothy Gemmell (@dorothygemmell)

This month’s spotlight shines on Dorothy Gemmell (@dorothygemmell), chief commercial officer at AbleTo and host of the #healthITchicks chat on Wednesday, May 17 at 1pm ET. Dorothy, the proud mother of a 14 year-old daughter, seven year-old son, and presumably cuddly family cat, was born in New York City and has called New York home for most of her life. She and her family have lived in neighboring New Jersey for the last 10 years.

When it comes to causes, Dorothy counts those that support healthcare and medical research groups, those that mentor young girls, and professional organizations like the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association among her favorite.

When it comes to social media, LinkedIn reigns supreme. “I use Twitter only for business and Facebook for connecting with friends and family,” she explains. “My daughter wants me to use Instagram and Snapchat, but truthfully, I don’t have the time. I still don’t get the teen/young adult fascination with posting pictures of food!”

Dorothy counts SoulCycle as her favorite app, and classic rock as her music genre of choice. “I am a classic rock guitar girl,” she says. “I love everything from Led Zeppelin to Eric Clapton, Neil Young to Bruce Springsteen, and Mark Knoffler to more mellow artists like Ray LaMontagne. The last concert I went to was four weeks ago. Eric Clapton was playing on a Monday evening at the Garden. I bought an awesome ticket hours before the concert on StubHub, and met three other huge fans who had done the same thing. We had a blast!”

Spotlight Interview Questions

What’s the biggest leap of faith you’ve taken during your career? How has that impacted where you are now?
There have been quite a few- as I have been working almost 30 years! I would say the first was leaving a 30,000-person pharmaceutical company that I had been with for 10 years. I been groomed for leadership and been promoted a lot, and then I went to a 100-person startup called Medscape.com.

The second was probably moving off of the sales management track and taking a lateral move to become a brand manager to learn marketing and how to run a brand.

The third was taking a promotion to a bigger sales leadership position at WebMD while I was technically on maternity leave with my daughter. She was my first child and I had no idea how I was going to have a baby and work, let alone take an even bigger job that involved a ton of travel. But you know what – I did it. My boss at the time told me he had full confidence in me. I took it and it was great. I did well at the job and as a mom and never looked back.

The fourth was probably leaving a safe, fun job as president of a successful ad agency to work for Practice Fusion as an SVP, as I missed building brands and sales teams, and working in the health IT industry directly.

When it comes to professional development, what has had the biggest impact on yours?
Training. I would say early in my career it was the amazing training programs I was exposed to during my days at Upjohn/Pharmacia. Sales training, negotiation skills, leadership and management training for years.  It is something I look for today when I am hiring salespeople. Have they started their career at a big company that spends a lot of money on them training them on the basics?

Later in my career, and today, it is my network of mentors. I have so many great ones who I keep in touch with and use for different things. My mentors are male and female, and work in different industries.

What advice can you offer younger women looking to break into healthcare technology, or those looking to join the C-suite?
Have a plan but realize it will not go exactly the way you plan it. Opportunities come and go, and life happens – babies, moving to a new city, etc.

Get a network of mentors and keep in touch with them. I mentor probably about 50 young women and men – the ones I see doing the best keep in touch on a regular basis  – even if it is just a few times a year.

Learn as much as you can through school, but more importantly through taking jobs that give you different experiences. Operational and strategic skills are learned through doing, not through books.

What gender workplace topics have resonated with you recently?
Work/life balance – I am asked to speak from time to time about this. I started working when I was 20 and had my kids at 35 and 42. I never stopped working because I love my kids and I have been lucky to love my jobs. My number-one piece of advice is, “Moms, take all that time that you “feel guilty” about something you are not doing or providing for your kids and divert that time to being with your kids.” When my daughter was between zero and three, we lived in rural Michigan where most of my mom-friends in my neighborhood did not work. I realized early on that I actually devoted more one-on-one time to my kids in doing things with them. Focus on your kids when you are with them. Focus on work when you are there.

My second piece of advice is that you should realize other people can love your kids as much as you do – find those people and hire them! Childcare is critical for the working mom. I have had three amazing nannies over the years. My current nanny has been with me since my son was born – seven years. She is the boss of my house when I am not home. She loves and cares for my kids, and I waste no time on guilt or worry.

Other topics are important, too. Pay gaps need to be addressed and all senior executives should simply ask for a report and make sure they are not contributing to it. I have found half the time no one is actually looking at the stats for their own company.

I am a big fan of making sure kids and younger women think science, math and tech are COOL. Everyone should learn how to code.

What are you looking forward to chatting about during the #healthITchicks tweet chat May 17? 

Disruption and Risk Taking
Using tech to disrupt and scale a health or wellness problem, and changing healthcare practice with technology. I’m excited about the work AbleTo is doing to disrupt behavioral health.

Building a Brand
The importance of consistently positioning your brand among competitors.

Pay Equity and the Gender Gap
How to negotiate and take a data-driven approach. Company leadership must look at the data and make appropriate decisions.

Mental Health Awareness Month
Removal of stigma, and how the rise of apps and tech are changing the industry, helping to treat people and improve access to care. Also, how do you keep your busy mind healthy?

Creating and Supporting Culture Within a Health IT Company
How can companies divide strategy between wellness, fun, and corporate social responsibility?

Join me and Dorothy Gemmell (@dorothygemmell) for the #healthITchicks chat on Wednesday, May 17 at 1pm ET. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn via the #healthITchicks group



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