Own Your Career: Meet #HealthITChicks #HIMSS18 Panelist Sue Schade (@sgschade)

Join StarBridge Advisors Principal Sue Schade (@sgschade) and fellow panelists at the annual #HealthITChicks Meetup at #HIMSS18 on Tuesday, March 6 at 2pm. Learn more about the session, “Making the Ladder Lateral: Advice from #HealthITChicks on Creating the Career Path That Works Best for You,” here.


How long have you been in health IT? What made you gravitate towards – and stay in – the field? 

My first jobs during high school and college were in nursing homes as a nurse aide and in a hospital as a chart secretary on a nursing unit. I transcribed doctors’ written orders on to med cards, and pharmacy and lab slips. A very different time without computers, just a stack of paper charts with orders to manually process.

I started in IT as a programmer in the early 80’s. My first programming job was at a healthcare organization and I never left the field. My passion for healthcare and how we can make a positive difference with technology has only grown over time. As I tell my IT teams, we are part of the extended care team. While we don’t touch the patient directly, the clinicians who do depend on the systems and support we provide.

Do you consider your career path to be a traditional one?

Yes, in that I started as a programmer, moved into an analyst position, then worked my way up the management ranks. No, as a woman in IT. Back in the mid-80’s, there was a five-year period when I was the only woman on the management team reporting to the CIO. And still in 2018, I find myself at times the only woman in a room filled with men talking business and technology.

Why did you decide to start blogging? How has that endeavor helped shape your career path?

I started blogging in mid-2014 because I wanted to share my experiences and lessons with more people. With 30+ years in health IT management, I saw this as one more way to give back. It means taking time to pull lessons from events and experiences before they are too far in the rearview mirror and forgotten. The weekly routine of writing has also become a reflective discipline. At times it can be a bit of a self-imposed stress as the week nears an end and I haven’t decided on a topic. But mostly it’s a just a good time to step back, reflect and share insights on something relevant to my diverse group of health IT readers. You can find my blog, called “Health IT Connect,” at www.sueschade.com.

Can you offer an anecdote or two about when you realized your desire to step off the beaten career path was the right one for you?

I’m going to say that step was when I left the permanent CIO world in early 2016 and started down a path of IT consulting, interim management and leadership coaching. I wanted to have more flexibility at this stage in my career and more control over what I do. Launching StarBridge Advisors with two colleagues several months later was an opportunity to collaborate and offer more to the market than I could do alone.

The other driver for the departure from a permanent position in Michigan was to live where I want to live, which was back in New England near my daughters and four grandchildren, so I could spend more time with them.

I’ve had no regrets. It’s been a great two years with plenty of family time and a thriving new business. As my husband of 40+ years said to me a few months ago – he’s never seen me so happy! And he has seen my entire professional career. His view is that the kind of work I’m doing now is the culmination of everything I’ve worked for in my career and leveraging all the relationships I’ve built over the years.

What advice can you offer women in health IT looking to make their career path their own?

I always say that you have to own your own career and be open to the possibilities. Technology and healthcare continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Think about the jobs that didn’t exist even five or 10 years ago. What are the future jobs? Are you ready to learn new skills and take risks?

There were a couple items worth noting in the LinkedIn 2017 U.S Emerging Jobs Report. One trend noted a move towards more comprehensive skills and less specialization. Another trend worth noting is the increase in freelance professionals, whether it’s add-on work to a full-time position or all that one does.

As you consider your career path and potential changes, here are some specific questions to ask yourself:

  • What kind of organization do you want to work for and what kind of work do you want to do?
  • Are you in an organization you like and that has strong growth prospects?
  • Are you challenged enough in your work?
  • Are you making a difference and able to live your values in the work you do?
  • Is the culture of your organization one that you thrive in?
  • How much do you want to work? If you’ve been working 60+ hours a week at a demanding job, it may be time to consider how much time you want for yourself, your family, your other passions and hobbies.
  • What do you really need financially? You may be concerned about childcare costs and buying your first house, so financial considerations are key. Or, you may be nearing retirement but not ready to give up a regular paycheck. You may want more flexibility and better work/life balance.
  • Are you ready to be an entrepreneur and go on your own?

Join all of the #healthITchicks #HIMSS18 panelists during the #healthITchicks tweet chat on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 1pm ET.

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