Join FullSight Health Analytics CEO Alicia Williams (@AliciaRx) 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, and what made you gravitate towards – and stay in – the field?
I have been working in health IT for 15 years. I knew after graduating from pharmacy school that I wanted to pursue a career track that would allow me to use my training as a pharmacist, but that would also allow me to use my other science-related talents. Actually, I had a choice between attending pharmacy school or going to college for electrical engineering. Ultimately, going into health IT made sense for me. I’ve stayed in it because I have the best of worlds. I get to help patients with my drug knowledge, and I get to create software and other technical tools in this industry – both of which I love to do.
Do you consider your career path to be a traditional one?
My career path is definitely not traditional. I sought out that “different” path right out of college. I just never wanted to do what everyone else was doing. Most of my peers went into retail or hospital pharmacy and pursued pharmacy residencies. I just knew that I would not be happy for the long term if I had followed that path. I practiced hospital pharmacy for only three years before jumping into pharmacy informatics. At that time, there were no IT positions for pharmacists, per se. My position title was clinical systems analyst, and I just happened to have a pharmacy degree. Fast forward 15 years later and I am now a founder of a software company in health IT. It has been an amazing, uncommon journey, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Can you offer an anecdote or two about when you realized your desire to step off the beaten career path (or traditional pharmacy path) was the right one for you?
I knew that health IT was the right path for me as soon as I landed my first position in this field. There were no IT openings in the hospital where I was working at the time, but I visited the IT director (who also happened to be a woman) every week for a month until she gave me a chance. She offered me a temporary position in her department as testing support and after my first day there, she informed me that someone on her team had just resigned and that she wanted to hire me full-time. I thought that it would take more time for her to make a decision on whether to keep me on board, but it happened that quickly. I knew that the role was meant for me. That was confirmation that this was the career path that I was supposed to follow.
What advice can you offer women in health IT looking to make their career path their own?
Being happy with your career path matters. It is absolutely okay to pursue a career path that you find satisfying and that also pays well. I would always ask yourself this question at every turn: “Am I going to love doing this work a year from now?” If that answer is yes, then go for it! I would also recommend that ladies join communities of other women – like #healthITchicks – where you can get advice and support from other women who have molded career paths of their own. It is so important to have encouragement from women in this industry who are traveling the unbeaten path, because the road will not always be easy. But it will be worthwhile once you reach your goals.