Major: Business Administration and Computer Information Systems
Career: Senior Vice President of Client Experience and Alignment, Cerner Corporation
Why I Chose William Woods
I grew up on a farm outside of Enid, Oklahoma where my great-great-grandfather homesteaded during the Oklahoma Land Run. Today, my brother lives there and operates Spring Farms, growing wheat, soybean, and raising cattle. Graduating from a small school where I had the opportunity to participate in many programs and know my teachers and fellow classmates well, I was looking for a college that offered not only a highly recognized liberal arts program, but also a place where my growth and success was a priority.
During the time I was looking for colleges, it was fairly well known that a number of girls from Oklahoma had made the choice to go to William Woods. One of my parents’ friends’ daughter had attended William Woods. She and her parents gave the college high marks. When I went to visit the campus, both my parents and I fell in love. It felt like a home away from home for me, it offered me a top-notch educational opportunity, and it supplied me with an overall college experience without the distractions of a large university.
William Woods enabled me to receive a world-class education, surrounded by faculty and staff who were always there to support me and my goals. It was personal.
I have so many good memories of William Woods, most of which involved making lifelong friendships. It all began with Rush and Bid Day (I was a member of the Tau Theta chapter of Chi Omega Fraternity) and ended four years later with walking over the bridge at Senior Lake to receive my degree. The whole experience helped mold me into the person I am today.
Working in Admissions
While I had several favorite classes and experiences during my time at The Woods, it was my work assignment on campus in the Admissions Office that stands out. My role was to be an ambassador for William Woods. I would host prospective students and their families, give them tours of the campus, and work with them throughout their admissions journey.
The counselors made such a big impact on me and my family, and I wanted to be able to do that for others. I thought it was a great way to both give back to the college, and it gave me the opportunity to work with people whom I really looked up to.
The position was fun and challenging. I made a number of good friends, learned how to interact with all types of people, and got to express the benefits of William Woods.
That experience not only gave me the opportunity to grow my interpersonal skills, but also gave me exposure to so many other exceptional female leaders (like Dr. Barnett who was VP of Admissions at that time).
It was truly an honor to be selected for this work assignment. I believe this experience gave me a number of skills that I use today in my career.
A Double Major Decision
My first major was Computer Information Systems (CIS), a very new field in the 80s. I’ve always been interested in solving problems, so in a sense, technology was an avenue for me to be able to put that interest and skillset to use. I picked it up really quickly and felt like I could work on my own to succeed.
I double majored in Business because I wanted to bring the technology and business education together. This allowed me to incorporate the communications and the sales learnings together with what I learned in the Admissions Office. Together, this ended up being a great combination.
The Path to Cerner
During a William Woods job fair, I met with Electronic Data Systems (EDS), an American multinational information technology equipment and services company. Shortly thereafter, I began working for EDS in their Systems Engineering Development Program. This opportunity took me across the country, living in California and Chicago. After about a year, the company was bought out by General Motors and the environment changed. I decided it was time to look elsewhere for my next opportunity.
A friend told me about a developing, young company in Kansas City that would be a great fit: Cerner Corporation. I applied and started in a role as a foreign systems engineer/consultant that allowed me to use my computer programming experience and gave me the opportunity to travel the world, working with clients and solving problems. That was 29 years ago.
When I started at Cerner in 1989, the organization was a Laboratory Information Systems company that employed 300 associates all located in Kansas City. Today, Cerner is the world’s largest publicly traded health information technology company, providing leading-edge solutions and services for health care organizations of every size around the globe. With more than $4.8 billion in revenue, 27,000 associates, and clients and providers worldwide, Cerner is recognized for innovation in connecting people and systems to the improvement of health care delivery and the health of communities. Together with our clients, we are creating a future where the health care system works to improve the well-being of individuals and communities.
Why have I stayed at the company for so long? I believe in the vision and mission, to contribute to the systemic improvement of health care delivery and the health of communities. Cerner has given me so many great opportunities to grow personally and professionally, while challenging me to bring my best every day.
A Complex Role
I am currently a senior vice president of client experience and alignment. My current responsibilities span many internal organizations and areas of focus that can be categorized as either strategic business units with significant top line contributions to Cerner, as well as client value and results (Ambulatory/Physician Alignment and RevCycle/RevWorks), or an internal alignment organization that supports our clients in all stages of the client lifecycle (Client Alignment, Sales Alignment, Client/Segment Marketing and Events, Client Experience, and Kansas City Experience, ClientWorks, and Client Org Systems Operations).
In my role, I have executive responsibility for designing, developing, implementing, supporting, and selling solutions and services that support Cerner’s overall provider market needs in the areas of Revenue Cycle and Physician Electronic Health Record.
Additionally, I lead Cerner’s Alignment divisions that partner with sales and clients to showcase Cerner and our clients throughout the client lifecycle and support the sales process. This organization develops and supports our reference clients, produces our client value achievements, and manages the internal processes and systems used as part of our sales engagements.
Lastly, I also lead the Solutions and Segment Marketing and Events division responsible for positioning Cerner’s solutions and services in the health care IT industry. As part of this division, I oversee the annual Cerner Health Conference that brings more than 14,000 health care leaders from around the world to Kansas City.
This company has given me the opportunity to do a variety of things. I have learned not only how to go broad, but how to go deep within healthcare and technology.
But, most importantly, I have had the opportunity to grow and mentor individuals. I manage over 6,000 people and have guided numerous people into senior executive level roles. Being able to help others grow is really what I’m most passionate about today. I want to help build the next generation.
The Day-to-Day of a Senior Vice President
Every hour is something different. If you look at my calendar today, I have meetings on everything from how to build the right client communication plan to how are we going to integrate with our new VA contract. I spend time with our IP organizations, looking at strategies. Mostly my days are spent working with teams on how we can keep positioning ourselves and our processes to do the best we can for our clients and this market place. It’s a diverse day.
Mine is probably more diverse compared to others because I have so many different organizations I run and manage. I have been here so long and have had the opportunity to be a part of so many organizations and strategic initiatives, that I am involved with many different elements of the company.
The best part: I’m never bored.
People say you stay at a company because of its vision and the leadership. You stay because the people become your family. You stay because you are always challenged. If any of these elements don’t fit, it’s time to leave.
I have never woken up and said I don’t have anything to do today. My job has given me tons of opportunities and the ability to travel the world, live in other places, and do great things.
The Changing Healthcare Industry
This is a very exciting and rewarding industry. As our late Chairman and CEO Neal Patterson would say, we at Cerner wake up every day at the intersection of health care and information technology. It is one of the most important intersections in modern society. Every citizen touches on and depends on both.
As I mentioned, I enjoy the challenge of solving problems. That’s what this industry is about: solving and advancing the world’s health and care. With that said, the health care technology landscape has been and continues to change at a very rapid pace, so there’s always a new challenge to go solve.
Within the last decade, we have experienced the introduction of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which set the guidelines for the providers in the industry to meet requirement for automation, the introduction of interoperability standards, and now the shift from fee for service to pay for performance and quality under the instruction of Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).
We are also experiencing a shift from practicing medicine inside the four walls of a hospital or physician’s office to managing the health of the population, no matter where they are.
Compare going to a doctor’s office today versus 10 years ago. Today, everyone is using technology. Your medical record is online, you can schedule appointments via your iPhone, your conditions can be managed via your phones, you can be connected to a physician via telemedicine. None of that was here 10 years ago.
My time in this industry has been a great ride watching change happen and improving patient safety significantly by adding technology. It is a great feeling knowing we’re making a difference every day.
Be a Continuous Learner
When I’m hiring for a new role, I look for someone who’s driven, innovative, bold, and approachable. Someone who can take initiative and has a solid foundation of education and experience. At Cerner and in the health care industry in general, our associates are encouraged to be continuous students and learners, so I too look for someone who shows an interest in learning, is engaged in their work, and aligns to the culture of Cerner.
If you want to succeed, become a student of healthcare, be agile (as this is a fast-paced changing market), be open to learning new things and growing outside of your comfort zone, and do not have a set expectation of your career path and timeline.
(Editor’s note – earlier this year, Shellee was appointed to the William Woods University Board of Trustees)