Thought Leader Interviews
October 10, 2017
Norman Volsky, Director of Mobile Healthcare IT recently had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Kahn, Founder/CEO of TruClinic for a Thought Leader Interview. Justin shares the interesting background of his career and the inspiration behind TruClinic, as well as industry insights, advice for young entrepreneurs, and more.
Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Justin Kahn, I’m 39 years old. I have had multiple careers in my life – I’ve been a Realtor, a Natural Disaster Claims Adjuster and for the past seven years, I have been the Founder and CEO of TruClinic.
Give us some background on TruClinic, why you started the company, and the mission behind it.
I joke around and say telehealth chose me, which is kind of true. When I was young I got hit in the head with a baseball bat during a softball game. I suffered a traumatic brain injury and was misdiagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for over a decade. When I was in my late 20s, I had a seizure that scared me into seeking out the help of a neurologist who discovered, after working with her over a period of time, that I had TLE (Temporal Lobe Epilepsy). She put me on an anti-seizure medication and it changed my life almost overnight. I used to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks and those went away after I started this medication. As a side note, I grew up around the VA hospital system. My stepfather was an administrator for the VA so we lived on the grounds of different hospitals growing up as a kid. I knew what the infrastructure was like at the VA and knew some of the problems they had as it related to behavioral healthcare in particular. In 2008, I happened to read a transcript of a speech that Robert Gates had given to the graduating class of West Point and he talked about how the DOD was going to start investing billions of dollars into the PTSD epidemic that had been plaguing the branches of the military. That article resonated with me because growing up, I always wanted a doctor to see these panic and anxiety attacks I was having in real time instead of trying to explain what had happened weeks later in the doctor’s office. When I read that article and started to think about the infrastructure at the VA, I came up with an idea, really thinking about what I wanted for myself and how that might apply to the VA. My idea was to connect active duty troops with VA providers from the troops’ home state at the beginning of their service career. When the troops graduated from training, they would be deployed and assigned with a group of providers from the VA. During deployment, they would be able to meet with those providers through a secure video conference and the idea was that it would be outside of the military, but not outside of the DOD. The hope was that the troops would be comfortable engaging with the VA providers while they were deployed so when they transitioned to a veteran status, they would already have those relationships established and would continue to engage those providers, and more importantly, they would get used to the technology. The video technology piece is important because close to 40% of veterans live in rural and frontier counties in the US. I took this whole idea to the Salt Lake VA, and they liked it. The VA said if we could produce the technology we were proposing, then they would give us a grant. Less than a year later, we brought the BETA version of the technology in for a pilot in which relaxation exercises were taught to a test group of veterans using the technology. They measured the retention rate against the control group, which did not use technology, and they had phenomenal success with the test group. That led us to apply for grants with Utah Valley University and also from the Governor’s Office of Utah to finish building out the first version of the platform. We also used grants to do a couple of projects with the Goshute Native American tribe, one of the most rurally isolated tribes in the continental United States. Our success with the Goshutes led us to get the seed capital for the company, which was really the beginning of TruClinic and how we started off to the races.
As an accomplished, young entrepreneur, with several awards to back that, what advice would you give to up and coming entrepreneurs?
Don’t quit. Take criticism, feedback, advice, and learn from people who have been through the experience. Take their advice with a grain of salt and don’t be afraid to make decisions. The best piece of advice anyone ever gave me outside of my father is “the only wrong decision is indecision. You can either act, react, or do nothing, but you do it consciously.”
What drives you to succeed?
Success is an unattainable target; an ongoing goal. I love what I do because I am capable of doing it. I am always working towards the never-ending definition of what success could be. In my opinion, success can only be measured against the happiness one feels in their day to day activities.
What interesting new projects are you working on?
The stuff we are really interested in right now is machine learning. With the launch of our new version 3 platform we have much more robust capabilities around gathering and analyzing data and using that in a way that actually provides real ROI back to our customers. The first movers in telehealth as it relates to machine learning and AI are around patient triage and common symptoms, deciding whether or not individuals need to go to the doctor or if this is something that could be handled through an algorithm. This is the place to start and is one of the low-hanging fruits, but when you start really thinking about predictive analytics, clinical decision support and longitudinal data and what that means in terms of not only helping to streamline efficiency, but also to improve patient outcomes- that’s one of the things that really interests me personally as we think about how telehealth moves into the next iteration. My team and I think of that as virtual health where you’re unifying the experience between what happens inside of the four walls and outside in the real world.
What challenges do you currently see in the healthcare IT industry?
It’s the wild west in a lot of ways, but there’s also a lot of noise. As one of my mentors would say, “there’s a lot of sizzle but not a lot of sirloin.” The first wave of telehealth was the direct-to-consumer and specialist consults. The second wave was the platform play, and now there are a variety of different technologies to choose from. Video is a commodity, and now there are a lot of single use, tactile solutions out there that are limiting in how they can be applied to different use cases and workflows. Frankly, I feel bad for hospital and health systems and even the smaller mom and pop clinics and practices. The challenge they face when it comes to picking a vendor and building a strategy is that they may spend millions of dollars with a platform or provider services organization and then hit the proverbial wall with what they can do with it. What that has led to is organizations buying multiple overlapping and sometimes redundant solutions in order to fill the different use cases or work flows they’re trying to support as it relates to telehealth, and it becomes cumbersome, unruly, and unmanageable especially in large organizations. That’s why TruClinic is winning customers. We are seeing customers who have invested into those platforms and transitioned over to us, and we have also seen new customer entrants in the market coming straight to us because of the solutions and the services we provide and the partnerships we have created with our customers.
Have you had a mentor(s) throughout your career?
I collect mentors. I am only as smart as the people I surround myself with. I make it a point to engage and meet people by going out for coffee, learning, asking questions, and posing scenarios. I find that is one of the most effective ways for me to gain perspective and insight and to help me in how I think about the challenges or problems that I’m faced with.
What strategies do you use at TruClinic to retain top talent?
We are a big family here at TruClinic. Every person that I work with is someone that is part of the culture, and part of the fabric. We all support each other and we all make sure that we are helping each other in carrying the load. We all have our own domain expertise so we collaborate internally as a team as well as externally with our customers. I think that a focus on collaboration and team dynamic allows for the most constructive work program. We also use other strategies; For example, our engineers are not allowed in the corporate office unless they’re specifically here for a meeting. Otherwise they’re home, in a coffee shop or wherever their safe space is for programming. We do that because there is this component of what is called context switching – to have an engineer be in a mindset and be developing and have to switch, attend a meeting, or phone call then come back to programming, it’s difficult to do. We are an agile shop, so we decided that engineers work their own time, they have to be on certain calls or meetings for check-ins, and stay in constant communication. Everything we do is written, but I don’t care if engineers code at 2 AM or 2 in the afternoon as long as they get the work done. We have an understanding of different teams and different dynamics, and how they work and when they need to be available. We try to build the culture where, following the Netflix model, we don’t care when the work gets done as long as it gets done, and it is quality work, and on time. From a CEO perspective, the trick is to treat your team like a family, listen to the concerns and suggestions they have, and build the culture and team at the same time.
You received your B.A. in International Economics, and B.S. in Political Science and Government. What led you to pursue healthcare?
Originally, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer working on international infrastructure projects. That’s where I thought my career would go in college. Instead, my career went a different way. I came out of school, got a sales job, did some consulting and learned real estate because it was interesting to me and that was the direction my life went for the better part of a decade. I knew that being a Real Estate Agent wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was more the fact that it gave me a lot of flexibility in terms of trying to figure out what I did want to do with my life. A real estate commission can be significant, so being a real estate agent and a claims adjuster gave me the ability to save money and invest it. When I made the decision that I wanted to pursue TruClinic, I self-funded the company for the first 2 years and did that based on the commissions I was making. This all led into what we, as a company have been able to do. Like I said before, I am only as smart as the people I surround myself with and everyone on this team has been an integral part of the company. Their knowledge, background, expertise and their experience have all help shape the vision and the direction and the strategy of this company.
What trade shows are you looking forward to attending in the near future?
I’ll be heading to the Gartner IT Symposium, the Conex Event in Dallas, HIMSS, ATA, AHA, SPS, and ISM. We do a decent amount of shows and speaking.
June 6, 2017
Norm Volsky, Director of Mobile HIT at DRI recently had the chance to interview Evie Jennes, President & Chief Commercial Officer, swyMed. Evie shared information about swyMed, their latest solutions, her career, and insights into the telemedicine industry.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and swyMed.
As the President and Chief Commercial Officer, I am ultimately responsible for the sales, partnerships and marketing direction at swyMed. When it comes to working with a company, I am particularly attracted to young organizations that need to grow. I also love to travel and have been working internationally for more than 20 years including 7 years in Eastern Europe and more specifically, Russia. My time there included working at a number of start-ups in that region as well as for larger multi-nationals in the early 1990’s. In terms of my career, I have spent about half of my time in Healthcare, and the other half in FMCG, VC Funding, and various manufacturing projects.
As far as swyMed goes, a major barrier for telemedicine to date has been the bandwidth, or I should say the lack thereof. More specifically, there is simply often not enough, in both rural and urban settings, to reliably conduct video encounters for real-time telemedicine outside the four walls of a hospital. At swyMed our whole business was built around solving this problem. We believe that we have addressed these issues head on with our truly unique video software which has a patented data transport protocol that overcomes latency, and our latest solution, the DOT Telemedicine Backpack, which leverages this software. Between the two technologies, we are able to deliver reliable connectivity, and a video encounter from basically anywhere which is a huge differentiator in the market.
What is swyMed’s key differentiator in the Telemedicine market?
I think what people need to realize, and they slowly are as telemedicine moves outside of the hospital, is that even if you are the most sophisticated telemedicine vendor in the marketplace, with the most robust virtual care platform, if the end user doesn’t have the bandwidth to reliably conduct video encounters outside of a hospital or clinic, the technology is limited. When we founded swyMed, we made the decision to focus specifically on providing the necessary solutions to make telemedicine possible in rural areas as well as urban areas with congested networks. Today, our patented data transport protocol allows users to get around traditional networking challenges, to deliver on-demand video telemedicine encounters in even the most rural and remote locations, where they need telemedicine the most. Day in and day out we work with our clients offering a Mobile Integrated Healthcare solution that enables them to reach places and patients where it was never before possible.
Tell us about your DOT Telemedicine Backpack.
The DOT Telemedicine Backpack is swyMed’s most recent and largest product launch to date, which we scheduled around this year’s HIMSS 2017 conference. The offering is the industry’s first lightweight, mobile telemedicine solution that truly gives care providers the ability to connect to doctors for real-time video encounters-- anytime, anywhere, even in the most remote areas, or on the go. Truly, a “Doc-on Tap.”
For example, say you live in a rural area where communications infrastructure is limited or in a city where networks get congested -- telemedicine will likely be challenging, potentially having a significant impact on the speed and quality of care and ultimately outcomes. Not to mention it is extremely frustrating not to be able to connect when we want to. We have likely all experienced this with our home internet, Skype, FaceTime, etc. But in this situation, these challenges can ultimately lead to care-givers choosing to forgo using the telemedicine technology they have, which in turn limits care.
Armed with swyMed’s DOT Telemedicine Backpack, users can now leverage even the faintest whiff of a network signal and elevate it to a level where high quality, reliable, virtual care is possible regardless of location or infrastructure challenges. And for the areas that have zero networks, we have satellite built in, thus offering a connection literally everywhere on earth. The DOT Telemedicine Backpack is an ideal solution for mobile telestroke programs, community paramedicine, remote triage, disaster response, and critical transport as it extends the reach of providers and care-givers.
What are the biggest challenges on your plate right now?
As a leader at a young company, driving visibility and sales of our software and the DOT Telemedicine Backpack will of course remain a top priority for me throughout 2017. One of the biggest challenges right now is that our prospective customers need to find a way to pay for the DOT Telemedicine Backpack. The excitement around the DOT Telemedicine Backpack is palpable in virtually every meeting we have. Our customers very quickly see the many challenges we solve, but purse strings remain tied, and budgets tight. Health systems need to change the dynamic in how they view the price for our (and other) solutions. It would be helpful if the ROI, which in our case is quite significant, was weighed against the initial investment in the DOT Telemedicine Backpack a bit more. It is being done, but not consistently as of yet. We as an industry need to continue educating our customers on how we are ultimately saving them money and improving patient outcomes.
The pace of telemedicine adoption can also be a challenge. The industry recognizes the obvious benefits and value that telehealth brings to care, but these findings need to be backed up by legislative changes that reimburse for telemedicine visits. The good news is that every day telemedicine is growing in terms of reach and impact, and with this success we do see some movement on that front. We hope to see that trend continuing.
Other than ATA, what conferences and trade shows do you attend?
Besides ATA, HIMSS is another big event for us obviously as it’s the biggest healthcare IT show of the year. We also make the EMS State of the Sciences Conference (dubbed by media as "A Gathering of Eagles") a priority as it has become one of the most progressive and important EMS conferences nationally. Given our business model, the emergency management community is a top target for us so it’s great to be able to be part of the conversation related to the most cutting-edge information and advances in EMS patient care.
In the coming year we will also focus on particular states that would be best served by our solution and attend conferences there.
How do you manage your geographically dispersed team?
We get asked this question a lot despite all the technology we have at our disposal today, many people still feel as though you should be in the same room or same building to be successful. At swyMed we challenge this belief by having a team that’s dispersed over two continents. And it works because first and foremost we have colleagues that work exceedingly well together. I have been part of many organizations and this is one of the absolute best teams, if not the best, that I have been a member of. We complement each other’s skill sets, we are completely frank with each other so there are no politics, and we genuiunely really like each other as people, which is so important. We also use our own video software platform for weekly management meetings, sales meetings, and spontaneous meetings. The technology allows us to still have the ‘watercooler chat’, but on video vs. in person. Then of course we do see each other at customer visits, conferences, etc., which is always fun, and fruitful.
On your LinkedIn page, you mention having the entrepreneurial spirit. Since this isn't something you are taught, how did you develop it within yourself?
I think that I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit and it was then encouraged by my parents, and especially my father. I was the kid with the lemonade stand, who was canvassing the neighborhood for babysitting jobs until I turned 16 and could get a ‘real’ job.
The seven years I spent in Russia and other Eastern European countries really developed my ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ as it was the ‘Wild, Wild East’. If you were not creative with problem solving, resourceful, and entrepreneurial you were not going to make it even with large multi-nationals budgets.
What are the traits or qualities of a great leader?
I managed fairly large groups of people when working for multi-nationals and this is when I developed my management skills. As a leader I had a few rules that served me well and I still follow them today. Hire people that are smarter than you are, ask good questions, and listen to the answers. Treat the people you work with, and those that work for you with respect. The people that work for you should feel and know that you have their back. Do what is ‘right’ even if in the short term it is not in your best interest.
Brian Silverstein, Healthcare IT Project Manager at Direct Recruiters, Inc. had the opportunity to interview Kimberlie Cerrone, Founder and Executive Chairman of Tiatros, a digital therapeutics company that offers online, clinician moderated, peer group psychotherapeutic programs for patients with treatable mental illnesses. Kimberlie shared about her interesting background, advice for entrepreneurs, the digital health industry, and more.
Please share a little about your background and the company you founded, Tiatros. What was your inspiration behind this endeavor? What was your “aha” moment?
I’m a Silicon Valley dealmaker and IP strategist by background. I’ve made hundreds of deals for technology companies around the world over the past 35 years, many of which helped tiny startups grow into very large companies. I founded Tiatros after my sons came home from military service with PTSD. I saw that they both needed the community and support of other veterans. The only people that they would share their stories with were other veterans, who shared their military values and understood their stories because they had also served. My “aha” was that healing is a social activity – that the therapeutic power of peer groups to support healthy behaviors and to improve patient compliance could be harnessed using social media-styled tools inside secure private social networks. That led me to found Tiatros.
What is the origin behind the name “Tiatros”?
Tiatros’ first engineer came up with “TIATROS.” Being an IP attorney, I had a list of specific requirements including that the name had to be a completely made up word that didn’t already exist in any language; it had to be 5-7 letters long; spelled phonetically; look spatially balanced; and be available as a primary .com URL, a corporate name in California and Delaware, and for use as our primary product name and trademark. He made up a new word based on a Greek word that derived from an ancient Sumerian word, IATRO, which refers to "physician, medicine, and healing”. He added a “T” for technology and “S” for Social, both of which are concepts key to our mission, and voila, it met every one of my requirements. I loved it immediately, and still do.
You are an extremely accomplished entrepreneur. What drives you to succeed?
It’s really simple: I want to see Tiatros’ products widely available in the marketplace, providing safe and affordable evidence-based treatment to every patient with a treatable mental illness that seeks help.
What are your goals for Tiatros in the next 5 years?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the gold standard for the psychotherapeutic treatment of most major mental illnesses. It’s used all over the world to treat anxiety, depression, trauma, panic, and even eating and sleep disorders because it consistently works very well provided patients complete it to the best of their ability. UCSF psychiatrists piloted the first programs for sexual assault- and combat-related trauma, with everyone of UCSF’s first 300 patients showing post traumatic growth and recovery. My colleagues and I are now working with our business partners and collaborative customers to leverage cognitive computing and AI to see if we can make effective peer group psychotherapeutics available to tens of millions of Americans and ultimately to hundreds of millions of people around the world that have treatable mental illnesses. That's a big ambition, but we believe it's possible to achieve. I particularly want every veteran who is struggling with PTSD and TBI to have access to effective treatment starting now, because I saw in my own family that it is life-changing. These are my 5-year goals for Tiatros.
With your experience as an entrepreneur, and being involved as judge for Cartier Women’s Initiative, which supports and encourages projects by women, what advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs?
When asked, I tell women entrepreneurs to work on solving a problem that is important to them, that they care about and know about, and that a few other people that they think are smart are already working on. I give myself as an example. My original thought process in deciding to work on developing scalable therapeutics for behavioral health was that a handful of companies were already focusing on the market opportunity, but with different proposed solutions; that I am deeply concerned about preventing another generation of homeless veterans and destigmatizing mental illness; and that healthcare is the responsibility of women around the world. That’s what made Tiatros a good fit for me.
What interesting new projects are you currently working on? Or would be interested in exploring?
I recently started to serve on outside corporate boards, which I am enjoying very much. Last year I joined the Board of a premiere engineering design and consulting company that has a significant focus on the healthcare sector. I bring an important and different perspective to its Board, and I’ve learned a great deal. I’d like to do more of this type of work with other companies in the global healthcare sector over the next several years.
What challenges do you currently see in the digital health industry?
The United States needs to innovate business models for reimbursing digital health as much as we need new digital health products and services. I would go anywhere, anytime, to participate in meaningful discussions about how the broad healthcare sector and the government can collaboratively develop innovative revenue models for digital health.
What or who do you attribute your success to?
I have broad interests and a multi-disciplinary educational background. I’m often the only person at the table that understands the science, the legal, the business, the IP, and the international aspects of a proposal. I write very clearly, and have become a better speaker. That’s created a lot of opportunity for me to work on great projects with excellent people, and to get useful experience in complex and important projects.
Have you had a mentor(s) throughout your career?
After 40 years, I consider my husband to be my most important mentor. He’s a psychiatrist who is one of the country’s leading experts on trauma in adolescent and young adult populations. It’s an amazing thing that after all these years our professional interests have aligned and we can collaborate now.
Your background is very diverse. How have you balanced your roles as a Founder, an attorney, IP Strategist, entrepreneur and more?
I don’t try to balance them. I try to integrate them, using them all in combination. Tiatros is a great project for me because I get to use pretty much everything I know, and I still need to learn a great deal more.
What advice do you have for up and coming HIT professionals?
The great American philosopher Cyndi Lauper says If you learn, you earn. She’s right. My advice is work on learning continuously, acquiring whatever knowledge, skills, and credentials you need to get the chance to work with good people on great projects. That’s how you get valuable experience that enables you to advance in your career. You need to bring something to the table. At various points in my life, I taught myself to code, about trademark law, Norwegian-styled knitting, neuropeptide chemistry, and a wide range of international business practices. Now I want to learn about Chinese history. I expect that this knowledge will somehow qualify me for an interesting opportunity at some point. It certainly gives me pleasure. Keep learning always.
What strategies do you rely on to retain and attract top talent at your company?
Hiring is always a challenge for startups. I think that I’m better at motivating and retaining great people than I am at hiring them. I do work hard to ensure that everyone who works with me understands how important it is that our mission succeeds, and that they are respected and appreciated for the role they’re playing in our company’s progress.
If you could have dinner with anyone from Present or Past, who would you want to dine with and what would you eat? Why?
Fun question! I like people who show vision, ambition, leadership, and a high tolerance for ambiguity and change. Pearl Buck, Shirin Ebadi, Jeanne Bare, Nellie Bly, Thomas Jefferson, Ann Richards, Cardinal Wolsey, Winston Churchill, Peter the Great, Gertrude Bell, Rosalind Franklin, Richard Engel, Justice Ginsburg, Janet Napolitano, Teddy Roosevelt, Sinclair Lewis, and Grace Hopper all come quickly to mind. Since this is my fantasy, my wonderful husband will join us and we’ll eat my father’s pasta Bolognese and drink good wine.
What are your interests outside of healthcare?
I have a young grandson who is very interesting. I’m a big sports fan who feels very lucky to live within walking distance of the San Francisco Giants and the Golden State Warriors’ stadiums. I am a world class knitter and am fairly accomplished at crochet. Studying needlework has been a fascinating lens to seeing the creativity of generations of women and their unique contributions to societies around the world. I’ve gotten very interested in the worldwide supply chain for the yarn and other materials that are used in needlecraft. It is not a remunerative skill set, but I am known for the handmade gifts that I give my friends and it gives me great pleasure.
“The Headhunter for Digital Health Innovators”
Healthcare IT Project Manager
Since 1983, Direct Recruiters, Inc. (DRI) has been recognized as the relationship-focused search firm that assists top-tier organizations with recruiting, acquiring, and retaining high-impact talent for mission-critical positions.
Mr. Robert Slykhuis, President & CEO, Bizerba North America Interviewed by Cherie Shepard, Direct Recruiters
Cherie Shepard, Director of Packaging, Material Handling & Food Processing at Direct Recruiters interviews Robert Slykhuis, President and CEO of Bizerba North America. Mr. Slykhuis discusses his career in food processing, the industry, innovative products, leadership, and more.
You are quite accomplished. Please tell us about yourself and what attracted you to a career in the food processing industry?
I don’t think anyone really grows up hoping they can have a career in the food processing industry. In fact, most of us find our way into an industry like this based on situations that present themselves, which is what happened to me. In my early career I had opportunities in capital equipment businesses, which happened to be food processing focused, and I quickly found it to be an industry I could be successful in.
Bizerba is known for having a 150-year history of innovation. Please mention the most innovative products recently launched.
For generations, Bizerba has led through revolutionary changes in weighing, slicing and labeling. As an innovator in PC based scales and Weigh Price Labeling, we lead the market. The most recent innovations are really centered around our software solutions. With the focus on OEE, we have developed our remote management and service of equipment to the next level. Instead of just reacting to equipment downtime, we are now able to monitor and proactively service our equipment in real time and provide our customers with solutions that can really save them time and money.
What do you believe are the most important traits of a leader in today’s business world?
I am fortunate to work with a management team which shares many of the traits I feel are important to be successful. Being customer centric is a must, and while many leaders talk about putting the customer first, it really means satisfying customers at all costs. A passion for winning is in our DNA and is still the biggest motivator to get me out of bed every day. And finally, in the words of one of my managers, “when did patience become a virtue?” Being demanding and always wanting to achieve more is a necessity.
What do you think is the industry’s greatest challenge?
This is an easy one; lack of young talent. I look around the industry, our company included, and see way too many people my age. The challenge of recruiting talented, dedicated, technically qualified people, with a passion to work in our industry is of great concern.
We are facing a leadership shortage in the US and globally. What steps have you taken at Bizerba to develop future leaders?
Because of our rapid growth, we relied mainly on recruitment and mentoring to develop our managers. We are now actively engaging in more formal leadership training throughout the company to identify and advance more people from within. This is a worldwide project and is also meant to link opportunities for growth across the world.
How is the food processing equipment segment poised for growth in the US and on a global scale in 2017 and beyond?
For many years we have seen a high level of automation in Germany and this has been the basis for much of our product development in our home market. More and more we are seeing this requirement in all of our markets with companies seeking better solutions which will deliver cost savings through information and automation.
What is the biggest challenge on your plate right now?
We have grown rapidly in turnover and personnel in the past few years making it increasingly difficult to be as hands on as I used to be. While I have a great team, I still get most of my satisfaction being in front of customers and at their sites rather than being in one of my offices. Despite logging well over 100,000 miles every year I always feel like I should be more places than I can get to.
As a former Regional Sales Manager, what is your best advice to up and coming sales professionals? What does it take to succeed?
When I accepted my first territory sales job I had to look on a map to see exactly where I was moving to. When promoted to a Regional Sales Manager position I had no idea what I was in for and was tasked with managing some people almost twice my age. For every opportunity that arises which can lead to further promotion, don’t hesitate or overthink details. If you aren’t moving forward you are falling behind.
What events and tradeshows will Bizerba attend in 2017?
2017 is a big year for us overseas as two of the biggest shows which occur every three years are coming up. Euroshop and Interpack will be heavily attended by customers around the world but we are seeing a marked increase in participation from North America. Besides that, we will attend many tradeshows in North America this year including – IPPE, NRF, Expo Carnes, Promat, NRA, Process Expo and Packexpo.
Norm Volsky, Director of Mobile HIT at Direct Recruiters, Inc. recently interviewed Shane Waslaski, CEO of Intelligent InSites. Intelligent InSites software creates a visual workplace that improves patient flow and operational efficiency using RTLS location-based intelligence. Mr. Waslaski shared insights on his career, the healthcare industry, advice for healthcare professionals, and much more.
Please tell us about yourself and what attracted you to a career in operational leadership within healthcare delivery organizations?
In all my work I have always been most drawn to healthcare operations because, for me, it represents a unique intersection where we touch the life of the patient through the qualitative facets of care delivery. It is also an industry in which you are assured of being impacted by your own work in some fashion because you, a family member or a friend will be a patient and you will experience the industry for yourself. That is not true of many industries. My technical side is drawn to the detail, the complexity, and the dynamic nature of healthcare while my nurturing side is satisfied by knowing that my work will have a lasting positive impact on the safety, effectiveness, and efficiency of healthcare. Because I am not a nurse or a physician, my hands will not be directly involved in patient healing activities, but I am privileged to be deeply engaged in shaping how patients experience their care and through the environments in which caregivers do their work.
Please talk about the importance of operational intelligence for healthcare and how it improves patient care.
In so many ways , and through the hands of so many – caregivers, patients, lab results, medications, equipment, supplies, exam rooms and transporters – many details must come together at the sharpest points of care to drive quality outcomes and experiences. Patients know it when they experience it and, as patients, we all desire this symphony of parts to come together for us in a positive way.
In so many health systems, leaders lack a comprehensive view of their operations. They can’t see process bottlenecks until it is too late to prevent the inevitable delays and frustration they produce. Every moment nurses and providers spend looking for equipment, supplies or each other takes away time from patient care. And we know through so many studies that caregiver time with patients already has been greatly reduced due to increasing administrative burdens. With visibility into operations, health systems can improve safety and process efficiency so that all the resources and people more easily come together to produce a positive patient experience.
Earlier this year, you spoke at MobCon Digital Health Conference. Can you provide a brief overview of your topic?
I love hearing how pattern identification and predictive modeling are making amazing advances in diagnostic and healing technologies possible. But, we still find nurses and providers being interrupted in the delivery of care to write things down or most often to type at a keyboard in order to capture timestamps and other data required to measure performance. At MobCon – and at every other opportunity I’m given – I hope to re-inspire in the audience the belief that we are long overdue to insist on systems that are designed so that far more data is automatically collected, particularly operational workflow information. I shared examples of how this is already happening in healthcare in facilities where real-time operational intelligence systems are being used. I shared the significant results we’re seeing, like 25% reductions in clinic patient cycle times and how we are able to standardize procedures and care protocols to give a typical clinic 3,000 more care minutes back per week. That’s 15 more patients a day, and with 251 work days in 2016, that’s 3,765 more patient visits. It matters and these systems are so effective at bringing change where some of the most challenging operational work needs to be tackled.
Who do you consider as the most innovative healthcare leaders of today?
Nurses. I consistently find nurses are among the most innovative thinkers and in the most challenging circumstances, the caregivers who always find some way to take the best care of the patient. They are forever under pressure and a critical line of defense when it comes to patient safety. All of this while being healer and comforter, and they are crucial to the overall patient experience. Nurses are a source of both innovation and inspiration for me and this team.
What do you believe are the most important traits of a leader in today’s business world? Are we truly facing a leadership shortage in the US and on a global level?
Honesty, tenacity, and courage. If we are facing a shortage, we need look no further than a mirror to find those of us responsible to being certain that is not the case. We work hard to ensure that within our own organization every individual has both the opportunity and understands their obligation to lead. Our strongest leaders are always honest, they never give up and they repeatedly show courage in their conversations and their approach to innovating. I have the highest respect for individuals who consistently do so.
On your LinkedIn page, your “Influencers” are Jeff Haden, Ghostwriter, Eric Ries, CEO at Long-Term Stock Exchange, Tim O’Reilly, Founder & CEO of O’Reilly Media, and Jack Welch, former CEO of GE and current Executive Chairman for The Jack Welch Management Institute. Can you tell us how they influence you and why you admire them?
There are a number of others such as Kotter and Porter I would certainly add but have not taken the time to do so, but at some point these individuals and others have influenced me. Jack Welch for his track record and his teachings on the idea that you must change before you are forced to change and his passion about the importance of our responsibility as leaders to grow others. Tim O’Reilly serves as a reminder to me in the software industry that the data we liberate to the customer must be far more valuable than the data we capture. This has been the repeated error of the software industry and I am resolved to be certain we are providing exponentially greater value in the data we reveal than just our ability to collect it. Jeff Haden is someone who believes in effort and action and, like Welch, the obligation we have to help others grow as a way to pay forward the investment someone made in us. I find value in those who have gone before me and are salient writers and thinkers on how we can leave the wood pile higher than we found it.
What is the biggest challenge on your plate right now?
Aside from the ongoing challenge of recruiting experienced services, software and data science professionals, my greatest focus is on helping healthcare leaders fully understand what it takes to change – to truly transform. Leaders know they need to take significant cost out of their operations. They know they need to transform the experience – both for patients and staff. But for so long in healthcare, operational change has happened incrementally, at glacial pace. Frankly, that is so far below the kind of wholesale change needed. Driving this kind of change doesn’t happen with an initiative run as a side operation. To get there takes a tenacious and aligned strategic change aptitude across the entire organization. And that is daunting in any environment – because it’s not a core strength in our industry. Customers who are seeing the most transformational results have operational excellence goals tightly woven into multiple levels of their organizational plans. They are aligning, empowering, recognizing and rewarding change teams across their organizations. And then they are collaborating to rapidly raise skillsets in analytics and location-based operations. They also are partnering with full-service solution providers who bring together all the elements needed for transformation, including the technology, the tools, business process engineering, change management, and program management.
What is your best advice to up and coming healthcare technology professionals? What does it take to succeed?
The single most important thing that healthcare technology professionals can do is become deeply immersed in the realities and pain points of leaders, decision-makers, caregivers and technicians across healthcare. When you find these pain points, you know, because most everyone around you will be running in a direction away from them. You must be close enough to understand the challenges and skilled in asking questions that penetrate to root-level causation. Then, and only then, can we create new, transformational approaches. We can’t simply ask “what do we need to change?”, “we need to understand why?” This is key to the most pressing challenges that remain in healthcare operations and it is the key to Leans’ 5th “S” – Sustainment.
What events and tradeshows will Intelligent InSites attend in 2017?
Intelligent InSites will be at HIMSS17 in Orlando. In addition, we showcase our solution and case studies at targeted industry events throughout the year, including regional HIMSS chapter meetings, conferences focused on sub-markets we serve, such as urgent care and orthopedic clinics, and various association meetings. Our marketing team announces where we’ll be on our website and on social media.
What healthcare software trends do you see for 2017?
The focus on efficiency in healthcare workflow. Time saving, care enhancing solutions that automate specific functions for specific providers such as ensuring most of the data that’s needed to capture timestamps and other process-related markers is captured automatically. Where automation cannot be embedded and achieved, there will be a focus on usability of systems, including liberating providers and nurses from the keyboard. Finally, a shift away from silos and more focus on integrating systems to drive greater value to all of them, such as connecting nurse call, bed management, real-time patient flow apps and metrics view boards, EHRs, billing systems and even building management systems.
How has current legislation and the recent presidential election impacted hospital decisions?
There is so much being said about this already that I don’t feel the need to pile on, except to say that my hope is we avoid speculation paralysis. At times when there are many unknowns over which we have no control, it is best to turn our focus to the things we can control. I can think of no greater opportunity than removing waste from our operational processes in healthcare, while also transforming the patient experience. No matter what happens in the halls of Congress, we know we need to reduce costs. The great news is we know we can do so, and dramatically. Where we can be of assistance to our lawmakers and leaders, we stand ready to help.
Currently, the healthcare industry is experiencing a lot of challenges. What do you think is the industry’s greatest challenge?
Costs are out of control, many of our doctors and nurses are losing hope and retiring and not as many young people are joining the profession, all while more consumers enter the system bringing higher expectations of convenient, personalized service. And so, we have come to the time where we have no choice but to transform. In this way, I see our greatest challenge as our greatest motivator. We know what we can accomplish when we turn our intellect and attention to it. Advances in diagnostic and surgical technologies, medicines and therapies have improved the health and well-being of so many in so many amazing ways. Now, we need to turn our intellect and focus on transforming our operations.
How has your B.S. degree in Zoology and Biochemistry prepared you for your profession in healthcare operational excellence?
Understanding the inner-workings of organisms at the cellular and group levels, including relationships among them and how they’ll react under different conditions, has been incredibly useful. Without knowing it at the time, I chose a field of study that blends both data analysis, behavioral science, and dynamic mechanics and these have been amazing foundations for approaching large, complex problems like complex patient flows. Complex problems are a collection of many mixed up and less complex problems. It is our challenge to unravel the pieces and solve those that can be solved instead of being overwhelmed by what looks like one massive unsolvable challenge.
Director of Mobile HIT
Direct Recruiters, Inc.
Sarah Pozek, Director of Life Sciences, Direct Recruiters, Inc. had the opportunity to interview Glenn Proctor, VP of Software Development at Eagle Genomics, a software and services company in the field of genomic data and bioinformatics analysis. Mr. Proctor shared insights on the Life Science industry, his career, and his point of view on recruiting top industry talent.
Please tell us about yourself and Eagle Genomics.
I’ve been involved with software for my entire career; initially during my PhD where I wrote software to compare the surfaces of protein molecules, then as a developer in areas as diverse as artificial life, computer games and mobile phone network planning. For the last decade or so, I’ve been focused on genomics, initially at the European Bioinformatics Institute, and now Eagle for the last 5 years. At Eagle, we develop solutions for customers who use scientific data particularly genomics. I’m lead of the team who delivers all of our software and services to our customers.
What is the most challenging aspect of your position as VP of Software Development?
Finding, attracting and retaining great people. The life science industry is changing fast, and there are lots of opportunities for a company like Eagle to grow and be successful. When people talk about “growing companies,” it’s important to remember that growth mostly means bringing in new people. If you don’t do that, the company doesn’t really grow. In terms of recruitment, it’s a competitive market and companies really have to work to get the best people.
With extensive experience in software, what made you gear your career towards Genomics IT and Biotechnology?
Like all things in life, a mixture of personal interest, skill and luck! I’ve always wanted to work in an industry where I could make a positive difference to people’s lives in some way, and working in this industry gives me that. Very early on, after a few … “mishaps” in wet labs, I decided that computers and software were where my talents and interest lay, so that’s the route I chose. I have had the privilege of working at a number of institutions that have really helped my career, but mainly it’s been the people I’ve met and worked with along the way that have given me the motivation, ability and opportunities to develop.
What interesting new projects are you currently working on?
Our newest product, eaglediscover, won Best of Show at this year’s BioIT World in Boston. It’s getting a lot of interest from customers and is developing fast. In a separate project we’ve been working on with an established customer, the client recently ramped up the amount of data they pass through the analysis pipeline which we developed for them, and it’s just passed the milestone of a billion sequences processed per week. It’s going to keep growing; Dealing with data and analyses on this scale is challenging but very exciting.
What advice would you give to up and coming talent in the Life Sciences industry?
Be curious. Learn a bit about lots of different areas; if you specialize too early, you’ll end up in a niche that will limit your options. Most of all, accept that change happens all the time, and the pace of change is increasing. That means you’ll need to keep learning for your entire career. If you can embrace change and keep learning, you’ll do just fine.
What or who has influenced you to be successful in your career?
I’ve been fortunate to work with some excellent leaders, mentors and coaches over the years, as well as benefiting from lots of training and peer support. I’m a big fan of the work of Michael Lopp – he’s written several books, including “Managing Humans”, which I’ve found very influential. He also has a blog, “Rands in Repose” which I highly recommend.
What major trends have you seen in the Life Science industry and where do you see the industry being in 5 years?
The biggest change from my point of view is the rise of on-demand computing from the likes of Amazon Web Services. The ability to have instant access to vast computing resources, and only pay for what you use, has created whole new categories of company in many different industries. Life Science is no different – the vast majority of Eagle’s compute work is done “on the cloud”, with a diminishing amount on-premise at our clients. A decade ago, this simply wasn’t possible, and companies like Eagle couldn’t have existed. As for the next five years, I expect that doing this work on the cloud will become the norm – it’s already the default choice for many applications. Also, we’re going to see data science and in particular machine learning becoming much more prominent as it is in other industries.
How do you recruit and retain top industry talent at Eagle Genomics?
The recruitment process actually starts long before a particular role is identified or advertised. It’s a case of getting Eagle’s name out there as an exciting, challenging, welcoming place to work. That brand advertising is important for Eagle’s commercial success, but it’s also vital for attracting talent. Then there are personal networks; making use of those can shorten the hiring process a great deal. Of course, over-reliance on personal networks can end up reducing the diversity of backgrounds, skills and experience, so be careful to look elsewhere as well.
When recruiting, I very much prefer to hire for potential over experience. I’d far rather hire someone with the ability to learn new skills and apply them quickly, than someone who may “tick all the boxes” but be unwilling to change. I keep an eye on job adverts for other companies in our industry, and despair a little when I see long lists of “must haves” that are far too specific, and will be out of date in six months.
The competition from other companies means that we have to be more open-minded in terms of hiring than before. For example, Eagle has recently hired people who predominantly work remotely. This has to be managed carefully to maintain a cohesive team, but it can provide real advantages, as well as opening up a whole new set of potential employees to whom we just didn’t have access before.
In terms of retaining people, making sure that people have as much autonomy as possible, with enough direction that the company gets the most out of them. Also, in a relatively small company like Eagle, everything that everyone does has a tangible impact on our services, products and business. This can be scary at first, but it helps keep people engaged. In the past, when I’ve been working as a small cog in a big machine with no clear visibility of how, or even if, what I was working on was being used, I found it very demotivating.
You mention on your LinkedIn that you make sure that Eagle is a fun, relaxed environment to work in; what steps do you take as a leader to make sure it is?
Three things: communication, diversity, and respect. As a leader, I try to be as transparent as possible with people about what’s going on in the company, especially in parts of the company that the people who report to me may not be so involved with. I encourage them to work together as much as possible too, whether it’s pair programming or just being available to talk through a problem. Diversity of backgrounds, genders, nationalities, ages and experience is key to coming up with the best solutions. Last but not least, respect and equality – at Eagle everyone is treated as a valued professional, no matter what their job title is or how “senior” they are.
While technical skills are important in your field, what soft skills do you look for when hiring new talent?
As I’ve mentioned above, eagerness to learn, and I’m also looking for someone who will broaden the capabilities of the team on one or more axes. Much of Eagle’s work involves interactions with our customers, so when interviewing someone I’m also considering how they would be able to work with customers to fully understand the customer’s need, and how they would deal with the types of issue that inevitably arise as part of long, complex software projects.
Director of Life Sciences
Direct Recruiters, Inc.
March 23, 2016
Sarah Pozek, Director of Life Sciences, Direct Recruiters, Inc., recently had the pleasure of interviewing Glenn Keet, Chief Executive Officer of ClinCapture, a leading provider of cloud- based e-Clinical software (clincapture.com). Mr. Keet was kind enough to answer questions about his career, the Life Sciences industry, and his philosophies for hiring and retaining top talent.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and ClinCapture.
I had always been strong in math and science, and when I graduated with a combined degree of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Sciences, I assumed I would become an engineer. But my first job out of college was with a software company, and I have been in software ever since. I now look back on my engineering degree as good training for any career – it taught me problem solving and critical thinking; two skills I use every day.
It just so happens that I started in a software company that had healthcare and insurance companies as clients, so I was exposed to healthcare IT from the start. Otherwise I might have ended up in any other software vertical. But I am glad to have been exposed to healthcare IT, since at the time it was far behind other industries in the use of information technology and tools to be efficient and competitive, therefore there was great opportunity to make an impact. I believe there still is.
Some would agree life sciences is even further behind its use of information technology, and this is because the highly regulatory environment has hampered adoption of software tools. It is the reason I chose to come to ClinCapture, as I see the same kind of opportunity in life sciences now that I saw in electronic health records in the mid-1990s.
ClinCapture, located in Silicon Valley, is a software-as-a-service vendor of electronic data capture (EDC) software, serving those sponsor companies running clinical trials, such as medical device manufacturers and drug companies, along with the contract research organizations (CRO) that outsource the running of clinical trials for the sponsors. EDC tools have been around a while, but have traditionally been used only by larger companies or larger trials – smaller companies or those running earlier phase trials have not had the wherewithal to deal with the cost and complexity of EDC software, and therefore use pen and paper or spreadsheets to collect data from their trials. ClinCapture aims to remove these barriers so that any size company or any phase trial uses EDC, and saves money in the process over paper or manual processes. Ultimately, ClinCapture aims to take $1.6B out of the cost of running clinical trials worldwide over the next 5 years.
What fascinating projects are you currently working on?
There are so many compelling stories in life sciences. I have the privilege of hearing about promising, breakthrough therapies years before the general public hears of them. I also get to work on solutions to problems through our software, like incorporating direct patient feedback into trials, or connecting and integrating the medical records systems that physicians use with our data capture solution so they can use the same tool when seeing one of their patients that happens to be participating in a trial.
You have worked in life sciences/HIT for over two and a half decades. What or who do you attribute your success to? Did you have a mentor(s)?
Mentors are important and helpful in taking you to the next level in your career. I had the privilege to work with a couple people that helped me learn and grow in ways I wouldn’t have on my own. At my first software job in the mid-1980s I worked for Connie Galley, one of the earlier female CEOs in the software industry, and she showed me the importance of getting close to clients. And Ray Scott, co-founder of Axolotl, taught me management skills that you can’t learn in books.
How has the industry changed since you entered it nearly 30 years ago, and where do you see it going?
I think the biggest change in Health IT over the past 30 years is the feasibility of integrated products. Thirty years ago, the integration of two products was more like a science project versus a standard or repeatable process. Over the past three decades, we have seen the creation and improvement of both data standards (HL7, CDISC, RxNorm, etc.) and application interface standards (open APIs, IHE, etc.) It is now very possible to create a solution of best of breed applications that far surpasses a monolithic, all-encompassing single vendor solution. This speeds innovation, as vendors can specialize in areas, and end users can get the benefit of improvement in a variety of areas much more quickly.
What trends are you seeing in the eClinical area?
I have seen a few breaking through. For example, the rise of eSource, which enables the capture and creation of clinical data in EMRs or other products, and how that will save time and money for data capture. Also, ePRO, which are patient reported outcomes that enables the clinical trial to incorporate patient feedback into the data. I recently co-authored a paper on this exact topic, which delves into much more detail on these and other trends. http://www.clincapture.com/resources/papers/top-eclinical-trends
Where do you see ClinCapture in 5 years?
With ClinCapure’s ability to remove virtually all the startup costs, and with our freemium platform, we calculate that we save our clients over $200,000 on average versus another EDC system. And probably more than that for those that would use paper due to the inefficiencies and errors, and then the additional manual labor if they intend to submit the results to the FDA or another country’s regulatory body. Therefore, our goal 5 years from now is to have taken $1.6B out of the costs clinical trials, allowing that money to be put to better use, like finding therapies.
Besides just EDC, ClinCapture is positioning itself to be a whole eClinical platform. With open APIs, we hope to have many partner products on our platform that are pre-integrated for our clients, making the applications share data seamlessly.
How do you retain top industry talent?
One of ClinCapture’s strategic initiatives is to attract and retain the right people for our organization. In order to achieve that, we have set goals to offer competitive salaries, stock options for most employees so they own a part of the company they work for, and career planning so that we are sure our employees are working towards their own career goals. Besides compensation and advancement, however, it is equally important that staff enjoy their time at work. We have a culture of work hard/play hard, and our team gets along like a big family.
Glenn Keet has worked in health care IT for almost three decades, and since May, 2014 has been CEO of Clinovo, Inc., now named ClinCapture, a leading vendor of cloud-based EDC software that serves entities engaged in clinical trials. Prior, Mr. Keet was SVP over Business Development on the Optum Health Care Cloud, focusing on developing the ecosystem of providers, developers and consumers.
Mr. Keet became part of Optum via the acquisition of Axolotl Corp., which he co-founded in 1995 and where he was President. Prior to his role as President, Mr. Keet had been head of Sales and Marketing, Business Development, and Professional Services.
In the first half of the 1990s, Mr. Keet held managerial positions for Mercator Software, now owned by IBM. Mercator sold general purpose EDI and HL7 mapping and translation engines used in health care, insurance and other industries.
Mr. Keet graduated from Lehigh University in 1986 with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and BA in Applied Sciences, and later attended Wharton’s Executive Leadership program. He has two teenage sons, and resides in Santa Cruz, CA.
Glenn.firstname.lastname@example.org, www.linkedin.com/in/glennkeet, 813-234-6653.
For more information, contact Sarah Pozek at 440-996-0597 or email@example.com
Dan Charney, President & CEO of Direct Recruiters (DRI), and Cherie Shepard, Director of Packaging & Material Handling, DRI, interview Brian Cohen, Chief Executive of Hanel Storage Systems
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Brian Cohen, and I am the Chief Executive of Hänel Storage Systems. I have been in the automation field my entire professional life and have been fortunate enough to learn the technology from the ground up. My career began in sales, focusing on sensors and automatic identification, followed by robotics and machine vision and for the last fifteen years AS/RS. Throughout my life I have been interested in and intrigued by technology. My father was a plant manager for a bedding manufacturer in the early 1970’s and I have a favorite childhood memory of visiting the bedding manufacturing plant and being mesmerized by the automated machinery.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Managing growth is currently the most challenging part of my job. Throughout the last fifteen years we have experienced what I refer to as self-sustained incremental growth. We have grown each year at a steady and manageable rate and reinvested profits into the business to fuel additional growth. The challenge is when to hire, how to expand facilities, and which new markets to pursue. I am very grateful that our thoughtful planning has prevented lay-offs, debt and failed marketing initiatives.
How do you retain top industry talent?
First and foremost, it is important to hire carefully and have the correct recruiting partners. Next, it is important that the position I am hoping to fill represents an awesome opportunity for the candidate. Potential candidates must be passionate about an opportunity to work with our organization and the position must represent an order of magnitude career progression. Once on board, it is part of our strategy to partner with our employees and develop mutually agreeable milestones and goals that the employee can own. My style is quite contrary to micromanagement. Once expectations are developed, I prefer to act as a resource. It is important to recognize with my management style that communication and transparency are absolutely critical.
What soft skills do you look for when hiring new talent?
Cultural fit is perhaps the single most important requirement for a new employee. I like to learn about what the candidate really liked or disliked about past positions. After we have determined that a candidate has the required skills and experience to perform the job we are looking to fill, we schedule a series of casual interviews with staff members to discuss what it’s like day to day within the company’s culture. The feedback we have received from these casual interviews has been really useful for both the company and the candidate. It is very important to me that candidates are presented the full picture of what it is like to be part of this team.
You have over 25 years of experience in the Material Handling world. What or who do you attribute your success to? Did you have a mentor(s)?
Yes, I had both mentors and managers that were willing to take a risk on someone with the right attitude. The mentor that had the most profound impact on me was Martin Eichenberg. Martin was the CEO of Menziken Automation and was a truly impressive leader. In addition to Martin’s experience, he had a way of telling difficult truths eloquently. His ability to tell a customer something that they did not want to hear, but absolutely should, was inspiring. I have translated what I have learned from Martin in this regard into the following axiom: “Tell me the truth always. The harder the truth is to tell, the more I will respect you for it.” Martin was also the first leader that took the phrase “our employees are our greatest asset” and turned it into absolute practice. My strong commitment to our employees’ well-being was most certainly shaped by Martin’s example.
What are the most important characteristics a Material Handling leader needs to be successful?
The material handling industry benefits greatly from MHI. Throughout my career I have participated in the material handling community and MHI organization in various ways. Currently I serve on the Board of Governors and the Educational Work Group. I have found working with MHI to be rewarding in many ways; most importantly for me are the development of standards and education. The secondary benefit of working with MHI is the networking. Never before in my career have I had the opportunity to work so closely with competitors.
December 3, 2015
Jason Herbert, DRI Practice Leader Packaging & Material Handling, had the opportunity to interview Michael Senske, President & CEO of Pearson Packaging Systems last month.
The following interview was also posted on PackagingStrategies.com (formerly Food & Beverage Packaging Magazine).
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Spokane, WA and moved to Seattle, WA to attend the University of Washington, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. Upon graduation I worked at Microsoft Corporation in the Product Support Services division of the Consumer Division Unit. I left Microsoft in 1998 to join Pearson Packaging Systems and moved back to Spokane with my wife Jennifer.
During my time at Pearson, I have served in a wide variety of positions, including Director of Business Development and Vice President Sales & Marketing. I assumed the role of President & CEO in 2003 and have helped build a team that has transformed the company from a manufacturer of discrete packaging machinery to a provider of complete end-of-line systems comprised of case erectors/tray formers, case packers, case/tray sealers, and palletizers.
In addition to my responsibilities at Pearson, I am very active in our community and serve on the Board of Trustees for Greater Spokane Incorporated and the Association of Washington Business. I also serve on the Board of Directors for Colmac Holding Company, a capital equipment manufacturing company located in our region. My wife and I have been married for 20 years and have two daughters, Lauren and Olivia. We enjoy golfing, skiing, boating and pretty much all outdoor activities.
What fascinating projects are you currently working on?
I think the most interesting project that we are working on at Pearson Packaging Systems is our User Centric Design (UCD) initiative. For years, our industry has received feedback from customers that our machines/systems need to be easier to use and more intuitive, however, that feedback has largely been ignored by extremely technical design engineers. These engineers have designed machines/systems as if they were going to be run and maintained by people with similar engineering and technical backgrounds, which is generally not the case. As such, we have embarked on an initiative to simplify the mechanical design of the machines and integrate this design more seamlessly with a touch screen interface similar to that of a smartphone or tablet. It’s a very visual and intuitive system that allows machine operators to more quickly learn how to operate a machine/system and increase their efficiency and throughput.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect of my job is ensuring that we never lose focus on what is most important, and that is helping our customers achieve increased growth and profitability. Our only purpose as an organization is to help our customers be more efficient and better serve their customers. My experience is that companies often become somewhat inwardly focused on their own operations as opposed to focusing on the continually changing needs of their customers. As such it is a constant struggle to make sure that our customers are ALWAYS top of mind.
What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities in the next few years?
Our biggest challenge is ensuring that we keep our pulse on the needs of customers and truly understand how we can provide value to them going forward. Our customers’ businesses are changing at an increasing pace, and we need to remain nimble as an organization to change with them. Perhaps our biggest opportunity is to continue to develop the capability to provide integrated complete end-of-line solutions to our customers. Historically, Pearson Packaging Systems has provided customers with discrete machines as well as small systems or cells comprised mainly of our equipment. For Pearson Packaging Systems to remain relevant in the marketplace, we are going to need to continue to develop our ability to provide fully integrated complete end-of-line systems that include equipment from 3rd party OEMs in addition to our own. Ultimately, what customers want to source from Pearson is the systems engineering expertise that will help them achieve a specific level of output at a specific cost per unit. They are depending on us to design a system that is capable of meeting their needs, not just a piece of equipment.
What soft skills do you look for when hiring new talent?
Above all else, I’m trying to discern a candidate’s work ethic. I would rather have an employee of average ability with a strong work ethic, than an employee with tremendous capability with an average work ethic. Our customers depend on us to deliver machines/systems on very tight timelines with very high performance requirements. I want to know that every single employee that is working on a customer’s project is willing to do whatever is necessary and work whatever hours are required to design, manufacture, assemble, install, and service this equipment so that we meet or exceed our customers’ expectations. In addition to work ethic, I’m always looking for people that operate well in a constantly changing and ambiguous environment. If there’s one thing that typifies the modern business environment it is constant change. If an employee isn’t able to deal with change or a dynamic working environment, they aren’t a good fit in our organization.
Based on your LinkedIn profile it appears that you have a special interest in succession planning. Why is succession planning so vital to every company’s strategic plan? Can you share any insight on best practices for succession planning?
Our customers are looking to develop long-term partnerships and working relationships with their suppliers. When they purchase a piece of machinery or a complete end-of-line system they are relying on us to not only design and install/commission this machinery or system, but to help them maintain it and adapt it to their changing needs for many years into the future. They are buying equipment from Pearson not only because of our current capabilities, but also because of our ability to support them in the future. In order for a business to achieve long term sustainability, it is imperative that each functional area of the organization have a deep talent pool of individuals that are on clear career paths and that are capable of assuming greater responsibility within the organization. At Pearson Packaging Systems, we require the members of our leadership team to not only deliver strong results, but to also build depth within their departments so that they have multiple employees that are capable of stepping up into the position above them in the event that we need them to do so. It is a very conscious effort on our part to retain, recruit, and advance people who have the skill sets we need now and in the future. We are committed to providing existing employees with ongoing professional development and training so that they are able to develop skills that are aligned with the changing needs of our customers and our business. Additionally, we recruit candidates from outside of our industry that, although lacking industry experience, possess the skills and abilities that we will need in the future as our organization continues to grow.
Practice Leader Packaging & Material Handling
Matthew Cohen, Energy Management Practice Leader with DRI, intervbest-michael-smiews Michael Best, VP of Software Operations at SCIenergy, who shares his insights on how best to overcome the many obstacles in the energy analytics space.
The following interview was also featured on EnergyManagerToday.com. Click here to see the original article.
Overcoming Obstacles in the Energy Analytics Industry
The energy management software industry has transformed itself from a novelty to a necessity for building owners and managers in the last few years. The energy management software industry is thriving. It is moving quickly to adapt to a market that is experiencing exponential growth and building owners whose need for performance data has increased tenfold. I asked Michael Best, vice president of software operations for SCIenergy to share his insights on how best to overcome the many obstacles in the energy analytics space.
Matthew Cohen: How can an energy analytics company differentiate itself from its competitors in the current market?
Michael Best: Energy analytics on their own don’t actually change anything; they only give the information to change. End users that pay the fees to get analytics installed and configured need to be committed to make change. Energy analytics companies get the best results when they become the active energy managers for the end users and guide their customers with the help of the analytics to fix the most important things first and hold them accountable with constant communication and reports of their efforts. Once they see the success of their actions, they are much more likely to make policy change from that point forward. The value of an energy analytics company is its outcome, not just its software.
Matthew Cohen: What type of buildings are being underserved by energy intelligence software, and what can the industry do to change that?
Michael Best: There are probably 80 percent of commercial real estate buildings in the market that do not have energy intelligence in them. The reasons could be…
- There is no building management system (BMS) installed.
- The value of the results of energy intelligence does not get acted upon.
- There is no budget to do energy intelligence, fixes or retrofitting.
All of these problems can be overcome.
There are many ways to collect data from a building, such as a simple BMS system that provides scheduling, data collection and control. There are impressive documented savings for a building with a BMS versus those without a BMS.
The value in currency and in kWh from the data is vitally important to prioritize fixes, to show improvement and to measure and verify results.
If real-time miles per gallon is displayed in our vehicles, we change how aggressively we drive because we know it is hurting us in our pocket. This takes behavioral change and accountability. Likewise, if results are shown from energy intelligence and we do nothing, we will save nothing. Results need to be acted upon.
Matthew Cohen: As VP and a team leader, how do you attract and retain top-performing talent in the energy analytics space?
Michael Best: HVAC is moving from being an old-school, manual industry to a “cool” big data industry and is starting to attract younger more technology driven industry.
The younger generation see energy big data analytics as a game changer for the environment, and that is driving the hiring process. The data side is also driving salaries a little higher, which helps retain talent. The sustainability side of buildings is attracting women to a traditionally male career, which is exciting as well.
Matthew Cohen: What do you see as the next frontier for energy analytics?
Michael Best: Integration to preventative maintenance or other CMMS systems via software application programming interfaces (API’s) is imperative and can bring additional checks and balances to help drive the behavioral changes needed.
The addition of the “Internet of Things” excites me immensely. Having the ability to add extra sensor data to analytics brings even more value. Being able to bring lighting, occupancy, plug loads, data center data, security, elevators, audio visual, parking, water management and irrigation, look up pricing, ADR and the smart grid using dashboards and digital signage to display the results in a meaningful non-confusing manner is the next frontier.
Doing all of this and not exposing the building to a security risk is of utmost importance, and one-way communication for the data outbound only is important. There should be no need to reach into a building to get the data, the building needs to send the data only; the rest is done in secure servers.
Matthew Cohen: As a leader in the industry, what is your biggest challenge in keeping pace with changes in technology?
Michael Best: We have only begun the big data analytics revolution, especially with all the additional potential sensors. I believe energy analytics companies can give time back to people running buildings by using technology, analytics and insight to drive savings and be their trusted technology advisors.
There are so many new technologies, new sensors, and communication protocols that they have no time to start to understand it. Let your analytics company do that for you and stay abreast with the growth explosion.
There are multiple barriers to adoption of new technologies — trust, privacy, security, protocols, value propositions and standards — but the opportunities for solutions and outcome services are endless.