April 26, 2023
Sandra Fenwick: Welcome to Her Story, A show developed by Women for Women to share stories that expand what’s possible as women healthcare leaders. I’m Sandy Fenwick, c e o of ERUs of Boston Children’s Hospital. I currently serve on a number of company boards, one of which is Teladoc Hill. I’m geared today with three exceptionally. Accomplished women who are on the teladocs executive leadership team as three chiefs. As many of Teladoc Health is a cutting edge virtual healthcare company, founded with the simple yet extraordinary idea, and I think revolutionary idea that everyone should have access to the best healthcare anywhere in the world and on their terms. And today the company is delivering on that promise, providing whole person virtual care, including primary care, mental health, chronic care, and so much more. So I’m pleased to introduce three top executives of this company, and I believe. The Teladoc Health is one of the few healthcare technology companies at scale that have three chiefs at the very top. So let me introduce Mala Murthy, who is the Chief financial officer. Dr. Vidya Raman-Tangella, who is the Chief Medical Officer, and Stephany Verte, who is the Chief Marketing and Engagement Officer. So welcome all three of you.
Vidya Raman-Tangella: Thank you for having us.
Sandra Fenwick: So let’s start with each of you sharing how you got to where you are today, because I know not all of you started in healthcare. And I’m going to ask Mala if you would start.
Mala Murthy: Great. While I am in such a illustrious company. If I think back to where I started from and what I am today, What I’d say, Sandy, is even after living in the US for over 30 years working in five different companies across multiple industries, I’m still very much the girl from a very middle class family in India. And I will always think that what has that meant for me? I think it’s meant to change things. And all of these have informed. Me as a leader and informed me through my career. The first is and I know video will relate to this also coming from India. I knew from way early on that the shape of my life would be what I need out of it through hardworking drive. That I had to create my own opportunities even if it meant working until very late in the night. Oftentimes in the city that I was in with no electricity. Swatting away in mosquitoes and flies late into the night. And so that has taught me work ethic. The second is as an immigrant to this country with no corrections. But I also knew early on that any failures I had was only a challenge for me to pick myself back up. And what did I learn from that? I learned grit, determination. As I joke with my family, I am the proverbial tortoise plotting on Last but not least. And I think this is where I feel the most blessed. My parents were absolutely incredible in that they taught me to imagine the art possible for very early on to take risks. If I think back to how I came to the us My journey started with my showing up at a hotel in Bangalore, India where I knew Microsoft was interviewing folks and asking them if they would spare a few minutes for me. That was taking risk and that is something that my parents encouraged me to do, taking informed risk. So all of those elements have shaped me ha, have come with me, in my, for my very early years. And what I would say to conclude is what I have learned, what I have honed over my career in addition to what came with me ez. A few other things. First, to really listen. Second, I would say to spot talent smart talent who I can learn from to surround myself with candidly, people who are better than me that I can learn from. And last, I would say, to understand the audience, understand where the other person is coming from. Those skills I have learned and honed over the course of my career.
Sandra Fenwick: Thank you, Mala Vidya.
Vidya Raman-Tangella: How can I talk that? I wish I could repeat everything that she said, but let me maybe take you do try to take you through my journey since you asked. I would say for me, how I got here is by embracing the forks on the road. And going for the parts that are not so straight that are less traveled. I think if I were to write the story of my life, that would be the title, forks on the Road, and just taking it as I think back, me making the decision to switch from clinical practice to. Something else because I felt the calling towards prevention to be able to do something for hundreds and thousands of people at a time, but I didn’t know what and how so just decided to figure that out. Or when I think about. A regional plan in New Jersey, which was one of my first jobs wanting to dabble in innovation back when we had zero footprint around innovation in healthcare. And then I raised my hand and said, okay, I’ll do it. I’ll figure it out. And I didn’t know what went or how, but I did figure it out. Or when I, went to Johnson and Johnson to help establish a startup. That had nothing to do with the drugs and devices that the company was making. And it was in fact about a new solution or being part of an organization like United where, it’s a massive organization and here you are being asked to scale innovation and make it part of the DNA of the organization. Or I look at an organization like Amazon Web Services, right where I was lost and. Staring at the mounds and mounts of data that the organization is able to tackle. And then looking at all of the aligned technology and saying, oh my gosh, I wish we could create healthcare solutions out of this and doing that, right? So bottom line is there was no precedent, there was nothing set in stone. And in most cases, I wrote my own job description because I just saw the possibilities. So I would say just embracing possibilities, just going for it. And so along with that goes A healthy ability to embrace failure. So in my dictionary, there’s no word such as failure. It’s just, they’re just lessons to be learned. And I’d rather try than not. I’d rather try and fail than not try at all. And so that was that. And then lastly, I would say it was, it’s always been very important for me to align my own sense of purpose. It’s the mission of the organization, the people that make the organization and, and ensure that I’m able to make a difference through that. So I, I think of it as I am successful if I’m happy, right? Not the other way around. So it’s very important for me to be happy with what I’m doing, with who I am, be my true self, and bring it to bear every single day. So those are few things from my own journey.
Sandra Fenwick: Whoa. Thank you so much, Vidia and Stephany. Wow, your Lord. A follow. Wow, those are pretty incredible.
Stephany Verstraete: It’s a wonderful opportunity for, I feel like I’m learning new things myself. When it comes to leadership, a common theme for me is my belief that our journeys are really shaped by the people around us. I think you’ve heard examples of that already is I reflect on the people who’ve helped shape me as a leader. Over my career, I’ve come to appreciate the impact actually that my grandmothers. Have had the leader that I’ve become both lived in a small farming town in Canada. But they were two very different personalities and they had two very different realities. One was a single mom supporting two kids, and one with married mother of five. But they were both incredibly strong, self-sufficient women who had amazing grit. And I heard Molly, is it, I, it is something that I always think of with them. From them, I learned the importance of determination, not letting others define what is. Or what could be possible? The value of looking beyond the surface and really seeing unique value in an individual that they can bring to a situation or a team. And I actually think today, one thing I pride myself on is that ability to build high performing teams. I think about it as one of my superpowers. And then lastly, the power of empathy. Not just when it’s convenient, but when it’s needed. When it came to choosing a profession, I, sometime in college, I got an inkling that I wanted to go into marketing. But when I graduated, it was difficult economic time stand there, work job. I wasn’t able to find, a job in the field that I wanted. So I was convinced to take a role a frontline sales role calling on grocery stores. So I definitely did not start my career in healthcare. My experience in this role literally was the single biggest wake up call for me in experiencing a significant. Gender-based imbalance of power. And in this case, not in a boardroom, but in the backroom. Since then I’ve committed to becoming a functional expert in really changing consumer ba behavior and doing so though through a path of different industries as well as different companies at different life stages. I really feel like I learned a lot. Of different skills along the way from doing that, whether it was from startups to high growth to Fortune 50 companies. And so lastly, Teladoc marked my Teladoc health, marked my first foray into healthcare. I saw it as a fantastic opportunity both to continue to learn new industry, new business model, as well as have an immediate impact of applying all of that experience in a new way. And that’s what actually makes me thrive.
Sandra Fenwick: All of your stories are no, obviously, them all. Have any of your opportunities or your challenges felt different because you are a woman and, Vidya, maybe you can start and then Mala and Stephany again.
Vidya Raman-Tangella: That’s it is a profound question. So I will say, I will take responsibility for, I think putting my work first before anything else. I was always very nose down and I, to this day, I am just about let me do my job and do it really well. So to the point where I may have been blind to a few things in fact, I found it interesting when, in a couple of instances, Some of my male colleagues pointed out. Not so great behavior from other male colleagues towards me because I was a woman. So I woke up to it only when it was pointed out to me as opposed to realizing it then and there only because I’m just very focused. But I also believe that whether you’re a man or a woman, this, the first and foremost thing is to be good at what you do. There’s no shortcut for that, right? You have to be, you have to know your stuff. You have to be good at what you do. So people automatically respect you for that and look to you for that. So I will say that. That’s one aspect, but certainly like my Stephany and Mala here and so many other women there, having kids, taking care of little ones, taking care of parents and juggling everything and then not. I did feel the sense of pressure, when I had to leave at 4:00 PM and when I saw others being able to stay till 6:00 PM but because I had to go take care of something and I felt bad, but I got over it. I think I learned as I went. There is no, I don’t think we can read a book and say one method words for everybody. I just learned as I went and I said, I have to prioritize and priorities do shift from time to time. So if there was a sick kid, if the sitter was leaving early and I had to get home, so be it. That’s, that was gonna be the priority. But when work demanded, ask wanted me to come in at 5:00 AM I was there, I showed up, right? So just knowing and being comfortable putting one over the other as was necessary was something that I learned to do and I felt like I was at a much happier place doing that. I’ll also say that. I think along the way I’ve had not just phenomenal female mentors and Bostons and friends, but certainly men as well. So I’ve worked for some incredible men. I have had incredible men work for me, and I’ve had them in the form of peers, and I’m certainly surrounded by them in my, family and friends. So I think you take a little bit from everywhere, and so you don’t, I like to think that. Whether we are, it’s a ma male or a female, you wanna be respected for what you do and what you bring to the table and the difference you’re able to make. And yeah. So yes, challenges, but I think I’ve, I’m just very focused on what I do.
Sandra Fenwick: Thank you Mala. In finance there are just like in medicine only beginning to have women really rise to the top. Like you have. I’m sure that there have been many challenges for you too.
Mala Murthy: My formative years, candidly speaking, were in places where You had to outwork the men on the team, right? You had to be there. Work harder, be better, right? No more. Th that was the way it was. And I would say to you I think that engendered a couple of things, which I have very similar to what with said, as I have become wiser over the years I have corrected, or I have at least warped, I’m not correctly, but worked on. I would say the horse is being vulnerable. It was it, in my formative years, it was not, it was about not being vulnerable. It’s a, it was about being there, showing up when asked, I cannot tell you how many times I have been there during Thanksgiving during important milestones, moments in my life, et cetera. You are nodding your head What I would say is over time I have learned it’s important to smell the roses along the way, as I say and to keep things in perspective. There will always be another presentation. There will always be another meeting, and it’s about just being comfortable. So saying, Hey, how can I balance this out with something else? Do I need to be there? Can someone be there in my place? That takes a level of courage that, frankly speaking, took a long time for me to acquire. And I do, when I mentor people, women and men, by the way boats, that is something that I do encourage people to really think about, what are they treating out or not in their lives. And to be aware of that same thing for their teams. So that’s one thing. Conversely, and very interestingly, the, I also found it very difficult up until relatively recently to ask, to state my expectations, it just, It still doesn’t come naturally to me. And, I would sweat it and it shows up in small and big ways. I say this story very often when I was at American Express, I had this incredible Juan leader who took it upon herself to mentor me. And I remember she made an observation about me that I didn’t even know I did. She said, ma, when you walk into a room and meeting has start, why do you sit on a back bench? Sit at the table. You learned it. And Sandy, I didn’t even know I did that. It was a very small thing. But she said it speaks volumes about. How you project yourself. And I share this often also with people I mentor, right? It is about earning your seat at the table. No, don’t expect anyone to give it to you. It’s to the point that with the amk, no your stuff do it. Be competent and earning seat to the table. And when you do, it’s okay to ask. It’s okay to state your ambition and your expectations. And I did. I wasn’t, I struggled to do that until very recently, and I don’t think I’m so good at it.
Vidya Raman-Tangella: I will pile on there and I know we have to go to Stephany, but oh my God, that brings back so many memories, right? We, it’s true. We, I think we women, we hesitate to ask and sometimes perhaps we don’t know what to ask for. I have found all of those to be true and I have a story similar to Mal as where I don’t wanna. Name the individual, but she’s in a very big spot. Again, a female. And when I asked her one time, I said, you sit where you sit. So what do you know about me that I don’t know about myself? This is what I asked her. And here’s what she told me. She said, not a whole lot of people know how good you are at what you do. So basically you need to market yourself. And that does not come easy to me at all. I still don’t do it, but I learned to make. Small little changes that would get me there. So I think it’s very important to also know one’s blind spots and then seek counsel and take it seriously. And listen, like ma said, sorry. Sorry Stephany. Your turn.
Stephany Verstraete: Totally fine. It’s interesting in mal, as you said, the reflection and what that turns up. Early in my career, I worked for two Fortune 50 companies that were both led by women First Irene Rosenfeld at Kraft Foods, and then Indra Nuo. So at an early stage, I had rep, I had the benefit of representation right out of the gate. And so for me, the possibility of a ceo, E o a female, c e o, was the norm. Now in contrast, since then, I have worked for a woman exactly 18 months in three decades and son, so the juxtaposition of those two, but what it meant for me was I was one of those classic people that I wanted to be recognized as a leader, not a female leader, because I felt that. That was a qualifier that was going to make it somehow less than. And it really, as I have become a leader of female leaders, what I’ve come to appreciate is that’s actually harder and that is something to be proud of and the very real need that representation brings it is something that I did, it took me, I’m embarrassed to say, it took me far too long. To recognize the value that me investing time in being the female part of the female leaders would bring. And it wasn’t until there was a study that came out that really said women needed to act more like men to be successful. And that was the light bulb for me that was not okay. And it was the moment that I really committed to using my voice. And I finding, looking for those moments, being aware when they’re going to stripe you personally to unlock for me what was much more of an authentic leadership style.
Sandra Fenwick: Whoa. Thank you. Thank you. Three. And there’s so much that resonates I think for all of us each hearing, each other’s stories all and this reflection time I think really does resonate with not only all four of us, but I’m sure everyone who’s listening. You have each talked about your individual path and journeys and challenges and opportunities. What about your shared leadership journey? At Teladoc. As I said, this is relatively unique to have such a high level exceptional women at the top, would you, Stephany and Vithya and Mala, please share what it’s like to not only be in a place like Teladoc, but also to work together with not only each other but the rest of the team.
Stephany Verstraete: Yeah maybe I’ll jump in. I think what is unique from a Teladoc health perspective for the bene, what I see as one of the biggest benefits is each of those leads a very different part of the organization. And what we know is that female representation actually is important, where decisions are made, right? And the imperative to, to be able to help make sure that the services that we’re delivering for our members for patients, for our clients, for all of our stakeholders are reflective of those people that we’re trying to serve. And not just in one part of what they experience, not in just one part of the company. But the benefit of us being able to work together in three important clinical the sorry, driving our clinical agenda and strategy, how we speak to and engage our members, and really how we make investment decisions. We come together and that actually means that there’s a comprehensive perspective that we’re bringing.
Vidya Raman-Tangella: Yeah, I, and I think For me it’s always been important, but more so here at Teladoc is to be my authentic self. I can’t I just cannot be anybody that I’m not, I don’t want to be. And I think what these two ladies here and others do is allow me to be myself. And I think where I’m the newbie here, so not even a year to Teladoc just about getting there. I would say that, If I’m able to be authentic, but at the same time, empathetic. And listen, like Marla said earlier, if I’m able to share my vulnerabilities and my strength with people and I can see them as partners, then you know, then we all win. And that’s really what has helped me, I think in the last 11 to 12 months, is just to be able to we’re, we all have very different styles. We’re very different people. We have very different personalities, but learning about each other and knowing. Who’s good at what. And so how can I lean on Stephany? Where do I need to lead on Mala? And and always knowing that they’re there, so I’m not alone. That is such a big deal, at least from me, I’ll say. So I think that’s what it’s been. It’s about knowing that we are partners all aiming for the same goal, same score on the same score scoreboard, but come at it from different ways. But we’re also here for each other. Just because, we. We have various strengths that we can give and share with each other.
Mala Murthy: And I would say as you can tell, Sandy, each of us has had very different journeys, right? But we’ve had a collection of experiences across different industries. And I think what that means for Teladoc and for each each of us, is we come with very different networks, right? To pull from, to draw it from, but. There have been instances. I remember a year or two ago when Stephany was looking for a particular talent, right? She said, Hey, do you know someone? From PepsiCo or American Express who you think will be good for this job and who you think is good. So therein lies the power of each of us actually coming from variation experiences that we have our own networks. I think as good leaders do, it would be great for us to pull talent from our networks in service of the company, our members, our mission, our purpose. And so that is the other benefit I feel of us all, coming together as leaders, Teledoc helping women, leaders at health. The other thing I would say is, I remember when I was at PepsiCo, and this was in the very, very early two thousands. PepsiCo was a very early champion of diversity ins including them. And there was a very interesting reason they did that. It was because they said, If we as a company don’t mirror our consumers, we will never be successful. And I have to tell you, that was so profoundly smart. I think that’s true for us. We have to be like our members, right? That’s the only, our teams have to be like our members. That’s the only way. We will be able to deliver better value, better care, better experiences and thereby live our mission and our purpose. So to me, there is both. There, there is a there is a very pragmatic reason as well for us to have the kind of representation to use Stephany’s word slash me to.
Sandra Fenwick: Anything else or should we wrap up? Because I wanted to ask you one last question. One, what’s one piece of advice that you would give your younger self? I don’t know who wants to start.
Vidya Raman-Tangella: Yeah, no, I can start well to, to my younger self, I would say you are bigger than, and you are more than a single degree, a single jog, single something. Don’t let one thing define you early on in your life. I wish I had. Discovered all aspects that make me. What makes me happy, what I am good at, because I was so obsessed with being on top of the class at med school, and that’s all I did when I was in med school. I let everything else go to the side right then when I started working. That’s all I wanted to be good at. But I do think that if I had just explored other parts of me and stuck with some. Other facets in my life. The only reason is that those always remain whether the job is there or not, whether the degree is there or not. So to, to get more personal. I. Three years ago I took to singing this was something I did as a child and just let it go. But I said, I’m not going to do that anymore. I know I can be good at it. Found two fantastic teachers who teach to who I take lessons from. And can I tell you, that keeps me grounded. It gives, it has given me a level of resilience that I’ve never had before and makes me feel more complete. So I think that would be the advice I’d give to my own self is that go discover. What makes you and go after every part because things shift and you will always have something to lean on.
Sandra Fenwick: Thank you.
Mala Murthy: A pur is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. And I think if I had that wiser mind, I would. Find a different, many different ways to experience and enjoy frankly, the journey along the way. And that, that is what I would do differently.
Stephany Verstraete: My younger self is the, it comes in the form of two teenage children who I tell this too often to maybe related things. The first is, and these are both very practical, it’s never too soon to begin investing in your network. The women that you work with today are the network of your future. And then tied to that closely is never underestimate the value that you have to others. I recognize that the word network can be polarizing. I didn’t like it for the longest time, but when I started to think about it as building connections or fostering growth and breaking down barriers, then it helped me feel like I had a purpose. And just recently, I’ve really come to appreciate that when you make that commitment, when you’ve made that investment, there is no ask that is too big or too small. So don’t be afraid to ask.
Sandra Fenwick: Whoa. Thank you so much. I’m so thrilled that this worked out that we could get all three of you given the schedules that you keep and are not even in the same side of the country. Thank you so much. I know the listeners are going to not only love your individual stories, but your collective work together and the impact and the influence that you’re having, not just within Teladoc, but clearly within the whole healthcare industry.
Vidya Raman-Tangella: Thank you,
Mala Murthy: you, Sandy,
Vidya Raman-Tangella: Thanks
Mala Murthy: us,