June 2, 2021
Sanjula Jain 0:04
Leadership requires constant reflection and adaptation, often requiring one to unlearn old processes and relearn new ones. Many women leaders have expressed the need to ‘unlearn’ certain mindsets and practices at different stages of their careers. In this special edition of Her Story, we asked a few of our guests across different sectors of healthcare to share one thing they believed early on in the career that they no longer believe.
First, we hear from Esther Farkas, the SVP Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer of Unite Us, a technology company focused on building health and social care networks.
Esther Farkas 0:35
When I was coming up in the law firm environment, every piece of advice you gave was seen as having to be essentially perfect. Basically, before you write an email or ever advise a client, if you haven’t done five to 10 hours of work checking into it, then you haven’t done it right. It took me almost a decade to unlearn that and to say, one, you can make mistakes. You have to own the mistakes but, if you own those mistakes, people understand. Two, at some point you have the experience and knowledge to be able to advise without doing hours and hours of work. You should always do your research. You should always do work, but this idea that everything you say and everything you write down has to be absolutely perfect and unimpeachable can paralyze people. I think that is the biggest thing. Obviously, I do my best and I try to not make huge mistakes, but I see that not everything I say is unimpeachable. Something I said might be wrong and someone may come back to me and say, “Look, think about this differently,” and I’ll learn from that and think about it differently. I don’t have to feel bad about not getting it completely right. Particularly for women, I found that can be paralyzing. I think women have this idea that they have to always be perfect at all times. When you reinforce that with that kind of work environment, people won’t take risks. They won’t innovate and they won’t go past their point of comfort, which is what you need to move the needle.
Sanjula Jain 2:15
Dr. Geeta Nayyar is the General Manager of Healthcare and Life Sciences and Executive Medical Director of Salesforce, a cloud-based software company that provides CRM capabilities.
Geeta Nayyar 2:26
As a doc and as someone in the medical world, a lot of us are perfectionists and a lot of us are alphas. Alpha women, alpha men. I certainly fall into that category. One of my mentors said to me, “If you try to make everything perfect, you’ll never get anything done.” Don’t be so afraid to just move forward, particularly in software where they often release things and then evolve them as they go. It’s very different in medicine where we like to nail it on the first go because there are lives at stake, so just learning through that process that making progress includes failures, mistakes, and learning as you go and that that is also the natural course of business and of life. That’s probably one of the biggest learnings I’ve had.
Sanjula Jain 3:10
Next is Dr. Vivian Lee, President of Health Platforms at Verily Life Sciences, a life sciences research organization affiliated with Alphabet.
Vivian Lee 3:19
I remember when I had a leadership role early on in my career, I was charged with building this program and developing a strategy for doing it. My approach was to bring a number of people to the table and have a discussion and get their input about it. I remember afterward, one of the leaders—who was very distinguished and senior to me—pulled me aside and said, “Vivian, that’s not how you lead. You can’t ask everybody what they think. You need to just tell them. That’s what a strong leader does.” I remember thinking, “Hmm, I don’t think so.” For me, I want to hear the input. It doesn’t mean I have to do what you’ve told me, but the input is incredibly invaluable. Yes, there definitely have been times when I felt like it’s important to stick to what works for you. What works for me has worked out okay.
Sanjula Jain 4:15
Wrapping us up is Miriam Paramore, President and CSO of OptimizeRx, a digital communications platform focused on improving medication access and adherence at the point of care.
Miriam Paramore 4:26
We all deal with the imposter syndrome, but if you put the female expectation and then—in my case—the additional southeastern, Bible Belt cultural expectation on top of that, it becomes ingrained in your psyche. It feels like the truth so you measure yourself against your ability to meet those standards of ultimate truth. I’ve learned that there’s probably no such thing as an “ultimate truth” and we’re all sort of determining our own paths. We can be influenced. We’re heavily influenced by our culture, our families, our DNA, our heritage, but we get to define what success means for ourselves, and that can be holistic. For me, it needs to be about my personal life and my professional life. It needs to be mind-body-spirit, so I need to take care of myself physically, mentally, emotionally, take care of the ones I love, and then also allow myself to express myself creatively in the world. Business is a creative process for me. I’ve come to believe that we get to design that for ourselves. I didn’t believe that early on. I tried to force myself into doing all of these things. I was very ashamed and embarrassed. I still have a little bit of discomfort being a single woman. I feel looked at like, “Oh, well, yeah. She’s just another divorced business executive.” I think we have a lot of those judgments. I have to accept that those things are out there but let go of my own sort of belief system.
Sanjula Jain 6:17
Thank you, ladies, for sharing your reflections. It’s a great reminder that leadership requires moments of unlearning.
Her Story is a podcast produced by Think Medium. For more leadership stories from inspiring women across healthcare, tune in every Wednesday. Please subscribe to Her Story on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, or wherever you’re listening right now. You can also view Her Story episodes and video and access exclusive content on our website at ThinkMedium.com. Be sure to rate and review Her Story so we can continue bringing you insights from influential women across the country. If you enjoyed this episode, we appreciate you spreading the word to your friends, family, colleagues, and mentors who might be interested. For questions and suggestions, please contact us at email@example.com. Thanks for listening!