Women in Business Q&A: Mandy Long, VP, Product Management, Modernizing Medicine

Mandy Long is the Vice President of Product Management at Modernizing Medicine. She is responsible for the product strategy and direction of Modernizing Medicine’s medical and data software portfolio. She drives the product road map and the expansion of Modernizing Medicine’s products and services offerings to its rapidly evolving user base.

Mandy has spent her career in healthcare technology. Prior to joining Modernizing Medicine in 2014, she was the Vice President of Product Management for Experian Health (previously Passport Health Communications, Inc.), serving 3,060 hospitals and 10,000 other healthcare organizations representing 350,000 providers nationwide in the patient access and revenue cycle solutions space. Prior to Passport, Mandy held a number of senior leadership positions at Epic, including Application Success Owner, Install Process Owner, and Senior Project Manager. Mandy holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Connecticut College.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

A lot of who I am today as a leader is as a result of shadowing my parents as their own careers evolved. Growing up, both of my parents held senior leadership positions at their companies. My mother was a Senior Manager at E&Y and my father held CEO and Board positions for several large facility services organizations. It was a challenging and interesting dynamic, as they both had very demanding roles that kept them on the road quite a bit. As a result of this, my mother established a rule that when she was at home, she was 100% at home. This meant that when my father had corporate events or conferences that I sometimes had the opportunity to be his date.

It was a learning opportunity. I have told this story many times as I think it captures just how much mentoring I have received from my father around my career, even when it comes to the little details. He’s huge on the value of eye contact and the handshake. When we met new people, I was expected to introduce myself to every single person independently, including a firm handshake. It didn’t matter if I was 8 or 18, I learned that the value of the first impression often defines a good part of the future of the relationship.

I also learned the value and necessity of negotiation, something that I now spend a lot of time coaching other women how to do. When I got my first “real” job offer, my father pushed me to negotiate, and I’ll never forget calling and telling him how nervous I was. His response? “Good. It’s great practice for next time.” And he was right.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Modernizing Medicine?

I was very fortunate to stumble into healthcare technology straight out of undergrad, and have had the privilege of working for three very dynamic organizations during a period of massive change for our industry. My experience prior to Modernizing Medicine exposed me to many parts of the ecosystem of some of the largest healthcare organizations in our country, and as a result I bring a unique perspective to the innovative technology that Modernizing Medicine takes to market.

I also think because I entered the market right before the HITECH Act, that my perspective as a member of the senior leadership team is different. I wasn’t personally present in industry for the last round of regulatory shift, but I know quite a bit about the day-to-day of a healthcare organization in delivering care, and I think it helps me push myself outside of the box when thinking of solutions.

I’ve had great mentors and sponsors at every organization as well, and through them I have been given opportunities that have challenged me and pushed me into leadership roles. For example, a previous CEO that I worked with sponsored me and helped develop me into a product manager. I had been developing a line of business for him around a particular market segment, and I completed an analysis of another line of business that hadn’t taken off in market as hoped. He called me and offered me the role of Vice President of Product Management for that business line. I was 26. It was a huge jump for me, and I learned a lot about how I lead and my opportunities for growth in a very short period of time.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Modernizing Medicine?

Sometimes highlights and challenges are the same thing. Every organization I’ve been a part of has had both. Modernizing Medicine is an exceptional organization made up of equally exceptional people, and one of the highlights (and challenges) that stands out is rapid growth. The highlight of rapid growth is just that – you’re growing fast! Business is booming and your customers are delighted with your products. The challenge associated with rapid growth is maintaining the exceptional level of culture, talent, and product that got you to where you are.

Companies like Modernizing Medicine succeed because they hire the best and the brightest and empower those people to create great products and services. Hiring top talent is not easy, especially when you are hiring into a competency that is just really starting to gain good traction in our industry – product management. I remember when we were first laying the groundwork for the Product Management department and started hiring product managers. We were a team of four. It took us nine months to hire three exceptional Senior Product Managers. Our department is now a team of 30 in less than three years. That’s a challenge, but a great one.

Another highlight (and challenge) that I’ve experienced since joining Modernizing Medicine is holding a senior leadership position at a rapidly growing company and being a mother to three very young children. I have a daughter who just turned 3 and twin boys who are 11 months old. It is challenging to lead a team and sit in a demanding role and be a great mom. I’ll admit that there are days that I feel I don’t do a good job at either. But having a supportive team, a supportive manager, and a supportive partner have made all the difference.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?

One of the biggest misconceptions for women working in or considering joining the technology space is that they assume that if you can’t code or you’re not hyper-technical that there is no place for you. It’s just not true. Your role should translate across industries. For me, I build product teams and products that excite customers and challenge the status quo. I can leverage that skill set in any product-oriented field. That being said, I happen to be very passionate about healthcare and technology. For women who want to get into the technology space, healthcare or otherwise, the key is determining your strengths and applying them to a role in an industry that you have a passion for.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?

By far the most impactful lesson I’ve learned is to live your life in phases. What’s most important to you today might not be what is most important in six months or a year from now. I heard that advice right before giving birth to my first child, but I didn’t really learn the lesson until she arrived. I learned it again when we welcomed our boys. Life is crazy and unpredictable, and you have to make choices that enable you to prioritize the things that matter most to you at the time that you make them – that’s the best information you have and trying to look into the future is guesswork.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

If I’m being honest, some days I don’t do a great job. Sometimes I’m too much at work and too little at home. I think most women who have a demanding career and a demanding home life would say that. However, I think that the key is asking for help. You need to ask for help in your career – from team members, peers, mentors and managers. You need to ask for help in your home life – from your partner, your family, your friends, your network and sometimes even technology! My husband and I laugh because I work very hard to outsource as much as I possibly can in our home life – I use Amazon, I purchase groceries through Shipt, I even use Stitchfix because I HATE shopping for clothes. But it allows me to maximize the time that I’m with my kids and with him, and those are the most important things to me.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

Paid maternity leave and support in the workplace post-birth. I know too many women who still need to return to work just a few weeks after giving birth because of a lack of sufficient paid maternity leave, when neither they nor their child are mentally or physically ready. I’ve been there myself and I have seen many women struggle with breastfeeding, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. In 2016 the CDC published findings that employed women who received 12 weeks or more of paid maternity leave were more likely to start breastfeeding their baby and continue to breastfeed for six months. And yet our country only mandates 12 weeks of unpaid leave for companies with 50 or more employees.

If we’re going to get real about the value of women in the workplace, then we need to recognize that the role that a mother plays in the early weeks and months of her child’s life are critical and should not be short-changed.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

I believe that where I am today is in no small part due to mentors. My mentors have pushed me to be better and be honest with myself about where I have opportunities to improve. They have also built me up when I felt like I was too far out over my skis to succeed. Mentors are your Board of Directors, and you need one Board for your personal life and another for your professional life. Every once and a while you find a special mentor who bridges both. I’ve been lucky in this one – my dad has been a personal and professional mentor for me for my entire life, and he’s seen me through some of the toughest challenges I’ve faced.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

The women who stand out to me are the ones who get up every day and wear the white hat. Jen Hyatt is a great example of this. She is a huge inspiration for me because she believes so strongly in getting up and doing something that makes a difference every single day. She is the founder and CEO of Big White Wall and is an extraordinary social entrepreneur. She has founded and created more than 30 organizations across the world and has made a huge impact in the UK around mental health, an area that is in desperate need for disruption and change. I got the chance to see her speak and meet her at Health 2.0, and I have followed her career since then.

What do you want Modernizing Medicine to accomplish in the next year?

Modernizing Medicine has done a great job of attracting incredible talent, and I want to see it continue to invest in its women and see more women in senior leadership positions. It’s progressing at a corporate level, and also through its grassroots Modernizing Medicine Women in Innovation and Technology (MMwit) program. Not only does MMwit have programs that help develop the potential of our team members, but we also reach out into area non-profits to help build the confidence of, share opportunities with and empower women throughout the community. I see 2017 as a year to nurture a deeper maturity around how we mentor and sponsor the women across our organization to maximize their potential for leadership positions to enable them to flourish within Modernizing Medicine.

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