06/11/2014 05:22 am ET Updated Aug 11, 2014

Women in Business: Andrea Marks, Chief Analytics Officer at Catamaran

As Chief Analytics Officer, Andrea Marks oversees Catamaran's risk modeling, comprehensive outcome measurement, client analytics and robust reporting capabilities. Ms. Marks joined Catamaran in May 2013 and is responsible for leading comprehensive analytics, and outcomes development for the company's full suite of clinical programs and innovative PBM services.

A 20-year veteran in healthcare, pharmacy and managed care analytics, Ms. Marks is a seasoned leader who knows how to derive industry value from analytic insights. She joined Catamaran from Blue Health Intelligence where she served as Chief Informatics Officer, responsible for analytic development of products and services, analytic consulting services and management of IT enablement services.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Throughout my life, I have been put in situations that have tested my will, and ultimately, strengthened my ability to persevere and lead. I learned through each of these challenges that I was capable of more than I originally thought and with each test behind me, I was more confident to take on the next. These experiences made me resilient to change, and I began to see that how I navigated through each challenge was up to me. Understanding my role and ability to determine how to proceed enabled me to push through the challenges and control unnecessary anxiety or fear.

When I was newly married and a young mother, my husband was in an accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. My world was shaken; I was overwhelmed. My long-term goals for my family had changed in an instant and I had to regroup and develop new goals that stayed true to my values. I put a plan in place for his recovery, and committed that my daughter would have a stable upbringing, understanding that life's external forces may cause me to adjust along the way. This ongoing experience led me to be adaptable to change, whatever the degree, and stay true to my inner values. It has given me the ability to persevere through challenging situations and strengthened my self-confidence to face new challenges along the way.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the Chief Analytics Officer at Catamaran?
The healthcare system is filled with very intelligent people who are curious, hungry to learn and looking for ways to improve. As an innately curious person, I naturally gravitated to research to understand connections within the healthcare system and used the analytical findings to create forward-thinking visions. I was fortunate to be in an industry, and in companies, that were open to new ideas and experimentation. I was also surrounded by colleagues who were passionate about improvement. In my most recent role, I had access to a tremendous amount of detailed healthcare data and recognized the need for greater analytical insights that could drive greater value to the healthcare system. I had to think outside the box and show proof-of-value cases to get key stakeholders across the healthcare system to see the realm of possibilities. It required a level of confidence and passion in analytics, a focus to build teams with unique skillsets, a discipline to develop strong business cases, an openness to collaborate with several stakeholders, and access to supportive leadership.

These experiences prepared me to lead the analytic team at Catamaran, constantly striving for more and looking for connections and ideas that others haven't made yet.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
There is no magic formula for work/life balance. Yes, it's partly about choices, but I believe that it is more about one's ability to be present in any situation, physically, emotionally and cerebrally. Doing so ensures that you are fully connected to the people that you are with. When I am at work, I am fully committed to being there, and I am always looking for ways to contribute. If I am with my teenage daughter, I strive to listen to what she is saying, and sometimes not saying. It is important to me that she learns that with all the stresses in life, home is a place of comfort and lack of judgment - a place to be yourself. When I am out with my friends, there is no discussion of work; we spend our time cultivating common interests. This is what keeps me grounded. So to me, work/life balance is not about the amount of time you spend at work or outside of work, but in your ability to be fully committed and present in whatever you are doing. These moments are not always planned, but your ability to recognize them and fully engage is what makes a well-balanced life possible.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Catamaran?
At Catamaran, innovation is embedded in everything we do and is what leads us to explore the realm of possibilities, to bring something new to our market. Upon joining the company in May 2013, I immediately jumped in and was able to contribute to the creation of an innovative vision, leveraging analytics in new and interesting ways to create product and market differentiation for our business. The vision entails leveraging prescriptive analytics to not only identify unique clinical opportunities, but predict how to best engage people to help them reach optimal health. The executive leadership team and Board of Directors are fully supportive of the vision which is a highlight for me, but it will take some time to fully implement. Teams, who have been doing the same types of work for years and have been successful in their work, are being asked to move out of their comfort zone and adopt a new vision. Although resistance is low, building confidence within the team so that they can succeed in this way takes time and effort. Focusing on building new collaborative relationships and infusing new talent has helped to fast track this process. In the end, the only way to successfully deliver on the vision is through collaborative teams.

What advice can you offer women seeking a career in this technical side of the healthcare industry?
The interesting thing about analytics is that it is a unique art form that blends technical and business acumen. Right brain, meet left brain. It infuses logic, problem solving, and strong communication skills that play to women's strengths. In my opinion, understanding data and being able to communicate data findings, is the core of any business. I believe women tend to have strong abilities in analyzing and interpreting situations. Women who hone those skills and can turn interpretations into strategic insights will excel in this field. Within healthcare, more and more decisions are being driven by data and analytic findings. Healthcare needs data to compile comprehensive medical history records, understand what interventions lead to quality outcomes and determine what patients will respond to which treatment pattern. Women seeking careers in this arena need to first understand the issues in the healthcare system, strengthen their skills in applied science or mathematics, and ensure they are strong communicators

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Growing up, my parents encouraged me to take risks. I was always pushed to always "ask." My mother would say, "What's the worst thing that will happen? They'll say no." Women in today's workplace are often not willing to take risks for fear of being wrong or rejected. However, growth in your career often stems from taking risks and being confident enough to get rejected or receive critical feedback. Women who do take risks, who are confident enough to step up, believe in themselves to succeed and use criticism to get better, quickly rise in business. Society has recognized that there needs to be more women in leadership. The path is wide open. Women need to build up the self-confidence to take that next leap. What is the worst that will happen? That someone will say no? Like the tagline for the lottery says, "You can't win, if you don't play."

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
Sheryl Sandberg is bringing much needed invigorated attention to the issues around the rise of women in leadership. The concepts being raised align with my beliefs that women need to build greater confidence and not be afraid to take risks. There is no question that women have the ability to be leaders - its more about the innate drive and confidence to get there. Leadership is not the end goal for all women, nor should it be. But for those who have the desire, it is critical that we as a society have the right structure and support for these women to help them push through. One point that Sheryl has focused on within the movement is that women should be able to be both successful and liked. I believe that being liked should be a goal in a woman's personal life, not the end goal in business; the end goal should be gaining respect. Women leaders have to make fair and ethical decisions along the way, and if done with respect, success will follow. Being liked is an added benefit.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
One of the most fulfilling experiences in my career has been my ability to mentor individuals at different stages of their careers. It has given me the chance to stay connected to understanding where other individuals are within their careers, and help to guide them in making the right decisions. It's not always about showing them the direct path, but providing them with the perspectives they need to consider when making a decision or facing a new business challenge. I tend to seek out diverse individuals to mentor who have a strong work ethic, and are technically skilled, but may not have been exposed to the softer side of management skills. Women tend to be easier to mentor on the soft skills, and my mentorship of women is centered more on building confidence and taking risks. Through mentorship, I have found that I learn a lot more about people; what makes them think a certain way; what types of innate beliefs drive their decision-making. This has enabled me to grow and be able to connect with others more effectively in my own personal and work interactions.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
My mother raised a family of very strong women, who all lived by the Golden Rule. I admire all of them for always doing the right thing. In particular, my oldest sister, Diana Sorfleet, has all the quality attributes of a strong female leader that I admire. Diana is the Chief Human Resource Officer and Chief Diversity Officer at CSX Transportation. She has always been a risk taker in business and pursued her career with a strong foundation of integrity. She has never wavered from that, and when pushed, she always landed on the right side of her ethical beliefs. Additionally, Diana has shown me that as a woman, you can put both your family and your career first; there is always room for both. Her success has always driven me to know that I too can achieve great things, and she has consistently been supportive of me and my other sisters along our collective journey.

How is America's changing healthcare landscape and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act impacting Catamaran?
The Affordable Care Act provides Catamaran an opportunity to welcome and service more members. We currently provide pharmacy benefits in every market - employers, governments, unions, managed care organizations as well as the newly-formed co-ops. This means we are in both the public and the private sector and that no matter where new Americans enter the healthcare system; we will be there to provide them with guidance as they engage with their pharmacy benefit. Our technology, our service model and the breadth of our offerings across the healthcare spectrum, give us a level of flexibility we think is unequaled in healthcare services and makes us perfectly suited to navigate this ever-changing landscape. Additionally, the ACA demands more measurement and interconnectivity to make healthcare more effective, which is exactly what I am focused on within analytics. We are providing critical insights that can help produce the best health outcomes at the best possible value.