Pittsburgh Technical Council

Leading Ladies of Technology Innovation

Leading Ladies of Technology Innovation

Article Published: May 5, 2014

It should hardly be surprising that women contribute considerable, valuable insight into the innovation of cutting-edge health care technology. After all, women represent an overwhelming majority of the health care workforce and have traditionally been the key health care decision-maker in families. However, the field of health care information technology continues to be dominated by men.

UPMC’s Technology Development Center, whose mission is to take on health care’s greatest challenges and create the next generation of health care IT products, is committed to a diverse workplace. In creating a culture of innovation, UPMC naturally embraces the notion that increased diversity in the workplace contributes to high-performing teams. 

Here are just a few examples of the exceptional women who are leaving their mark in health care innovation at the UPMC Technology Development Center:

Rebecca Kaul, President

MBA, New York University
MISM, Information Systems Management, Carnegie Mellon University
BS, Chemical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University
BS, Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

Q. What are you working on now that excites you?

A. I’m excited about our current pilot of Convergence, an application developed by the Technology Development Center that is designed to simplify the physician experience. With it, clinicians can easily see relevant patient information (pulled from multiple data systems) and follow a recommended “clinical pathway” to improve treatment outcomes. By providing meaningful visualization of the longitudinal patient record, it quickly brings the “patient story” to life and gives physicians more time to interact with their patients.

Q. What misconceptions about the tech industry act as a barrier to women?

A. There is no doubt that gender bias still exists in some
workplaces. However, I feel that the biggest barrier holding
women back is not the “glass ceiling,” but rather our own insecurities and self-doubts. Previous generations of women laid the groundwork that enables us to thrive today. Particularly in the field of IT innovation, where the workforce tends to be of a younger generation that has grown up in a diverse world where gender, race, and sexual preference do not carry the stigma they once did, opportunities are plentiful for those who seek them.

Q. As a woman, what have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?

A. Without a doubt, I can say that I underestimated the reality of being a working mother balancing the demands of motherhood while growing my career. The reality is that I have a very demanding job that can’t be done part-time. With my career, I had to make the choice to either be all in or all out. Therefore, every minute counts and each demand must be prioritized. I have to determine the most important use of my time, with both my job and my children, and surround myself with a strong support structure in each setting.

Q. How do you achieve work/life balance?

A. No matter how equally involved my husband and I are in our children’s lives, there is a big difference in the role of mom versus the role of dad. In certain situations, my children need me more than their dad. Sometimes, there is just no substitute for mom. Recognizing this reality, I constantly shift priorities and try to scale back on extended overnight travel.

Deepika Devarajan
Senior Product Manager

MBA, Marketing and Strategy, University of Pittsburgh
MS, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Ohio State University
BS, Electronics and Communication Engineering, University of Madras

Q: What first attracted you to working in health care technology at UPMC’s Technology Development Center?

A: Innovation. I am passionate about technology and how it can help people. Many of today’s health care challenges are begging for innovative solutions. UPMC has uniquely positioned the Technology Development Center as not only an innovation center, but an organization that makes an immediate, significant impact within our large health care system and beyond.

Q: What are you working on now that excites you?

A: I am helping define and champion the vision, roadmap, and deployment strategy for the next generation of enterprise imaging solutions. The opportunity to transform the quality of care and productivity of a broad spectrum of health care professionals, including radiologists, technologists and referring physicians, to focus on better patient outcomes—while bringing human-centered design to the forefront—motivates and challenges me.

Q: What advice can you offer women seeking a career in health care tech?

A: Be bold, be confident. Women are very creative and bring multiple perspectives to solve problems, which is necessary for innovation. The human perspective, which is critical in health care, comes naturally to many women. When combined with a background in technology, it can create disruptive innovations.

Coilynn Buford, Quality Assurance Analyst

BS, Business Management, Fairmont State University

Q: What do you think can be done to attract more women to tech jobs?

A: Start early, providing exposure in elementary and middle schools. Create programs aimed at attracting the interest for young girls and young women to pursue degrees in technology. Provide female mentors in the workplace.

Q: What makes women uniquely suited to careers in innovation and health care technology?

A: When it comes to health care, women see issues first-hand. These concerns are what drive the innovation of new and advanced health care technology.

Q: What advice can you offer women seeking a career in health care tech?

A: Your idea, suggestion, thought, or improvement for the health care industry will not happen unless YOU bring it to the table yourself. Health care technology is anyone’s field.

Jinghua Ou, Software Engineer

MSIS, Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh
BS, Computer Science, James Madison University
BS, Architecture, South China University of Technology

Q: What are you working on now that excites you?

A: I am working on MyUPMC, an online patient portal that incorporates UPMC’s AnywhereCare service. This feature is exciting because it transforms the way health care is delivered by enabling users to receive medical treatment online. With an interactive questionnaire that collects a patient’s symptoms, physicians are able to provide efficient, convenient care through secure emails or online face-to-face video sessions.

Q: What do you think can be done to attract more women to
tech jobs?

A: With my background and culture, it never occurred to me that tech jobs were not suitable for women. The Technology Development Center supports a Meetup group for women developers in Pittsburgh called “Girl Develop It.” The group helps encourage women to learn coding in a supportive environment where women can learn and ask questions without being in a minority (over 90 percent of developers are still male).

Q: How do you maintain work/life balance?

A: I believe a company culture that promotes work/life balance benefits both men and women. At the Technology Development Center, as an ordinary mother of two, I’m doing fine balancing both. I try to clearly separate each role. I work hard while I’m at work, staying focused and getting things done. At home, I try not to work, or even think about work, and just focus on taking care of my family.

Tara Williams, Senior Business Analyst

MBA, Marketing, University of Pittsburgh
BS, Marketing Management, Virginia Tech

Q: What first attracted you to working in health care technology at UPMC’s Technology Development Center?

A: I was really enamored by the prospect of using my skills and education toward making a difference in some way. Finding ways to use my creativity, knowledge, and skill set to help improve and save lives, or bring about change, was very appealing. I couldn’t imagine getting this kind of self-gratification from any other industry.

Q: What advice can you offer women seeking a career in health care tech?

A: Don’t be intimidated or scared away by what you don’t know. There is no such thing as an easy road to success. You will have setbacks, but you can’t allow that to discourage you. By rolling with the punches, you could end up following a career path that you never expected or even dreamed was possible.

Q: What do you think can be done to attract more women to tech jobs?

A: I think the “IT” label can be very off-putting for women who, like myself, are not developers or engineers. There are many career paths available, so it is important to showcase diverse roles that help display the various skill sets and opportunities that are available in the industry.

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