Assistant Director, Master of Management in Clinical Informatics – Duke University


Assistant Director, Master of Management in Clinical InformaticsRandy Sears
The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

Job Description

Operational responsibility for the Master of Management in Clinical Informatics program. Responsible for recruiting including all marketing activities, admissions including managing the process, interviewing and evaluating applicants, preparing students for program start with preterm review materials and visa processing, planning and delivering program orientation, establishment  of a program budget and monitoring budget performance, augmenting classroom curriculum with special topics speakers, ensuring delivery of career search skills and creation of networking opportunities with hiring organizations, student advising, and planning and delivering graduation.

Background, Experience, and How I Got Hired

Prior to coming to Duke, I spent 25 years in Telecommunications with Nortel.  In 25 years, I had worked in a number of different roles, but most were related to business development. My experience included sales, sales operations, account development, and pricing.  I learned the value of listening to customers and developed a knack for developing sales programs and pricing schemes that met customer needs while also meeting the needs of my company. Often times, I had to convince senior management to consider creative pricing strategies as a way to increase revenues.   During my career I earned my MBA from Kenan-Flagler which equipped me with a wide variety of business skills.  I’ve always enjoyed roles which were multidimensional requiring a wide variety of skills and knowledge.  One of the most attractive aspects of my current job is that I get to do a wide variety of activities from presentations, to advertising, to budgeting, to evaluating applications, interviewing students, planning curriculum development and one on one student advising.  On a daily basis, I interact with potential students, employing organizations, faculty, and other administrators.

For those who might be in the career search mode, let me assure you networking works. I came to this role, through a series of informational interviews.  After 25 years in telecom, Nortel filed for bankruptcy protection, did a massive downsizing and sale of assets, so the opportunity to do something different came knocking, bluntly.  What a great opportunity to start with a blank white board! Telecom had been a great ride, but it was time to look at my experience for what was transferrable and go in a new direction.  Also, I was personally motivated to find a role that offered a lot of people contact.  During the interim, I worked as a high school soccer coach, substitute teacher, nearly bought a service business and went through training to work as a career coach for an outplacement firm.  While starting with acquaintances, each networking step led me to someone new and gave me a new perspective, and each role provided new information and new contacts.  When my current job was posted, I had already met someone on the search team.  While I was not the only candidate interviewed, networking provided the advantage of being known and having an insider as an advocate. The responsibilities in this job, while set in academia, were very much like running a small business.  All new processes had to be created, as this was to be a standalone program from a resource perspective.  I’d have to draw upon sales, marketing, and financial experience, as well as draw upon my genuine interest in people to build effective relationships.   Through relationships, I found support and advice from those more experienced.  The great part was that I had a manager who was extremely busy and highly supportive.  He trusted me with the opportunity, responsibility, and resources to make things happen.  Finding this type of trusting manager was very important to me in the job search.

Day in My Life

Now here’s the good part. I meet new people every day.  Mostly, it is people who are seeking information about the MMCi program.  While some are only seeking basic information, there are others who are in search of further education to build their job skills and/or make a career change.  Making this type of investment requires a lot of thought and usually those people want to have a conversation about the program and how it fits with their career plans. The MMCi program is a very unique program that is at the forefront of the sea of change going on with health informatics. So it is an exciting story to tell and it holds a lot of promise from a career perspective.  It’s the kind of story that is personal, because it’s about someone’s future, and in turn it makes very exciting conversations.  When someone says to you, this is exactly the type of program I’ve been looking for you know it’s been a good day.  Now that the inaugural class has graduated, we hear from graduates about how happy they are with the program.  This happens about the time they receive a job offer and they realize that the transformation they went through was worth it.  Recognizing that we are in the personal transformation business and being able to see that transformation is very rewarding.  Yes, that’s the good stuff from my perspective.

As mentioned earlier, in this role, I change hats about every hour.  While not being a marketer by training, it is interesting to think about target market, market segmentation, what messaging will resonate with which segment, and what media format will be the most effective.  Electronic newsletter advertising, radio advertising, webinars, social media, and letter writing campaigns all have attributes to consider.  Talking to a recent grad about how health informatics might be a great way to use their Computer Science Degree is a different conversation from talking to a clinician about the challenges of Meaningful Use.   Establishing business objectives and implementing plans to achieve those objectives requires: forecasting, budgeting, and building a sales pipeline.  Building study teams that have a mix of educational backgrounds, work experience, cultural and generational perspectives so that each team has the benefit of diverse perspectives draws upon my coaching background of building teams with complementary skills.   One other business concept that comes into play daily is supply chain or specially sourcing of services.  To meet our financial model, we use contractors to deliver services and expertise in situations where we cannot afford a full time resource.  Being able to purchase the amount of expertise needed is key to our delivery.  We use contractors to deliver things like, career services, marketing assistance, or web support.

Career Advice

Networking leads to job opportunities that may never happen through a normal HR Process. With due respect to those who work in HR recruiting/screening roles, the HR role is to reduce the list of potential candidates to a manageable list that meets the qualifications.  As we all know, good candidate after good candidate never gets considered because they only meet 9 of the 10 specific job requirements as shown on paper.  Networking can overcome that hurdle by creating an internal reference for someone who can recommend a person, assuming the recommendation is genuine and warranted.  When someone provides a reference, they are putting their reputation on the line as well.  It should not happen lightly.

My last bit of career advice is that you have to find the intersection of the things you are good at with the things you are interested in. If you are not interested, there will always be someone who is and will do a better job.  If you are not good at it, you won’t get paid to do it.  The good news is that there are lots of things that we are good at that also interest us.  Keep moving and the view will keep changing.  I love new challenges and hope to find other opportunities that have a positive impact on people’s lives.

To learn more about the MMCi program, follow this link, or contact Randy via email.