Next up on the WIL panelist blog series, we have Heather Morel, Chief Operating Officer at the US Oncology Network, McKesson Specialty Health. Get to know Heather!
What was your dream job as a child and why?I thought I would be a professional ballerina! I loved the grace and athleticism of those dancers and the costumes were beautiful to me; nevertheless, after several years of training I realized I was less of a gazelle than would be required, so I moved along to just enjoying school and growing up. For a while from there, I thought I would like to be a teacher, and I still think that is one of the finest professions available.
What has been your biggest professional challenge as a female leader?
I think the largest challenge has been to keep my family and personal needs aligned while managing and selecting my professional opportunities. For example, I have relocated several times in my career and for my career, but there are several great opportunities I passed on because it was not right for my family at the time. This has meant changes in my career path. This happens for men as well as for women, but it’s particularly challenging for two career families and those with aging parents.
Where did you go to college and what was your first job out of school?
I graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Political Science, which I was thinking would lead me to law school shortly after school, but by the time I graduated, I knew I did not want a career in law. My father was a professor at Penn State and being able to go to school with a 75% discount on tuition was a real advantage. My first job was for a health care consulting company focused in managed care strategy..
Tell me about your professional career track?
My career track has always been focused in healthcare, where I landed right out of school and stayed, despite thinking I might leave for technology. It is incredibly rewarding to know you are impacting people in an important way – their health. I started out in consulting, working to help companies launch their new biotechnology innovations into markets that were increasingly becoming complicated and restricted due to managed care pressures and governmental controls on coverage and reimbursement. I was recruited to McKesson where I led an incredible team to deliver amazing services to assist patients and doctors to access needed medicines and delivery safety programs for drugs that work well, but need extra precautions in administration. Through acquisition, I had a chance to lead oncology health informatics, clinical education, and other service businesses. This gave me exposure to our practice management business for The US Oncology Network where we form long term partnership with community cancer care professionals and help them to thrive in their markets. In an incredibly dynamic national market, this is an exciting segment of the market to be working in and leading.
What advice do you have for young female professionals?
- Take jobs that focus on what you are good at doing. Even if you have not done something before, you probably have done some parts and if it's aligned to core strengths, you will succeed.
- Seek out work and leaders who will stretch you.
- Be patient. Sometimes good things will come more slowly than we would hope, but when it does materialize, you can appreciate it and enjoy it.
Any advice on how to achieve a happy work-life balance?
- Don’t give up on the constant struggle to get it right. That is especially hard when you have young children because just when you sort out how you can be there for them at the times that matter most, their needs change as they develop and grow and you have to adjust as well.
- Get help for the lower value things if you can. You may not be able to drive the kids to every practice or be there every day after school when they get off the bus, but you can hire someone great to be there for them and you can focus on being at the games on weekends or helping occasionally in class. Keep it in perspective.