Karen Xie, PhD is chief technology officer and senior vice president at Blue Shield of California. Karen and her team are helping bring health care into the digital age by introducing new machine learning and AI technology into the nonprofit health plan’s products and services. This technology has the potential to detect members’ health patterns and predict their needs, so health care providers can deliver proactive rather than reactive care.
Why did you choose to make your career in health care?
I am a problem solver. An IT profession in healthcare industry is unquestionably rewarding because there are so many challenges, which I view as the opportunities, for innovations to bring health care to the digital age.
Who are women that inspire you and why?
In the modern world, women role models are in plentiful supply. Among them, my 91 year-old mother has been inspiring me by her passion, courage, and dedication for everything she does. She is a retired physician, which was a really rare career for women in her generation. Growing up, she taught me how to change “impossible” to “I’m possible”.
How can we/ how do you support the next generation of women leaders?
The World Economic Forum estimates gender parity globally may now be over 257 years away. At Blue Shield, men and women have equal pay and we are 257 years ahead. As a woman leader in tech, I aspire to inspire other women. I am part of the great programs, such as like Executive Cross-Functional Talent Council and WL2X (Blue Shield's women leadership program). I would also like to do more in promoting women in STEM.
What challenges do we still need to overcome to achieve equality?
Our society has made progress, but it isn’t enough, and it isn’t fast enough. Too often women think they need time to be ready. Sometimes later becomes never. We, women ourselves, need to change our reality and reach our full potential. Start before you are ready. Start now, where you are, with the fear of the unknown. Start speaking up. Start raising your hand for that tough job. Start supporting each other. Start now and don’t stop.
How has the Covid-19 outbreak changed the way you lead?
As a result of rapid workplace adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are implementing remote work and virtual teams for the first time. Managers must change their own practices and expectations to deal with team members remotely, ensure engagement and drive performance. For example, I created a daily 15-minute huddle routing right before lunch to make sure I check-in regularly with my staff on what they are dealing with.
It’s better to over-communicate rather than under-communicate right now.
I also find new ways to mentor my team. One idea is the online open office hour where I stay in a video room and anyone from my team can drop in and ask questions.