Blue Shield of California’s Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer Lisa Davis’ favorite quote by Maya Angelou is: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote sums up her philosophy on leadership. She believes employees are craving humanity and connectedness and want to feel empowered. To her, this means the concept of servant leadership is more relevant today than ever before.
Davis was recently named to the Forbes CIO Next List: 2022 for the work she and her teams have done to automate manual processes and move much of the organization’s technology to the cloud in the more than two years Davis has been at Blue Shield. The Forbes editors also recognized her for using data to help target outreach campaigns that drove up vaccination rates in marginalized communities across California in 2021. Davis attributes her success to her incredible leadership team, the 1,300 people in her organization, and her partners across Blue Shield who are key to fostering the tech transformation priorities.
Get to know Lisa a bit better in the Q&A below. If you’re interested to join her amazing team, please visit https://www.blueshieldca.com/careers.
Q: You had an impressive career in the federal government – how has that impacted your thinking on the importance of technology to any organization?
A: I started working for the federal government as a high school senior and was a computer engineering major in undergrad. A few years out of college, I worked for the Joint Agency Task Force, which started in 1989 for drug interdiction. After 9/11, the mission changed, and we brought together the intelligence and defense communities. I was at the forefront of the mission, leading technology strategy for the task force where I saw how innovation and technology had an immediate impact on delivering results.
Q: After the federal government, you were the CIO at Georgetown and then went to Intel. What then attracted you to Blue Shield of California?
A: I created digital transformation strategies working with CIOs of healthcare companies at Intel. This is where I recognized how health care is a laggard in terms of digitization and I thought I could have an impact in this sector.
I was attracted to Blue Shield of California’s mission to create a healthcare system worthy of our friends and family that is sustainably affordable. As CIO, I am passionate about designing technology and business transformation strategies to help realize Blue Shield’s vision to transform the health care system into being holistic, personalized, and high-tech and high-touch to improve experiences for our members and providers.
Q: So much in health care is based around trust and how much data we share. What can health plans do to open up access to data and help improve health outcomes?
A: Consumers are craving the ability to manage their health. Research shows that when people are invested in their health care and have access to their data, we see better health outcomes. All of your data sets need to come together to create a picture of who you are as a patient.
Imagine if we created a healthcare system in which you as the customer, your health plan, and your doctor have access to your longitudinal health record. We could then improve your experience, health outcomes, and ultimately help to reduce the cost of health care. Our top priority is to protect the security of personal health data and, just like we have in retail and financial services, we need to provide those seamless digital services. By developing a customer-centric experience, we can take meaningful steps to transform what is currently a sick care system to a well care system.
Q: Blue Shield is competing for IT talent with big tech and startups. What do you do to make Blue Shield an employer of choice?
A: I can’t think about a more important sector where you can make an impact right now than in health care. There are several things that are appealing about Blue Shield of California. First, it’s really about our mission as a nonprofit health plan. Second, is our leadership philosophy and what we stand for and represent. We have 50% equity in our executive ranks for women. For the first time, we have a female board chair and 50% equity on our Board. Blue Shield also has an equal pay ratio for men and women. We’re also proud that we were recently named by Fortune as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.
In terms of the IT organization I lead, bringing in the best talent is a top priority for me and my leadership team. I personally do a lot of outreach to candidates and engage in interviews. To me, building a team is about creating a puzzle that brings diversity of thought and backgrounds together to solve problems. I believe in cultivating the right culture and leadership behaviors so people can come to Blue Shield and know that they will be supported and empowered in doing impactful work. It’s all about establishing a foundation of trust and partnership.
Q: As a woman leader in technology, you’re a big advocate for getting more women into the field. What advice do you have to others to encourage girls to get involved in technology careers?
A: This needs to be a call to action – we currently have fewer women in technology in the workplace than we had in the 1970s. We’re just not attracting women into technology careers, and we are losing our girls starting in middle school. We need to look at the pipeline and look at what will attract young women to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Women in tech need to be role models to show young women that it’s not just coding in a room. We have to get this message out and show our young girls what they can do. Technology has and will continue to change the world.
Q: Fitness has always been a part of your life. That seems relevant for your current position at a health plan.
A: Yes, fitness is huge part of who I am and I’m very passionate about health and wellness. I was a fitness instructor for 25 years on the side. This is where my balance comes from, as it helps manage my stress and makes me feel good.