Women in Business Q&A: Laura Gere, Senior Vice President of Operations, NaviNet, Inc.

Laura Gere brings a strong background in professional consulting services, healthcare and financial services to her role as NaviNet's Senior Vice President of Operations. In this role, her key goal is to build the people, process and technology assets required to support the company's substantial growth.

Gere's 20-year career includes customer experience, CRM, change management, technology and leadership consulting. At NaviNet, Gere is responsible for overseeing the professional and account services, operations, utilization and deployment teams.

Prior to joining NaviNet, Gere reported directly to the Chief Information Officer at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), where she supported numerous strategic initiatives and a major claims system replacement project. She also led the business engagement team in facilitating and representing middle managers and assuring their involvement in delivering positive outcomes for the program. She also served as Vice President of Services at Kadient (formerly Pragmatech Software) where she oversaw the delivery of projects to support the marketing and sales teams of Fortune 500 customers. Her previous management positions also include serving as Principal at Watch Hill Partners (which was sold to Mastercard) where she worked with clients such as Fleet Bank, The Hartford Insurance Group, and BMW Financial Services. She also held management positions at Dialogos and Arthur Andersen.

Gere trained in management consulting at Arthur Andersen Business Consulting and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from State University of New York at Albany and a Master of Business Administration degree from the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson, both of which she graduated magna cum laude.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I am the youngest of 5 kids, with an age span of 19 years. I am very lucky to have grown up in a family of vibrant, creative, interesting people. My experiences make me view the world very broadly and attract me to a wide variety of people and ideas. I grew up in a small upstate New York suburb, my parents still live in the same house I grew up in, and my grown siblings brought experiences from the world home. My father is a very kind person, who is genuinely interested in everyone he meets. He taught me that every person is incredibly interesting and that you can learn a lot by just listening.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at NaviNet?
I come from a consulting background, working with clients in multiple industries and business contexts. My specialties have been building out the business architecture to create a superior customer experience and also helping technology companies focus on delivering products and services that are valuable for their customers. I have developed CRM strategies and implemented processes and technologies to solve communication challenges between businesses and their customers. So much of healthcare has to do with complicated and inefficient processes between the payer, provider, and patient. Bringing a business outcome, process, and customer-focused orientation to NaviNet has added momentum to the business.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at NaviNet?
The highlights at NaviNet have been working with exceptional people who deliver exceptional service. The NaviNet team is all in; everyone is here to assist in making our customers successful. The challenges have been driving change in an industry that is not aligned for rapid change. It takes a lot of persistence and patience to be successful. 2014 was an exciting year, given the accelerated transition toward value-based care in healthcare and the ground swell of innovation that is happening in clinical care delivery and patient experience improvements. NaviNet's real-time healthcare communications network is very well positioned to support the innovation, and there is a lot of interest in leveraging our solutions. 2015 is going to be a great year.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
We need more women in Healthcare IT Leadership--bring your unique skills and perspectives to this industry. With healthcare costs at approximately 18% of GDP in the US, there are incredible opportunities for creative solutions to move the needle. Women are often the ones making healthcare decisions for their families and have a lot of perspective to offer the industry to improve the patient experience. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women make approximately 80% of healthcare decisions for their families and are more likely to be the caregivers when a family member falls ill.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Don't take yourself too seriously. You will make mistakes: Don't make them bigger than they are and make sure you learn from them. You will have successes: Be sure to take a moment to celebrate them with your team. In organizations, we all succeed or fail together. We are interdependent, and we can't succeed unless we all show up. The most important characteristics are to be open and honest with yourself, adjust your course when things aren't working, and have a generally optimistic view of the future.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
What work/life balance? HA!! I have an 18-year-old step son, a 7-year-old daughter, a husband, a dog, family, friends, and interests. This year, my daughter learned how to read, my son got in to college, and my puppy started sleeping through the night. Life is very full, both at work and at home. Work/life balance is a day-by-day, hour-by-hour decision. I am very fortunate that I have flexibility in my job and a wonderful husband at home who also works full time, but is a full partner in our family life. If I want to attend my daughter's school to read to her class, I can put in extra time at night after she goes to bed. As a leader, I make sure to support my employees' flexibility needs as much as I can.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think at a national level, the pay inequality (reported at 5-25%, depending on the industry) is a huge issue. Companies need to seriously evaluate how they are paying their women. Human Resource teams--we need you advocating for the women in this country. You have the data; please help us close the gender gap. Women also need to be good advocates for themselves and willing to negotiate for more pay. You don't get what you don't ask for. When you have power in the situation, use it. And when you see inequities across genders in people that work for you, challenge it. Everyone will benefit.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I very much admire my Mom, Doris Gere. She was among the first women to take classes at Wharton School of Business in the 1940s. Women were not eligible for the degree program until 1954. My mom got a degree in Mathematics and took business classes at a time when many families didn't send their daughters to college. My mom is very bright and used her smarts every day to raise and manage a beautiful family.

I really admire my daughter's 1st grade teacher, Meg Avilla. She refers to her students as budding mathematicians, writers, artists, and scientists. I love that she shapes a future for them filled with possibility and without limits.

My 1st boss out of grad school, Jane Lawler. She taught me that women leaders can bring all of themselves to work and that they do not need to act like the guys, they can just be themselves. Jane consistently handled all situations strategically, with a focus on the customer and with a kindness and mentorship that I will always be thankful for.

What do you want NaviNet to accomplish in the next year?
NaviNet has a great set of products and tools to connect all aspects of healthcare and get the right information to the right person at the right time. I would like NaviNet to help the healthcare industry move the needle on lowering costs and improving quality outcomes, while supporting a superior patient and physician experience. I'd like NaviNet to be known as the real-time healthcare communication network that supports innovation in the healthcare industry...and I'd like NaviNet to be known as a unique business partner that can be counted on.