The Importance of Female Tech Leadership

I’m thrilled to kick off the CVS Health Digital Spotlight, featuring the inspiring work of our digital colleagues. Our team is very focused on our mission to be the best consumer-centric health company in the world, providing accessible and affordable care and supporting people on their journey to better health. But we can’t do it without our incredibly talented team of digital innovators who push the boundaries every day to deliver meaningful and delightful health experiences to people everywhere.

Cathy Chiang, Head of Product Strategy and Development for CVS Health Business Products, is one of these innovators. She is an amazing leader who, in her own words, “empowers our teams to bring their best authentic selves to work.” Here, Cathy shares how a desire to make a difference led her to the health care industry, why it’s important to prioritize diversity in tech roles, and her advice for future female tech leaders.

What motivated you to work in tech, and specifically health care tech?

I started working at a software company for business process management implementing their software solutions. I was then pulled back into development in order to build new products, sell those products, and build new ones when there wasn’t one that fit. I quickly realized that talking with consumers first-hand and building what they asked for was really what inspired me.

I spent about 17 years at my first company and realized that I needed to challenge myself more. I moved into the startup world working on developing strategies that brought new products to market. All along, I’ve felt like technology and health care would give me an avenue to try to make a difference in an individual’s life and, long story short, found the Aetna Digital team. I was so impressed with the dedication on every level of Aetna Digital to make a difference for a consumer, whether it be a patient, member, non-member or provider. And now, as the digital organization for CVS Health, we have even greater reach and resources to make a difference.  

What are your top 3 focus areas as head of product strategy and development?

1.     Being excellent at delivering mind-blowing, awesome digital experiences! This means understanding what people want and creating applications that meet those needs by doing as much product discovery as possible with actual end-users. We are researching and testing prototypes as often as possible – often weekly – not just at the beginning or the end, and adjusting based on feedback.

2.     Shining the light on the people who are excellent at what they do and inclusive in their approaches to creating new applications. My goal is to empower our teams to bring their best authentic selves to work, which makes the process of building these products even better.

3.     Leading with applications, but also making sure that we are partnering with teams who are building the core Health Cloud platform capabilities. This allows us to become quicker and more agile at building digital applications in the future. We need to be thoughtful about what gets built and help create the space for those teams to build it in a scalable way for not just us, but other groups in the enterprise to use. 

What does leadership mean to you?

I am so lucky to be a part of this Digital team of researchers, UX designers, product managers, product owners, architects, scrum masters, and engineers that are doing really cool new things that help people. We want everyone to feel empowered to deal with whatever health state they are in. Great leadership is about creating space for our teams to do what they do best, creating an inclusive environment that allows people to thrive and feel safe.

Leadership is also having an opinion on what you think is the best course of action or product to build, and that opinion must be informed by both data and experiences. From my view, the good leaders that I’ve been exposed to have been willing to use the experiences in their life to inform their opinions on what to build or how to go about building it.

Verbalize your opinion, respect other people’s opinions, and be willing to adjust your vision based on the conversations you’re having with others daily.

Why is it important for companies to prioritize diversity in technology-focused roles? How is CVS Health prioritizing diversity?

It is so important for companies to prioritize diversity in technology-focused roles because we need different voices to help and do things that matter. In product development, diversity ensures a multitude of opinions which help drive us to build better and more thoughtful products.

We need to make sure that diversity is not just in pocketed areas. I believe that CVS Health is doing a great job of hiring and ensuring diversity across the lines of business and into different areas. The candidates that I see from our Talent Acquisition group seem to come from many backgrounds and that’s half the battle.

I think CVS Health’s Colleague Resource Groups (CRG) are really good resources. They help to champion workplace culture, diversity and inclusion strategies by supporting values, business practices, and company vision. The groups are open to ALL no matter heritage or affiliation, and we plan regular volunteer opportunities and health-related events. Shout-out to the Burlington Asian Professional Network Association CRG for being very welcoming!

The culture of CVS Health allows for managers to do interesting things to support diversity. For instance, Monica Goel, one of our Sr. Directors who runs digital’s accessibility group, is doing some creative things to hire people with disabilities to help in development-related positions. That group is teaching us so much on a day-to-day basis which will be reflected in not just the products we build, but in how we approach things in the future.

You recently spoke at the Women in Tech event in Boston. What was your biggest takeaway?

There are so many strong women in the workplace now and the next generation of women in the workplace will be even stronger and smarter. The women that were with me on the panel in Boston included a data scientist, development manager, and a UX director. They were so eloquent and inspirational in encouraging women to be courageous in their day-to-day interactions and to take control of their careers. Also, there are a ton of women who are coming into technology and looking to grow their careers – I was thrilled with the turnout!

What advice do you have for young women looking to get into tech?

Jump in, don’t just put your toe in. Technology needs a woman’s perspective. We need the new generation of women to disrupt health care and move it to a place where people are in the center of their own health journeys – not just tacit observers. So, my advice is: surround yourself with people who you like and trust and want to work with and make real connections. And finally, be vocal! Don’t be afraid to hear your own voice because your opinion matters.

How do you ensure you’re prioritizing your own health?

This last year I’ve had the privilege to work with Kay Mooney who leads Well-being on the Transformation team. She is truly a progressive leader in the industry and one of the best people I know. I’ve learned that well-being is not just the physical dimension of health or the emotional and financial aspects. It’s also how connected you are with your community, how you feel about your character strengths, and your purpose in life. Luckily, because we’re building a well-being application, I get to think about that every day, which makes me more conscious of prioritizing my overall well-being.

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