Janet Dillione has a plan. She’s famous for them.
But the new Connect America CEO has never had to implement one of those plans – for such a big role – during a pandemic.
Learning the players, the company culture, and the industry, all through Zoom meetings is a challenging way to start out as the new boss.
Dillione, a non-traditional choice for the top spot at one of the leading companies in the PERS market, is counting on her outsider's perspective to lead the company to new heights.
“Well, you have to give them credit for hiring somebody that maybe looks a little bit differently and comes from a different background,” says Dillione.
With extensive experience in healthcare, Dillione hails from top posts at Bernoulli Health, which sold software to help nurses and doctors monitor acute patients in hospitals, the healthcare division of Nuance, which supplies digital transcription services to healthcare providers, and Siemens Healthcare IT.
Armed with a PERS-adjacent resume, Dillione’s past experiences, especially at Bernoulli in remote patient monitoring, prepared her for her mission at Connect America.
Speaking of her experience with Bernoulli Health, “When I hear the words call center here, it's very similar to [the remote patient monitoring model of] a bunker and an ICU trying to put a group of experts together to try to scale: Instead of managing 20 beds that happen to be geographically on site [at a hospital], it’s being able to manage a hundred beds that are geographically distributed.”
Janet sees the similarity to the PERS industry, “That's basically what we're trying to do here. Take signals and turn it into information, so we can make sure we get the resources to the right subscriber/patient, at the right time.”
When asked about some of her discoveries as she learns the PERS industry, “Well, I think the first thing was, just the scale. So, there's more than one company and those [PERS] companies are serving an extraordinary number of people...that scale and that opportunity to be in that prehospital market at that scale, was for me very interesting. It's also fun to see what I would consider strategic adjacent markets. I love to think about opportunities and threats. So, it's fun. This is the part I like.”
It wasn’t just the opportunity to make her mark in a new industry that pulled Dillione into Connect America’s universe, perhaps even more so, it was the people.
“The company itself is very well run. So, what resonated with me was the personality, the caliber, the teamness of the management team.” Janet specifically called out the executive leadership team including Ken Gross, the company’s founder and interim CEO, Richard Brooks, president of Connect America’s healthcare division, John Brady, the company’s CFO, and the Board.
Dillione suggests that top-to-bottom passion and expertise of the leadership team is what ultimately guides a team like Connect America to success.
“This is a group of individuals who enjoy what they do, who are tremendously motivated to move this market forward, who are very customer aware – and that's really important for me. No matter where I've worked, I've always said we are compelled to remember that at the end of any solution, whether it be a real-time speech solution, an electronic medical records system for a doctor or a nurse, or a real-time analytic, you have to imagine at the end of that solution is a family member.”
Charging ahead with a mission statement from a leadership team she admires, Dillione sees her role as more strategic and forward-thinking rather than as a fixer.
“They did not bring me in to fix anything. And sometimes you are brought in to fix something. I think the mission here is all about, eyes open, eyes forward, build, grow, differentiate, go, go, go. And again, that, for me, is very energizing and the fun part.”
As she gets further into her 30, 60, and 90 day plans (she’s affixed them firmly on her desk and references them weekly), Dillione is taking a holistic approach to what she hopes will move Connect America’s needle forward and differentiate it within the industry.
“Any time you come into something, in all the different adjacent markets and even in PERS, the answer is never technology alone. There's no magic gadget that someone's going to drop in and solve everything. I think it's similar here. I'm trying to understand what's going to really move the market forward.”
As the new member of the executive team, Dillione also acknowledges her responsibility as Connect America’s head coach, and relies on bedrock leadership principles as her north stars.
“Number one, business success is a team sport. I am not a fan of the rowdy individualists. It takes a team. We cannot deliver the value we need to a customer through one person. The second is that you have to have a plan. You have to be able to measure success against a goal and then you have to communicate, and show people, and share. I think that it is in the team, marching and driving towards a common goal, that's the fun, that's success. That's where you get your energy. That's where you get jazz. The focus needs to be on the outside, the customer, the market."
Asked whether Connect America will develop its own proprietary technology, Dillione responded, “Strategy is vision balanced against capabilities and realities. Everything's open right now.”
While everything may be on the table, Dilliione does have thoughts on how to measure success.
“The success for any company can only be measured in the eyes of the customer. It always has to start with the customer.”
Another marker of success for Dillione will be the day she’s no longer asked about being a woman leader in a traditionally male-dominated profession.
“First of all, you have to acknowledge it – it's better than it was. It is certainly not a neutral. Some day, you would love not to be asking the question. And I think that's everybody's goal.”
She’s also focused on how she can implement change.
“We all have to pay it forward and what I can do personally about it is, number one, mentor. And when I get calls about roles, make sure that we put forward female candidates in addition to other candidates and push. Push people to see, to look, to say, ‘Hey, come on. The workforce needs to look like the world.’"
Dillione hopes roles like hers will help normalize the idea of women in leadership roles.
“I think the more that women leaders are out there, the more normal it is. The more people can see that it looks standard, it looks natural, that someday hopefully the question will be boring and then at some point, not asked.”