Interview with Jean Scire, SVP, CIO, Philips Healthcare

WITI News Staff

August 18, 2014

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Interview with Jean Scire, SVP, CIO, Philips Healthcare: 7/22/14

WITI had the pleasure of speaking with Jean Scire, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Philips Healthcare. She shared with us valuable insight about women in the workforce, leadership, technology, work-life balance, and how bringing more women into technology roles at Philips is both a personal and business priority.

On a personal level, what drives you?

Jean Scire:
I am driven by people who are motivated to bring out the best in themselves. I enjoy watching people learn, grow and achieve. I am most happy at work when I am surrounded by engaged and motivated people who enjoy challenges and collaborate for solutions.

Were you always a people person and a leader?

I always loved being around people and working in teams - even at a very young age. When I was in the fourth grade, I organized a Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser carnival with kids in my neighborhood. We had meetings in my basement and I was in charge of the event, which was in my front yard. As I grew up, leading just came naturally to me. The desire to lead has always been in me; though it wasn't discouraged it definitely wasn't nurtured. A difference from when I grew up is now girls who want to lead are more freely able to do so and society recognizes the value of women as leaders.

Were your parents instrumental in your ability to lead?

I'm the oldest of four; by default I was in a position of responsibility. ÅgLead by example.Åh I always heard those words. My father was a principal so expectations on how we behaved were high as he was well-known in town. He also ran a summer camp and put me in positions of responsibility, sort of 'stretch assignments.' He backed me up if I needed it as part of learning on the job and he taught me how to work really hard. I credit my dad with my work ethic and also aspects of my leadership style. Because he trusted me and coached me, I operate with my team in much the same way.

When did your role as a leader become challenging?

At one point in my career I was a senior manager working directly for an executive vice president, a hierarchy gap of about four-levels and 20 years' experience. I was the only non-vice president team member. Being in this role was especially challenging but I gained insight on how to manage up, influence colleagues who were more senior, and how to build networks and lead people who were not direct reports, but crucial to the success of the projects I owned. I learned a lot by observing, a lot by trial and error, and succeeded because I focused on results versus the politics of the situation. I also made some mistakes that I share with others as I believe we learn more from mistakes than successes - and as long as we don't make the same ones over again, that is a good thing.

When you are in a leadership role, you can't micro-manage. How do you think and move in that situation?

That's really a big part of leadership, right? Choosing people to hire who deliver results, people who understand goals and objectives and can make things happen - performance matters. I assess people by knowing their strengths and weaknesses and what makes them feel most valuable in their work. If people are happy with what they are doing then they're going to contribute at a higher level and accomplish more. At Philips, we prioritize employee satisfaction and engagement, and, as a result, Philips has been named one of the Happiest Companies in America by Career Bliss, two years in a row.

What are your core tenets or values?

In terms of leadership, these are core:
- understanding people personally and appreciating that everyone is different and therefore has different needs
- providing feedback in the moment, when appropriate
- operating with excellence and delivering results
- acknowledging the contribution and value of individuals and teams, publically and privately
- staying connected to your employees and monitoring changes and natural shifts in performance and supporting them as needed
- transparency, be open and forthright about decisions and balance the colder aspects of business with compassion; this is paramount

Are there a lot of differences when dealing with men and women?

It depends but a pretty fundamental and acknowledged difference is communication. I am sure that both men and women leaders adjust their styles based on the audience, same, opposite or mixed gender. It's not much different than working in a global company and being cognizant of language and culture subtleties.

Do you feel you are spending more time helping women develop?

Yes, especially among the junior women on my team. This is a personal passion of mine, to help women develop and achieve their career goals. In fact, I am on a team of female executives that Philips sponsored for this purpose. We are in very different roles, different careers, but share the passion and the desire to support the development and recruitment of talented women leaders. We meet quarterly and dedicate time to mentoring women, peer-mentoring one another and other time to developing actionable plans to advance diversity in Philips.

Do you consider yourself an advocate for women?

Yes, wholeheartedly I am an advocate for gender equality. I raise the need to hire more women with Human Resources and my peers on the IT leadership team, and I charge my leadership team to recruit and hire the best person for the team - and all things being equal hire women so that we get the added benefits of diversity. Diversity creates more ideas and drives innovation. I also belong to an employee resource group at Philips called WINergy. We have more than 700 members solely dedicated to the development and success of women at Philips.

What are your thoughts about girls and technology?

When I was young, my dad, who was a biology teacher at the time, made science and technology a part of my core by bringing me to science fairs, the Museum of Science in Boston, and even hatching baby chicks in our living room. I loved all of this and wanted to be a part of science. In school, I worked hard to be at the top in math and science classes because I wanted to make my dad proud.

I have a 16-year old daughter and although she's very technology savvy there is a voice in the back of her brain that tells her ÅgI hate science because it's Ågnerdy.Åh So even today, with as much progress as we have made, there are some cultural influences at work that affect the interests and vocations of young people, especially girls, and it begins in middle school.

The real question is, how do we encourage girls to pursue careers in science and technology? Personally, I offer my story as an example, extend my support as a mentor, and prioritize recruitment at Philips. It's not about competence or ability of our young women, it is about confidence.

We are all dealing with technology every day. How does technology drive your life?

Technology has definitely improved my life balance, and at Philips we have deployed many mobile capabilities that enable me to work anywhere. I need to make sure I balance that flexibility to ensure when I am home I focus on my family as our time is limited. I try to lead by example and have very strict rules about devices, like no phones at the dinner table. Although people are more connected than ever before due to technology, real relationships - business and personal - are built on the art of conversation. When it comes to technology and people, balance is critical to the success as a leader. Send an email or meet with an employee face-to-face, conduct a webcast or travel to a site and hold a town hall, these kinds of technology-based choices deliver results.

How are you able to compromise keeping your core values and still achieve your goals?

You have to pick your battles. When you become a parent, you learn that lesson quickly. Your family might demand most of your time some days and other days work will demand more. If you give all of yourself every day, directing your energy to what's most important then you are being true to yourself and driving to achieve. Not everything you want to get done is going to get done but if you keep yourself pointing toward your own north star and remain resilient when you have to change course temporarily then you won't have regrets. I used to wake up at three in the morning, nervous about something I said. But, I've learned to let things go. It's about resiliency, being accountable but not sweating the small stuff.

Is what you do today in direct alignment with your core values?

At Philips, we have three fundamental behaviors that define our culture: 1) eager to win, 2) team up to excel and 3) take ownership. These align to my character and how I grew up so I feel comfortable and empowered at Philips. The people here really lead with their hearts and we embrace the mission of improving the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2025, advancing care for everyone, everywhere, infants to the chronically ill and in our neighborhoods to emerging markets that most of us have never been to. The people at Philips and our customers who we are committed to improving their lives motivate me to give even more every day.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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