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Sean has had a true ‘stepping stone career’. He has moved from consulting to banking, back to consulting and into healthcare. On top of that, he’s managed to fit in an MBA and work on both sides of the pond. Here he talks about his move from professional services into the health care industry.


Where do you work?


Kaiser Permanente – a health care company based in California


Where did you start your career?


A.T. Kearney, management consulting


How many years into your career are you?


14 years


How many companies have you worked for so far in your career?




How many hours a week do you work (on average)?


40 (really!)


What’s your role and whom do you report into?


My title is “Health IT Program Strategy Leader”, which basically involves working with medical leaders across Kaiser Permanente to develop our programme-wide strategy for Health IT, such as Electronic Health Records, clinical decision support, mobile devices, etc. I report into a Senior Director.


Why did you decide to leave your previous job?

Each time I’ve changed jobs, it’s been for something different.  After two years as a Business Analyst at AT Kearney, I decided to go to Harvard Business School to give me a comprehensive view of the world of business, particularly since my undergraduate degree was in Japanese literature. After HBS, I was ready for the challenge and excitement of Investment Banking at Morgan Stanley, and I learned a lot from that job. But after a few years, I missed the personal interaction and independence of working directly with clients, not to mention getting more than a few hours sleep a night, so I took the opportunity to join McKinsey. That led me to discover a real passion for the area of health care, so when I decided after seven years that I wanted to return to my native California, I joined Kaiser Permanente in order to work with one of the world’s leaders in delivering high quality, affordable health care.


What are the best bits about your current job?


I have a great manager who is a delight to work with. I feel especially lucky in this regard, because one of the biggest changes in moving from the world of consulting to the ‘corporate’ world is that you no longer change teams regularly, so if you don’t have a good relationship with your direct manager, you can feel stuck. The work itself gives me the opportunity to interact with medical leaders from across our programme to better understand their strategic priorities and how health information technology can contribute to the achieving them. Finally, it’s great working in an organisation where people are passionate about our mission to help improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve.


How does your experience from your previous job help you in your new role?


My consulting experience has been invaluable in my current role, both in terms of bringing specific knowledge of how care is delivered across Europe to the US context, as well as the general skills of problem solving and communications that are critical in working with diverse stakeholders across the organisation. Investment banking is less relevant to my current role, but it is good to be able to speak confidently with finance professionals about issues relating to investment decisions, business case evaluation and estimating net present value of various opportunities.


Where do you see yourself at the height of your career?


It would really be an extension of what I am doing now – working collaboratively to improve the delivery of care in an affordable way, across the United States and internationally. Health care is an incredibly local, culturally-specific business, but at the same time, many of the health and wellness challenges we face are universal. I think there are still huge opportunities for health care systems around the world to continue to learn from each other.


How does working in ‘industry’ differ to working in professional services?


Obviously I only have my own experience to go by, but I see the difference as a little like the difference between running a marathon and sprinting. In professional services, you’re constantly moving from one intense but relatively short project to the next. In ‘industry’, just like a marathon, you’re in it for the long haul, and how you start out will have a major impact on how you do much farther down the line.


What advice do you have for talented young people building their career?


Personally, I’m a big believer in following your passions and not worrying too much about planning out every stage of your future career. Of course, it’s a good idea to think about what you might want to do in the future, and what preparation you might need, but you never know what life is going to throw at you, so you might as well enjoy the journey. I’d also say, consider the organisation’s values (the ones they operate by, not necessarily the ones posted on the wall) and how well they fit with your own values – there’s nothing better than really believing in what you do for a living.