Engineering leader Michelle Concannon explains how a career break helped her find her feet back in Ireland and take on a new role with Signify Health.

Michelle Concannon is a technology and machine learning expert with more than two decades of experience in Ireland, Europe, USA and Asia. After holding senior positions at Optum, Cisco and Avaya, she went on to play a global engineering and product role at Microsoft’s cloud and AI organization.

Concannon recently returned to her hometown of Galway, after nearly a decade living in Silicon Valley and Dublin, to take on a new role at Signify Health. She is now the senior vice president of engineering at the American health technology company, which has set up a new base in Galway.

In this role, she will lead engineering teams in Ireland and the US that are developing technology-enabled healthcare services. The Signify Health platform uses analytics and technology to create value-based payment programs that connect patients and healthcare providers in the US.

“As a technologist, it is a great privilege to work with teams that make a real difference in people’s lives.”
– MICHELLE CONCANNON

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you addressing them?

Fragmentation, complexity, cost, and access to the U.S. health care system are some of the biggest challenges facing the sector, as well as the general lack of standards implemented. Our teams at Signify Health are addressing these challenges in a variety of ways for our network of burn providers and often overloaded patients by linking different datasets to create a long-term view of the patient.

We use that data to build and integrate a portfolio of healthcare capabilities to anticipate and anticipate conditions before they deteriorate, improving healthcare outcomes, and lowering the cost of care.

We are building experiences that enable providers and patients to better navigate the healthcare system and manage their care, making it simple and intuitive to do the right thing and harder to do the wrong thing – anticipating the next best action for a patient and guiding them. to that action.

What are the main sector opportunities you are taking advantage of?

Signify Health’s mission is to transform the way care is paid for and provided so that people can enjoy more healthy and happy days at home.

Our teams are uniquely positioned to utilize the home as a primary care point by deploying technology-based scalable capabilities that support real-time quality and cost management.

What pushed you to the path where you are now?

Professionally, it was a conversation with a mentor and sponsor almost 10 years ago about what I wanted my long-term career to look like. I was fortunate at that point to be encouraged to take a step back and consider what I liked, disliked, or wanted to do more, and went through an exercise to write about what my ideal role would look like.

That mentor also gave me some great tips on the value of helping and supporting other people throughout my career. I feel very lucky that my new role at Signify Health includes all the elements of what I transcribed during that exercise and our mission could not be more in line with the help of others. As a technologist, it is a great privilege to work with teams that make a real difference in people’s lives.

Personally, the pandemic has provided us all with great perspective on what is important in life. Being close to family and friends is more important to me than ever, and moving to Galway after 10 fantastic years of adventure could not have come at a more perfect moment.

What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?

The choice to leave a fantastic role and team at Cisco after nine years – and more broadly in Silicon Valley – in 2016 to take a year off from my career and travel with my partner.

Choosing to leave (if temporary) from an amazing tech career at an amazing company in an amazing part of the world is a scary thing to do when you have identified with your professional self for so many years. I spent the first three months wondering if I would ever be re-employed, frantically researching technology trends for fear of staying relevant!

It turns out it was also one of the most rewarding personal and professional decisions I have ever made. It set me on my path back to Ireland and new career opportunities with greater life perspective, exposure to different cultures, adaptability and appetite to learn, to drop out of learning and to re-learn.

What work skills would you like to have?

Only one? Masterful story.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Listening. Listen to what is happening to them personally and professionally and be as supportive as possible.

Understanding long-term career goals and providing direct and indirect coaching to help my teams get closer to those goals or create connections that can accelerate them.

Adopting a first approach to people, creating and communicating our collective purpose and fun has been the basis for every team success to date.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

Yes. Despite constant media attention and some real efforts to improve the situation, there is still much work to be done. For me, there is a big difference between hiring different candidates and promoting an inclusive workplace environment, so I personally share both.

I fundamentally believe that education is at the heart of overcoming the inherent prejudices in all employment managers, so investing in meaningful training programs is critical. Hiring processes need to have the right controls and balances to complement the training, and companies need to be more involved in community-based programs that are in direct support of bringing together diverse talent from non-traditional backgrounds. Hybrid work arrangements and offering more flexibility are also critical to attracting more diverse talent.

Fostering an inclusive environment where every employee feels like they really belong and can manifest themselves is more difficult. This only happens as a result of investments made in culture, allied trainings, tools and techniques about meeting etiquette, as well as regular emotional surveys, etc. It also depends on how the leadership of a company is modeling that involvement.

How business results are achieved is just as important as what is achieved, and creating real leadership responsibility around this at every level in an organization is critical.

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

“You are not the first person to experience this issue!”

Google, partner, collaborate, talk – do your research before you start solving a problem that someone else may have already solved and is ready to help. Build on what already exists or make an informed choice to move forward with an independent solution once you have completed the cost-benefit analysis, but invest a little time in research – it is generally rewarding.

What books have you read that you would recommend?
  • The Brain: The Story of You by David Eagleman – a great reminder of why we do not see everything the same way!
  • Dare to Lead (or anything) by Brené Brown
What are the essential tools and resources that make you spend your work week?

Breathing, fresh air and sleep! Yoga, meditation and going out to exercise are the ‘tools’ of my choice of work (and life) to keep me in balance.

With hybrid work arrangements, it is more important than ever to manage calendars in such a way that there are regular breaks and model it for teams. Doing otherwise inevitably results in a lack of productivity, however counterintuitive.

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