Taking My Talents (back) to Cleveland

by Kayla Cousineau, SVP Operations

The Other Side of an Industry Change

After spending the last 15 years in health care, I moved to market research last summer. It was a total shift that I would not have predicted a few years ago. Since I passed my first anniversary, I’m in a reflection sort of mood.   

Prior to making the leap, I was in a hybrid remote working position before it became a fad. As most can attest, Covid allowed us to think about life and work differently and changed parts of us forever. Perhaps it was the homeschooling, the number of times I heard “Sorry I was on mute” or the people in public with masks on under their chins. Whatever the reason, I not only began craving in-person human connections that did not require a two-hour drive, but I also coveted the thought of impacting change in a more profound way. When you work in healthcare administration as a non-clinician, the operational projects can sometimes drain the “GSD” (get shit done) juice out of you.

A devout Catholic may use the term providence (the Irish call it luck), but I think it was serendipitous that OpinionRoute’s CEO, Terence McCarron, invited me to lunch when he did. While preparing, I considered my transferable skills that crossed industries if this was a potential path. The term “operations” in business is akin to “project management” or “work-life balance”, an enormously subjective term that continues to evolve.

To help prep, I called Tim Bronsil, a long-time mentor and friend, who helped me consider and craft that message. At lunch, I explained operations in health care and the emphasis on teams and implementing strategies. As Terence shared his motivations for starting OpinionRoute, the risks associated with the venture, and his track record of success in market research, his passion was clear. As they say in health care, Terence is mission-driven.

OpinionRoute needed operational experience to join his existing team of incredibly talented leaders.  They were building a foundation to scale the company’s growth. I saw myself as the puzzle piece, thrilled at the prospect of learning a new field, going into the office regularly, leading and attracting talent, while also driving meaningful change.

As I come up on the one-year mark of making a major industry leap, I am reminded of a few of the operational principles that I have learned along the way that still resonate:

  • “Kid, when you get a chance to work, ya work!” John Murphy

One of the most famous “Murphy-isms” came from my grandfather John Murphy. He died fifteen years ago and we all still repeat this line often. Nothing made Grandpa beam more with pride than a good work story. He would walk into the tiny sub shop that I worked at in high school and shout “that’s my granddaughter!”. It was sub-making. I was not the mayor, but that didn’t matter to him. It was this hustle rooted in my family that shaped my work ethic. Heck, my mom started a business after her 4th kid. That is true grit. My first real working experience would lay the foundation for how my mind thinks through processes to this day. What started as making All Italian subs would evolve to project managing and leading teams.  

  • “If you are not helping the patient, you better be helping someone who is.” Tom Strauss

The former CEO of Summa Health System would strategically repeat this statement at his monthly lunches with front-line employees. It was during my first big-girl job out of grad school and that line sticks with me to this day. It carries dual value—a reminder to always have your end client in mind and to affirm the value that an entire team has on the client, whether it is behind the scenes or directly.

  • “You need to know enough to call bullshit.” Lindsay Muns

Lindsay gave me this departing piece of advice as she transitioned her leadership role at Cleveland Clinic to me upon my return from maternity leave. Although it may seem curt to some, I still appreciate her candor. What I took from that was the importance of leaning on your team for their expertise but knowing enough to speak to a process, offer a solution and/or reduce barriers to ensure success.

As I reflect on my journey, I’m grateful for these and the many other lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve met along the way. I’m excited to continue growing as a leader in market research and to help OpinionRoute thrive.

Click here for Part 2 from Kayla!

Photo from a screengrab from “The Office”

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