CEO Q&As: Paige Dworak CEO of East Orange General Hospital

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Q   Is this where you thought you would end up?

I was not one of those people who knew “what I wanted to do when I grew up.” I found my way into healthcare and then in every role I looked around the table and asked myself, “What do I really like to do?” and then followed that path. To quote Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and author of “Lean In,” a career can be a jungle gym.  Not all careers are a “ladder.”  You can follow what you love, and not follow the typical ladder to get to the top.

 

Q   What do you see as the keys to your success?

Hard work and drive are key elements to success and advancement within ones career.  Additionally, and equally as important, networking and developing relationships.  Whether internal or external, the relationships that you cultivate are imperative to future success.

 

Q   Who has influenced you the most?

One person in particular who is in the same industry.  He has been very aggressive in his career, which is a great balance for me.  To have someone, who is always pushing, reaffirming that “You are already there…  You are already doing that” is invaluable and I would not be where I am today without his continual persistence.

 

Q  What are you most proud of?

By far, I am most proud that my children are extremely proud of me.  There is no greater reward for hard work and sacrifice.

 

 How do you find a work life balance?

I find work life balance by combining them together!  It is important to enjoy the people you work with, and continually strive to foster and grow new relationships.

 

Q   What motivates you?

I get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing we are serving the community, the patients, and the employees. Working in a disproportionate share hospital can be very challenging, and the reward is caring for those most in need of your help.

 

Q   What professional organizations are you associated with and in what ways?

Clearly ACHE and HLNY.  HLNY has been very instrumental in my career by providing education and access to healthcare leaders across a large geography in a condensed and organized fashion. I started my official work with HLNY first as Chair of the Programs Committee. I was later elected to Treasurer, and ultimately elected into the 3-year Presidency.  Once you take a leadership role in HLNY, you are exposed to hospital executives. While your networking prior might have been with your colleagues and peers, being in a leadership role allows you to meet, greet, and create a relationship with someone you never would not have otherwise.

 

Q   Through our careers, we are faced with difficult decisions. As a mentor, are you frequently asked questions about risk? How do you approach risk-taking?

I think part of the reason I am where I am is because someone said, “You have to be willing to say yes, and take that opportunity, and know that you’ll do whatever it takes to figure it out.” Whether that entailed reading, seeking out mentoring opportunities, etc, this individual gained vast experience by “never saying no.”  Anytime his organization threw something new at him, he said “Ok I’ll figure it out.”  It also demonstrated that he is the type of person who would take on any challenge and be successful in doing so. I believe you need to take calculated risks, weigh your options, and the potential pit falls.  Another great mentor once said “never put yourself in a position where you cannot afford to take any risk.”

 

Q   How do you find time to mentor?

Like anything else, you have to make time for it.

 

Q   What is the recipe for a successful mentor/mentee relationship?

Step 1: Make your wishes known, be honest, and be thorough. State “I want to be X” even if it might sound outrageous.  If people do not know what you are trying to achieve, they cannot help you get there.  Step 2: Perform your own “gap analysis.” Try to understand what it is you need to learn and experience to get where you want to be, and then go get it.  Step 3: Be proactive and follow up. Your mentor does not have time to track you down. The relationship will be most successful if you take the lead on scheduling and follow up.

 

Q  What advice do you give to your mentees?

One of the things I tell my mentees is: If you want people to see you as competent for a new role, you have to act the act, talk the talk, and walk the walk. This means you need to do everything from figuring out what experience is needed and getting it, to dressing and speaking as though you are already in the role. Your leadership needs to see you demonstrating these things.  If people cannot naturally visualize you in that role, you won’t get it.

 

Q  Do you think being a woman in this industry is harder, different, or just the same?

Contrary to popular belief, I believe that it can work in your favor. Although this is a male dominated industry, and I would not disagree that there are situations where it’s the total opposite, women are typically less aggressive and threatening, which can lead to long term, fruitful relationships.

 

Q  Other things that pushed you forward?

Hands down, networking and relationships. I believe with all certainty that relationships are what enable your career and your opportunities. If you aren’t out there meeting people, developing your “brand,” and keeping relevant, hiring managers are less likely to think of you when positions open. When someone is looking to fill a role (including myself,) and are thinking about who they know, who have they talked to, who has made an impact in their mind…. You want to be that person.

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