The High Availability, Inc. team has worked with a lot of incredibly talented IT professionals over the last 19 (almost 20!) years. To celebrate our customers and their achievements, we will be highlighting a CIO from our network each quarter!
For our first IT Leader Spotlight, we had the opportunity to sit down with Harvey Guindi, CIO of Health Network Laboratories, LP....
Q: Where did you go to school? And what did you study?
HG: I studied Computer Science at California State University, Fullerton.
Q: Did you always want to work in IT? What sparked your interest?
HG: Very early on in life, I knew I wanted to continue to work with, study and use computers and technology in my career. Though how I started and ended up is very different. My first introduction to computers was on an Apple IIe learning BASIC programming in the computer club in my Junior High School. I was hooked from that point, I spent as much time learning and getting access to computers, including joining the computer club and even taking summer school computer and math classes. Initially my interest was in playing and creating games. I remember using computer magazine that published BASIC code and writing that into the computer to create a game, and later I created some of my own programs and simple games. My dream was to ultimately study computer programing to design and produce my own games, I wanted to be the next Richard Garriott (Lord British from Ultima / Origin fame). Once I started school and entered the school of engineering in the Computer Science department, I quickly realized no one was teaching anything about creating games or interactive experiences, it was one accounting, HR or database type assignment after another, switching from Assembly language, to ADA, to Pascal, to C, etc. just learning data structure and other logic principles. This was disheartening as I realized college had no mechanism (at that time in the early/mid 90s) for an electronic entertainment computer science program.
Even in school (in my first year), my talent was immediately identified, and I was recruited to work for the Dean of the School of Humanities to Design, setup, and support social science research computer labs. I was the only freshman that was also a staff member of the school. I worked to support graduate students in their use of computers and statistical software tools. I created programs for accessing the shared computer labs that were sold in the school book store as well as provided personal support for the faculty across the entire campus.
When I finished school, I took a job as a junior engineer with a company that wrote custom printer drivers for Windows. My task was to identify defects and bugs and provide patch updates. I did this for a few months until one of the main support people went on maternity leave, as I was the most junior person in the company I was placed on the support lines to take her place. My troubleshooting and support abilities were beyond anyone else in the group, and even when this person returned I was asked to stay in the support role, which was not something that was going to move me forward, so I left.
Since then I have taken progressive roles in the IT (operations/infrastructure/network) roles, especially as open systems and networks took off (first with Netware, then NT, etc.) I built upon each successive role to achieve technical lead status, to team lead, to manager, director, and ultimately CIO. My background in both development, support, networking and architecture along with the leadership skills I have built, have given me a unique perspective and have been the primary purpose of my continued success, bridging both the technical and the business side of the role of a CIO.
Q: Tell us about your organization…
HG: Health Network Laboratories, LP is a regional diagnostic and anatomic pathology healthcare provider. We serve 30+ hospitals and over 10K unique clients in the PA and NJ markets. I have been with HNL for six years in the CIO role. I lead a team of 50 that covers everything from Helpdesk, Enterprise Architecture, Clinical Applications, Project Management, Client solutions, Engineering, and Information Security.
Q: What technology or business initiatives will be most important in driving your IT objectives for the next year?
HG: Most important technologies that will drive our objectives are those that optimize, automate, and ultimately positively impact our customer experience. I have started an initiative within the organization that looks at every project backwards from how it can positively impact our customers. Some of the technologies that will be of focus this year include: Expanding our use of RPA (Robotic Process Automation), Ai (specifically in chat/self-service/scheduling bots), including omni-channel call center solution and mobile applications. One of the most impactful design approaches is based on EDA (Event Driven Architecture), we have moved away from transactional or batch-based data focused integration to a more demand (and predictive) event-driven model. The idea behind this is to use every application, every tool, every data element as a “sensor”. So one example is the kiosk we have in our patient service center where customers sign in. If we watch these and see that there are five or more sign-ins in a five-minute window, we take that even and send a dispatch alert to the nearest mobile phlebotomist (using their field service tool) to have them go to the location to provide additional support to maintain our 15 minute service time window.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you? How do you keep yourself productive?
HG: A typical day for me includes many meetings; it is an integral part of a CIOs role, which is to communicate, both tactical and strategic planning and vision with leadership and frontline staff. I look for opportunities that can positively impact human experiences both for our internal and external customers. For example today I learned of a manual process that was fine when it dealt with 5-10 items per day, that queue has grown to 50+, this spawned an investigation that highlighted a potential for integration and automating that task. I look to free humans from mundane tasks so they can increase and magnify their role and contributions.
Q: What roles or skills are you having difficulty filling – if any?
HG: We are often challenged with finding individuals who look past their defined job descriptions and have a desire to contribute well beyond a specialized task. When we have such individuals on our team, we are adaptable, which is far more beneficial and valuable than being efficient because you can be efficient, but when that process or task is no longer needed, and you can’t change, you become a liability vs. an asset.
Q: What advice would you give aspiring CIOs?
HG: Any aspiring CIO needs to have a solid technical foundation and a deep desire to understand and become authoritative in the business process for whatever industry they are in. You can’t just have one or the other and be as successful as your organization needs you to be. I would also suggest my three simple rules as outlined in this article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-three-simple-rules-effective-leadership-harvey-guindi/
Q: What is your proudest professional accomplishment so far?
HG: My proudest professional accomplishment has to be the people I have helped lead and develop and the success they have achieved. I have been blessed to have a tremendously loyal and hardworking team, and to me a team’s primary definition is that each person looks out for each other, this spirit of freedom and responsibility and the culture we have developed and how it has permeated from within the IS team to other areas has to be one of my the greatest accomplishments.
Q: If you could go back in your career or your current role – would you have done anything differently?
HG: I don’t think I would go back and change anything really in my career, those difficult and challenging times I had to go through to learn a specific skill or leadership trait. We have to have some failures and be able to learn from them to achieve growth and improvement. If I could take some learning back, I would definitely have looked to spend more time developing relationships earlier, especially among my customer base, to be more deeply entranced in any and every aspect of the business I was supporting vs. sticking just to the technology space as my primary domain.
Q: What has been the most meaningful aspect of your engagement with High Availability, Inc.?
HG: My most meaningful engagement with H.A. has to be around our exploration and discovery of what HCI (Hyper Converged Infrastructure) solution we should make part of our next large data center and cloud hybrid strategy, this was a large task that would have long-lasting impact, H.A. was patient, authoritative and supportive of our immediate need and our overall strategy bringing additional experts outside the company to focus on key areas we needed to be successful. That is the mark of a true partner, someone who listens so well they become someone that works for your organization without you directly paying them; that is H.A. for us!