“Understand what will inspire your employees to work at their best. For a few years, I owned and operated hair salons. When I took that on, my employee turnover rate was over two hundred percent and our revenue was stagnant. I decided to give benefits that employees in that industry had never seen. A year later, I was losing more money and a slim percentage of employees were interested in those benefits. So, I sat down with my 50 employees and asked them what it would take to motivate them. They all expressed that higher hourly wages would trump the benefits. I figured out a quarterly performance review process that would adjust the hourly wage based. It brought down my turnover to under twenty percent and revenue started to grow by twenty percent, month over month.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Yasmin Shah. Yasmin, Digital Health Forward’s CIO, is a seasoned executive and an entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience. Her career history includes electrical engineer, business executive at IBM, Chief Information Officer, President of the board of non-profits, co-founder of companies, and leadership roles in Village Movement for over 12 years. She is also an author of a fictional book, “Experience: Caregiver’s Journey”, which is a collection of her experiences as a family caregiver and a volunteer with non-profits serving seniors.
I love tech and I love helping people in need. As a CIO, I have an opportunity to work with both my passions. I work with new and innovative ideas on one hand, while those innovations are all meant to help enhance people’s health and quality of life. My engineering degree molded me to believe in and enjoy tech. My desire to help others stems from my relationship with my parents. Their life revolved around helping others which were clearly passed down to me. When they grew older and could not take care of themselves, I became their primary caregiver even when they lived halfway across the world. I immigrated them to the USA, and they lived with me for a few years, until my dad got sick. He was the primary caregiver for my mom who had Parkinson’s disease. I had no choice but to move them into assisted living. Shockingly to me, my dad passed before my mom, and then my mom was in hospice care for nine months in my home. Seeing their challenges in their old age, and the impact on my life as their primary caregiver, I was convinced that I have to make it my mission in life to bring innovation into the way we age. My opportunity to work for Digital Health Forward fits perfectly with that mission.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I met Sean Cassidy, Digital Health Forward’s CEO, at a networking event and decided to grab lunch a week later. He invited me to attend his leadership meeting the following week. I went to the meeting not knowing what to expect. As I was driving to the meeting I was wondering “why am I going to attend this leadership meeting for a company that I have no involvement in?” and “should I just turn around and go to the beach instead?”. Good thing I didn’t go to the beach! An hour into the meeting I started looking for an opportunity to tell Sean I wanted to join his team. A couple of hours later I found myself saying to him, “if you will have me, I would love to join your team as the CIO.” He announced it to the team shortly thereafter. I guess both of us knew I had a reason to attend this meeting.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Very few startups succeed, even fewer have revenue in the first year, and rare exceptions have a positive cash flow in that first year as well. That is all that is going to be true for this startup. Plus, I have not worked with a team before that gets along as well as this one. The energy, focuses, goals were all aligned before we even knew it.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Everything that I am working on is new and exciting. We are a startup so every day is new and challenging. Our customers are other startups or companies that have new products in Digital Health Space. It is inspiring to come to work.
What advice would you give to other CIOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Understand what will inspire your employees to work at their best. For a few years, I owned and operated hair salons. When I took that on, my employee turnover rate was over two hundred percent and our revenue was stagnant. I decided to give benefits that employees in that industry had never seen. A year later, I was losing more money and a slim percentage of employees were interested in those benefits. So, I sat down with my 50 employees and asked them what it would take to motivate them. They all expressed that higher hourly wages would trump the benefits. I figured out a quarterly performance review process that would adjust the hourly wage based. It brought down my turnover to under twenty percent and revenue started to grow by twenty percent, month over month.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I would say that my dad has been my biggest inspiration. He taught me the work ethic. He inspired me to do what I believe in no matter how tough the journey.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I volunteer on the board of several non-profits for the past 12 years. I have written a book to inspire others. I have co-founded two non-profits. I have been a coach and mentor for other women who are trying to grow their technology career or start an entrepreneurial venture.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CIO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
For the past 12 years, I have been volunteering on the board of several non-profits that are all helping seniors age in their homes and communities with the support of their neighbors. This started with one non-profit 15 years ago and now is moving across the country and taking off in some other parts of the world. It is called the Village Movement. I was the president of Tierrasanta Village of San Diego for seven years. I now serve as the CIO and board member of Village to Village Network a networking organization of over 300 Villages. I am also part of the leadership team of Village Movement California, an organization that is helping to build sustainable Villages across California.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life’s tough experiences are wasted unless you tell your story to help others.” I share my life’s challenges and lessons freely to help others, and to that end, I have written the first of a series of books “Experience: Caregiver’s Journey”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
It would be Bill Gates. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is impacting the world in many positive ways. I would love the privilege of talking to them about the impact Digital Health Companies can have in not only revolutionizing the way we age, and also innovation is essential to face the challenge of “silver tsunami” that the world is just starting to experience.
Originally published at medium.com