Celine Kaiser: “Bringing families together”

Bringing families together. Whether by choice or not, this extraordinary time is bringing families closer. Parents and kids being home 24/7, the ability to work virtually, having family members help out with younger kids while parents are working, couples without kids working together from home, etc. I strongly think that family relationships after COVID-19 will […]

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Bringing families together. Whether by choice or not, this extraordinary time is bringing families closer. Parents and kids being home 24/7, the ability to work virtually, having family members help out with younger kids while parents are working, couples without kids working together from home, etc. I strongly think that family relationships after COVID-19 will be stronger than before and people will want to spend more time together with their family. This is especially true for parents that used to travel frequently for business.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Celine Kaiser.

Celine Kaiser is the vice president of payments at Modernizing Medicine®. She joined the healthcare technology company in early 2019 to oversee Modernizing Medicine’s payment and commerce initiatives with modmed® Pay. A seasoned professional, Celine has 20 years of international experience in technology and payments with previous expertise in the telecom, travel, hospitality and retail verticals.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

After seven months at Modernizing Medicine, a healthcare technology company, I had my first in-person experience with one of our clients. It was the first client, a dermatology clinic, to implement and go-live with modmed® Pay, our payment platform and newest solution offering. Four clients had been selected to go live the first week, and the first client was located in St Petersburg, Florida. On a Sunday afternoon, I drove over from South Florida and met up with a colleague working on the implementation, as well as the practice manager at the clinic. The plan was to spend an hour or so on Sunday setting up the payment terminals and then to come back on Monday morning and help the front desk staff as needed.

That Sunday, we ended up working with the client for well over two hours, and as we were working and chatting, I learned that he was planning a second trip to Paris with his wife! Since I am French, it was an instant connection, and we had great conversations.

On Monday, the front desk staff would be taking the first patient payment via our new platform. While it was quite nerve racking, I do have to say it was even more rewarding to be with our client and experience it first hand. After so many months of working with colleagues to get the modmed Pay system ready for our clients, it was incredibly rewarding and a wonderful experience to meet our client face-to-face, connect both personally and professionally, and witness the first of many successful payments go through!

I am so thankful to work with our clients and while I speak to many over the phone, actually being present in their offices provides such an authentic picture into their medical practice and their business. It has helped me more fully understand and see the value of the work we do each and every day. It’s an eye-opening experience to get immersed in the inner workings for a medical process and not just meet the individuals who are decision makers, but also the staff who work with the solution day in and day out.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Currently, we are working on expanding ways of making digital payments to our clients’ patients. As consumers, we’re accustomed to paying bills online or even via our mobile phones — we can pay for virtually anything from our mortgage and car payments, to water and power bills, etc. However, healthcare has lagged behind a bit. To help combat that, we want to provide patients with the same familiar and convenient experience when it comes to paying their healthcare bills. Patients are consumers too.

At Modernizing Medicine, we are developing a solution that will enable the patients to pay their copays and balances via their smartphone, including during a low-touch check-in experience. This has increasingly grown in importance given COVID-19.

This will help practices collect patient payments more conveniently and consistently. It will help practices collect patient copays prior to appointments and provide the patient the opportunity to pay any open balance before their next visit. Additionally, we just enabled the ability in the system for clients to automate the scheduling of payments for their patients with whom they agree to a payment plan. The amount can be for a new medical device such as a knee brace, procedure or treatment or for an outstanding balance (more and more patients are struggling to pay their bills) so that a patient can pay in multiple installments. Automated communications, including reminders of upcoming payments that will be processed, are sent to the patients as well as automating the payment itself, which can help reduce manual work by the practice staff.

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 have had multiple individuals who have played a significant role in my personal and professional development and helped put me on the path to where I am today. I believe it all started with my dad. Since I was little, he pushed me to excel in scientific matters. He encouraged me just as much as he did with my brother, without gender differentiation. When I was in my last year of high school (mind you, the school focused on math, physics, industrial design and electrical engineering), my father encouraged me to apply to more scientific colleges even though I was already accepted to a nursing school. I ended up studying nuclear physics in college and then went on to pursue a master’s degree in physics.

Then, my path took a 180-degree turn, and I transitioned from physics to management consulting. During this time, I applied for a six-month internship at Siemens in Munich, Germany, while I was studying in France. The hiring manager for the internship, Ramesh Krishnan, asked me to go to Munich and interview as if I was applying for a regular job, which really surprised me. Throughout my internship, he helped me discover what business consulting was all about, and then hired me for another six month internship in management consulting. I owe much of my success in the consulting world to him.

Then came my first ‘real’ job at Ernst & Young. This solidified my career shift from physics to management consulting. I was quite fortunate to meet and work with great managers and mentors (too many to name) during my consulting career which eventually led me to finding a job and career in the United States.

Lastly, and on a more personal level, I am incredibly grateful for my husband. I would never have relocated to South Florida for my current role at Modernizing Medicine had it not been for his support. He agreed to have our family move from Washington, D.C. to Boca Raton for my new role as VP of Payments in 2019, even if he had to make a sacrifice and travel back and forth to D.C. for his career and job.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

I know I am certainly not alone when it comes to being a working woman with young kids. The biggest challenge has been to get everyone organized — myself, my husband and my kids (and even our new puppy). Being at home 24/7 and juggling work, virtual school and my private/family time is no easy feat.

I have a 5-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son at home. With COVID-19, we all switched from a well-organized and consistent schedule with school and extracurriculars, which quickly went out the window. There was a sudden transition to days filled with virtual schooling, helping the kids to connect to their Zoom calls, assisting them with their homework, preparing lunch for everyone while simultaneously staying on top of my work and launching a new product and all the planning (and stressing) that goes along with it.

March, April and May were really busy, disorganized and incredibly stressful. My husband and I were fortunate to have a nanny to cover some hours of the day when school was still in session. Once the kids’ summer vacation started, I started to really enjoy having more time with them in the morning. There was no more morning rush to wake up the kids on time, get breakfast ready and get everyone ready for school. We were able to sit as a family, enjoy lunch and share how our days were going. We sometimes would even play UNO, Mille Bornes or Dominos during lunch! But I knew summer would come to an end.

As the kids are back to school, albeit virtually, it has brought back some of the stress, and I feel I am once again juggling and sometimes struggling to find a balance between work, virtual school and my personal sanity.

As a mother and a career-driven woman, I always feel stretched in multiple directions, and I am sure many of you reading this can relate. With work, school and free time all taking place in the confines of our home, there is less differentiation between work and private time. I sometimes have to take care of my family during the workday and work during the evening to compensate and that’s okay.

Another challenge anyone with children can probably relate to is the lack of “socialization.” As a family, we decided to strictly quarantine ourselves since March, so we have had close to no physical interactions with the outside world. There is only so much virtual socialization you can do, and it’s not a true replacement for in-person contact. This certainly remains a challenge as I do think kids need in-person connections with their peers, and this is something that does worry me, despite my husband’s and my best efforts.

These challenges do come with rewards, however. I feel much more engaged and aware with what my daughter is learning and can chat with her during the day. And I love that my 11-year-old son can pop by my office during the day to give his science test results. There are many moments to be grateful for, and I am reminded of them daily.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

COVID-19 is certainly teaching all of us how to create solutions and come up with creative ideas to address issues we could have never imagined this time last year. At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you and your family — there will always be some commonalities, but each situation is unique. For my family, here is what we have found most helpful:

  1. Asking for help. We hired a nanny to assist for a few hours a day to help my husband and I focus on our work.
  2. Adjusting your work schedule. I will occasionally work in the evenings once the kids are in bed. When the kids are sleeping, the house is quiet and I can concentrate on items I didn’t get to during the day. I have accepted this and just have to set the expectation at work with my colleagues.
  3. Being transparent with colleagues. Understand that everyone is experiencing a lot of firsts during this time. While my 11-year-old son is self-sufficient throughout the day, my 5-year-old daughter is a bit more needy. I started letting her sit in my office while she draws and does homework while I am working. Most of the time she stays quiet during my calls, but every once in a while, she “interrupts” and pops over to say “hi” during a meeting. When it first happened, I was mortified but since then it’s just part of this new way of doing things, and my co-workers know and fully understand I am juggling work and two kids and all that goes with that. Many of them are doing the same.
  4. Staying connected digitally with friends and family. While not an equal replacement for in-person conversations, being digitally connected does help. I have four stepdaughters all living far away (Hawaii, D.C. and Germany), my family is in France and my best friends are split between D.C., France and Amsterdam. We have frequent WhatsApp calls with my family and friends who span time zones across the globe. And my children have enjoyed FaceTiming with friends, so that it feels like it is their “own” time with their friends or big sisters. While I have always been physically far from loved ones, now without being able to travel at all, we have certainly increased the amount we speak and “see” one another virtually.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

Sometimes the most challenging part is knowing where to start and how to tackle all these new scenarios we find ourselves in. From my own experience, this is what has worked for me:

Have your own dedicated workspace. If you can, have your own private and quiet place to work where you can be efficient and separate from others in your home. Sitting in a place where the whole family can come by is a source of distraction. My family and I all learned that pretty fast back in March. Since then, all four of us are in different rooms during the day. I am good at multitasking, but I most certainly cannot be on a video call while my kids are on their Zoom call at the same time.

Invest in Wi-Fi. Early on, we learned that four of us could not all connect simultaneously, and were forced to upgrade our Wi-Fi and router system. Now all of us can be on video calls at the same time during the day without technical issues.

Take time for your kids. Take advantage of being home and spend time with your kids, even if it’s during the workday. It could be a snack break during their recess or lunch. I feel that it’s important that our kids connect with us, as parents, during the day, as everyone is home, even if we all have different schedules.

Continually improve communication. Striving for effective communication is nothing new, but not having colleagues in our workspace is new for many of us. It’s important to learn how to communicate with your co-workers and managers, especially when a kid pops in on your call or when you need to leave for a few minutes because there is an “emergency.” Plus, with less face-to-face time and the ability to pop by someone’s office, it’s taught us to pay more attention to our co-workers’ preferred communication methods and if their schedules require adjusted hours.

Find your tribe. As a working mother with a demanding job and two young children, I am certainly no stranger to asking for help when needed. However, more than ever before I strongly recommend finding support as it is a near impossible feat to be productive and efficiently work from home, if you are also taking care of your kids. I believe it is a personal choice if you want to send your kids back to school now or not. If you decide to go the virtual learning route, having an extra pair of hands to help take care of them through the day, will help you maintain (some) semblance of sanity. There are so many different options: a nanny, babysitter, tutor, family member or friend. I know some families who even share a caretaker like a nanny.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

As a family, we decided to fully self-quarantine ourselves since mid-March. I still have groceries delivered. We no longer are taking trips or venturing out shopping, and we pressed pause on all of our kids’ activities like soccer, dance, etc. Here are a few things that have helped me to stay (somewhat) sane and serene:

Keeping active. Fortunately living in South Florida, we have great weather that encourages outdoor activities. My husband and I play tennis 2–3 times a week and we (mostly me) take our dog for walks around the neighborhood.

Having dedicated me time. It’s important to set aside meaningful and uninterrupted time to do what you want to do. That could be reading a booking, watching a movie, speaking with friends, coloring, journaling, etc.

Creating a weekly schedule (especially for the kids). Minus my meetings, our schedules pretty much went out the window once COVID-19 came into the picture. It’s important to create a schedule, especially for your kids. Whether that is TV time, meal times, outside activities, etc. Keeping busy is key and having a to-do list and putting things on a calendar has helped myself and my family.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Saying this is a difficult time for everyone is an understatement, but in challenging times, people rise to the occasion. Many governments are investing in research and vaccines to combat the virus and it will get back to a new ‘normal’ at some point. But during this experience, there is quite a bit to learn and it has presented opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Here are the positives I’ve seen come out of this crisis:

Bringing families together. Whether by choice or not, this extraordinary time is bringing families closer. Parents and kids being home 24/7, the ability to work virtually, having family members help out with younger kids while parents are working, couples without kids working together from home, etc. I strongly think that family relationships after COVID-19 will be stronger than before and people will want to spend more time together with their family. This is especially true for parents that used to travel frequently for business.

Working from anywhere. This crisis forced corporations to fast track a completely virtual setup, adjust their technology and identify more tools to support virtual work. This will enable more employees to be flexible with where they want to work. For example, over the summer one of my co-workers spent three months at her mother’s house in Serbia with her two children. She felt that she was even more productive than when she was in the States, as she had support during the day and could focus on work while her mom assisted with kids.

Enhanced hygienic standards. This pandemic is certainly making everyone think about hygiene and how simple tasks that we should have been doing like properly washing your hands for a longer duration of time, will now just become part of our normal routine. We are all now more conscious of the benefits of washing hands on a regular basis, coughing into your elbow and not coming into work if you are feeling ill. Hopefully, these newfound behaviors will help everyone to reduce the spread of other viruses like the flu and the common cold when we all get back to the office and return to our missed social scenarios.

Accelerating change in businesses. For better or for worse, during this time people have come up with creative ways to run their business remotely, and I strongly feel that this will provide new opportunities both short- and long-term. Take grocery shopping for instance. We are coming up with new ways for people to shop and pay for groceries via their smartphone without even stepping foot in the store — whether it’s through delivery or curbside. I have even seen wine tastings and cooking classes all done successfully and thoughtfully through digital means. At Modernizing Medicine, we certainly have demonstrated that we could take a 1,000+ employee business virtual, launching two telehealth solutions and still successfully attracting new clients, and onboarding and training them remotely.

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

I would be lying if I didn’t say this has certainly been and continues to be an anxiety-provoking experience. And probably one that most of us would rather not experience. I am certainly not a healthcare professional, but can speak from my experience as a career-driving and family-focused female leader, and I will share some advice based on what has worked for me:

Do not stay alone and talk about how you are actually feeling. It is important to be able to still socialize (safely) and do what you can to create a sense of normalcy in this high unnormal time. At work, we’ve had virtual happy hours where we talk about anything but work. I’ve had virtual lunches and even social distancing happy hours in backyards. I’ve also created multiple WhatsApp groups with my family in France, my college friends in France, my family in the U.S., and I’ve even reconnected with some people I had not spoken with for 10+ years. Everybody in the world is in the same situation and it is good to be able share feelings and experiences around it.

Go outside and exercise. Living in Florida, I am able to enjoy the outdoors for most of the year and taking a short walk outside to break up the day is key. I’ve personally enjoyed early morning walks where I can enjoy the wildlife, the beautiful sunsets and even ‘meet’ new neighbors while strolling around our community we have here. I’m not quite sure why it took a pandemic to get me out-and-about in my own community. I’m also very fortunate to be able to enjoy the beach from time to time.

Manage your work-life balance. Perhaps more important than ever before, to keep work time for work and personal time for yourself, family and friends. Now is a great time to find a hobby or start new activities. I have channeled my inner elementary school days and found it incredibly relaxing and distracting to color or paint with my 5-year-old daughter.

Add a furry friend to the family. Get a pet! Even though the responsibilities that come with our adorable puppy has fallen (mostly) on me to handle, there is nothing better than to have to take care of a pet to help reduce your anxiety. Personally, it has forced me to take breaks during the day which I really neglected before. Our whole family has come together and bonded with our newfound, furry family member.

Seek professional help if needed. These are uncharted waters we are in. And, as I mentioned, asking for support and help when you need it is important. And that extends to seeking both physical and mental help from a trusted healthcare professional. The ability to connect with a mental health professional is easier than ever, thanks to technology.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My life lesson quote comes from Colin Powell. He stated, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”

It’s so true. Nothing comes without hard work, and this is true for any profession. Just like a professional tennis player practices hours each and every day, when I was a management consultant I worked countless hours to help put me on my career trajectory. I put in the preparation and hard work and still do to this day.

It’s important to know that regardless of the effort and determination you expend working towards personal and professional goals, you will face failure at some point. When that time comes, it is important to pause, think through it, and walk away with what you can adjust to do better next time. It’s how you react and use those experiences, that make all the difference.

When I was a young college graduate, I was faced with the choice of working for two management consulting companies. I opted for the job that paid a mere 1,000 dollars more per year and had an amazing location and office space. It looked and sounded so good! Fast-forward three months later, and I was miserable and ended up quitting that job. I hadn’t asked the right questions about the culture of the office and what I would actually be doing. It certainly hurt my pride, but I called the other consulting company that had also offered me a job, and fortunately, I was able to make the transition. Through this slightly painful experience, I realized that the company culture and the content of my job needed to make me happy more days than not, and that holds true today.

Life is all about progression. You can’t expect to graduate and start with six figures and go on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation and build your dream home. Those are all rewards that you work toward and earn. In my eyes, nothing replaces true determination and hard work. If you have dreams, whether they are personal, professional or a combination of the two, it takes preparation and hard work to achieve them.

How can our readers follow you online?

I am not one for social media or oversharing. This piece was quite a challenge for me. It got me out of my comfort zone, and I hope it helps other working women and mothers feel that they are not alone. I would be happy to connect with readers on LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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