Ike Nnah of IntelyCare Stepped: “Empathetic”

A hero is selfless and is willing to put everything on the line for someone else or a cause they believe in. Parents that put the welfare and comfort of their children above all else are heroes. Healthcare workers are heroes because they put the well-being of their patients above theirs. Heroes are not looking […]

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A hero is selfless and is willing to put everything on the line for someone else or a cause they believe in. Parents that put the welfare and comfort of their children above all else are heroes. Healthcare workers are heroes because they put the well-being of their patients above theirs. Heroes are not looking for worldly praise but engage in selfless service to humanity.

As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ike Nnah.

Ike Nnah is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at IntelyCare. Born into a family and community of nurses and entrepreneurs — Ike, not surprisingly, built and helped start a platform that matches nurses and healthcare facilities to bridge the care gap in our most vulnerable communities. As CTO of IntelyCare, he has been working to transform an industry and increase patient care by building the largest nurse technology staffing platform. He was recognized recently on the SIA (Global Advisor of Staffing and Workforce Solutions) 40 under 40 list.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

I came from a humble background. My mom was a nurse, and she worked two jobs while taking care of five kids. My dad was a serial entrepreneur. He had some successes, but also many failures. It was tough growing up watching how much stress my parents were under as he worked to try to get his businesses off the ground. But I learned a great deal from him about what it took to start a business and, most notably, not be afraid of failure. I also learned from my mom how valuable nursing was as a career, to our family, and community. Watching how hard they worked at the things they’ve loved and the investments they made in our futures has helped me immensely in making my own startup successful.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One of my favorite books that I read after co-founding IntelyCare was “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” I heard a lot about this book. After procrastinating for years, I decided to take the plunge. I’m glad I did. It’s completely changed the way I think about startups.

The one thing that stood out to me was the concept of disruptive technologies and how companies use these technologies (and think outside the box) to change an industry fundamentally. The other eye-opening lesson for me as a CTO was how companies get so massive that they can’t capitalize on valuable breakthroughs within their organizations or predict the possible threats outside of their organizations.

It’s a valuable lesson — it helped me focus IntelyCare on a niche market that had unlimited potential that the big companies within our space had not been able to see or develop. I’m lucky to have David Coppins, our CEO, as a partner in the business. He subscribes to the philosophy of staying as lean as possible but also has the foresight to anticipate opportunities for rapid growth.

With this approach, we’ve been able to achieve 7000% growth over the past three years. I credit some of that to “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and a management team aligned to the same philosophy.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

In a speech Robert F. Kennedy gave at the University of Cape Town, he said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Reading that changed my life.

The fear of failure has so often paralyzed me. When this happens, I’m no longer as creative or open to potential as I can be. Everything shuts down. I’ve seen this fear in others I’ve worked with as well.

At IntelyCare, one of our core values is “Take Big Swings.” It speaks to the importance of not fearing risk, but thriving on it. To lean into this value takes a leap of faith and being okay with the prospect of making mistakes. Those mistakes are the stepping stones for success.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

Our executive team saw COVID-19 quickly spreading worldwide, and we promptly mobilized our team. We began to actively brainstorm how we could use our technology to create a smarter, safer experience for our nursing professionals and the patients they care for. During this period, IntelyCare launched a COVID-19 Best Practices Training and leveraged our mobile app and hub technology to train over 550,000 nursing professionals. IntelyCare also built a track and trace system within our hub to display where infections existed to provide greater transparency and alert our workforce and facilities when exposure occurred. This smart system has enabled more informed patient care to the communities that need it the most. IntelyCare has been featured in numerous news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, and BostInno for our breakthrough approach to addressing the crisis, especially during the pandemic.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

A hero is selfless and is willing to put everything on the line for someone else or a cause they believe in. Parents that put the welfare and comfort of their children above all else are heroes. Healthcare workers are heroes because they put the well-being of their patients above theirs. Heroes are not looking for worldly praise but engage in selfless service to humanity.

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.

A hero is…

  1. courageous
  2. empathetic
  3. willing to sacrifice
  4. tenacious
  5. humble

An excellent example of someone who represents all of the best qualities of a hero is my co-founder of IntelyCare, David Coppins. When we first started the business, there were tough times. There was a time when we didn’t think IntelyCare would survive. We had to take some drastic actions, including personally calling up our nursing professionals one-by-one to see if they could work a shift. One night there was a snowstorm, and there was a nurse who could not drive himself to the facility. David volunteered to drive him to his scheduled shift and got him there on time. When we’ve encountered challenging situations or had hard decisions to make with the business, I’ve always known that I could count on David to be the best leader to help do what is right for our community.

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

Sometimes it’s a calling that drives ordinary people to do extraordinary things; sometimes, it’s a life calling that makes them feel the burden or responsibility to engage in arduous work — something they were born to do.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

We decided to take action early in February when we saw how COVID-19 was impacting other countries across the world. It was clear that this disease was especially dangerous to the vulnerable communities in which we work. We also recognized that healthcare workers would be on the frontlines dealing with this mostly unknown danger. When we started pivoting our operations to meet this changing climate appropriately, our priority was always these folks’ well-being. It wasn’t just business for us. It was about finding a solution that would enable better care and keep people safe.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

With everything going on today, our healthcare workers have stepped up as heroes. They’ve always inspired me. I grew up in a family of healthcare workers, and it’s incredible seeing people like my mom, aunts, and uncles go into work every day and sacrifice their health for the service and well-being of others. During the pandemic, their sacrifice is all the more evident. Our nursing professionals are doing everything they can to ensure the most vulnerable communities have the care they need.

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

The aftermath. I think we are in the thick of things right now, but I am worried about what happens afterward. As a minority, I am concerned that minorities are disproportionately getting sick. Front-line workers have also lost so much during this pandemic. After everything is over, trying to put their lives back together will be just as stressful and difficult as everything else that’s going on.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain?

Despite all the craziness going on right now, we are a resilient country and people. Americans always find a way. An example of that is how my generation has experienced many obstacles over the last few years: from the Great Recession to the pandemic now. I do believe that with resilience and ingenuity, we will overcome the pandemic. The key is for us to work together to fix our most critical problems.

At IntelyCare, we have another core value, which is, “Together We Thrive.” We can only succeed as one team when we work together humbly to make what seems impossible, possible.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

People are sacrificing a lot right now, just to help their neighbors. The outpouring of love for each other is tremendous. I see that happening in my personal life, as I am part of a support and religious organization focused on being our neighbors’ keepers. And I see it at work, embodied in the healthcare workers we employ and the facilities we work with.

The country is extremely polarized right now, and it sometimes feels like we are not all fighting for the same purpose. We need to find a way to come together. I am most disappointed by how divided we are; it’s inhibiting us from fixing the things that make our communities and society weaker.

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

There is so much blatant hate out there; I’ve really had to reassess what it means to be kind and how to continue having hope for everyone in our communities, even if they have opinions that may contradict my own. I ask myself: How can I be more patient and be a better listener? How can I make an effort to understand people for who they are and their core needs? How can I help them even if we have differences in opinions?

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

Equality. We live in a society filled with inequality, and we need to do more to give people a fighting chance. I’m hoping that with the pandemic, we can come together as a society and see how vulnerable people are, and we can be mindful of what people need and how we can help.

At IntelyCare, we’ve been working hard to ensure our platform gives our nursing professionals and our facility partners an equal playing field — to provide the best part-time jobs and the best and most qualified nursing professionals. It’s a difficult undertaking because we are continually listening to the changing needs of testing, regulation, and the shifting needs of our community.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

The future depends on them. It’s time for them to take action, and I believe that when people are given the power to make a change, they will.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

Education. I don’t mean just going to school and getting a degree. There’s significant value in that. We need to keep encouraging and pursuing education for everyone. Still, the reality is that not everyone will be able to afford traditional education. But we do need a democratization of knowledge. We need to ensure that everyone has access to the internet and education at their disposal.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Elon Musk has changed the world, and the way he thinks about things inspires me; he thinks about change differently and isn’t afraid of audacious goals. He’s revolutionizing the way we think about clean energy, electric mobility, and trying to take us to space in more efficient and safer ways. I also admire his push to bring wireless internet to other parts of the world. If he was to make just one of those changes happen, he would change the world, but he’s ambitious enough to take them all on.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on LinkedIn here https://www.linkedin.com/in/ike-nnah/ where I’m active with our employees, community of nursing professionals, and facility partners.

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