Build from experience — related to my earlier story about feeling inadequate in the classroom as a newly practicing pharmacist, I had that sense of “impostor syndrome” that has recently been named in more popular culture. Once I had an opportunity to experience what it meant to practice with a degree and a license, it allowed me to provide a more meaningful experience to my students.
As a part of my interview series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator”, I had the pleasure to interview Jonathan Ogurchak.
He is the CEO and Co-Founder of STACK, a curated software platform designed to help organizations drive compliance with deliverables, particularly in the healthcare sector. As a pharmacist and educator, he teaches at multiple universities on both clinical and operational areas surrounding specialty pharmacy and serves as an educational consultant for a variety of stakeholders. His expertise helped to grow and own specialty pharmacies and now he’s poised to upset the healthcare industry with some innovative solutions that align many of the disjointed facets of patient care.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory”behind what brought you to this particular career path?
I started my career in higher education — entering into a Teaching & Research Fellowship right after I graduated from pharmacy school. Quickly, though, I started to experience this feeling of inadequacy — not having appropriate experience to translate to students in the classroom with JUST being a new graduate. I left the fellowship program, even though I loved teaching, and started my career as a practicing pharmacist in the specialty industry. I served in management roles with some of the largest corporate and privately-held specialty pharmacies before deciding to sell my owner’s equity to start my own technology firm. Today, we’ve built STACK to meet the needs of pharmacies (specialty, community, and otherwise) that struggle to manage their day-to-day processes and tackling all of the complexities associated with staying on top of compliance through software. We’ve expanded our scope to recently include membership and educational management offerings for professional associations, higher education institutions and other groups, all based on this shared ecosystem that we’ve built with STACK.
At the same time, I missed the teaching aspect from the fellowship, so as soon as I was able, I began to setup experiential programs within my pharmacies, so that students could attend and learn from us first hand. I also began developing curriculum for masters and doctoral programs, as well as teaching for others across the industry at conferences and within organizations. I consult for national associations as well when it comes to educational programing — hopefully building a stronger foundation for knowledge across very specific areas. I love being able to share my experience and research with others to help the industry grow as a whole.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your teaching career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t know if I have one story in particular; however, it’s fascinating to me how there’s an innate desire for people to WANT to learn, no matter their background. As educators, we play a formative role in helping to shape that desire, and I’ve always felt that the ability to bring real-life scenarios into conversation in a learning setting will help others to grow — from both their own connection and the ability to connect the dots with other’s experiences as well.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Right now, I’ve been working on a textbook to help streamline and organize all of the research that I’ve been not only completing but also integrating into my classes that I teach. There’s nothing currently out there to showcase this body of work, and I’m excited to be able to contribute to that. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to say “well, I wrote the book on that..” when you’re looking to prove thought leadership in an area.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?
My experience has been primarily in the higher education sector, and there are pros and cons to any sort of degree program in that space. However, there tends to be a misnomer nowadays that obtaining a degree equates to both job placement and financial stability. Certain degrees lend themselves to that notion, but not all. The level of debt associated with the higher education sector continues to place a burden on the entire ecosystem, and students and graduates alike could benefit from some areas of reform.
Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?
Not sure that I can name 5 specifically, but again focused on the higher education sector, I can name several areas that have been positives: namely, degree-granting institutions have taken huge strides in recognizing their role post-graduation, and not just during the formative component of the educational process. Alumni associations, career centers, and networking arms of higher education have exploded in recent years in response to the need to position graduates for success once a degree has been earned. This more holistic approach to education helps to build a more well-rounded experience for learners, both in and out of the classroom. Alumni engagement has largely shifted from fundraising to networking, knowing that once value is attained and student loan debt is paid off, contributions can come. You’re also seeing a need for innovation at all levels of education — going through my K-12 curriculum, there was never such a focus on STEM-type programs, and that focus helps to open eyes to opportunities that wouldn’t have been known for career opportunities when I was in that system forever ago.
Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?
Don’t know that I can name 5 specifically again, but back to the higher education sector, it’s understood that there’s a necessary cost associated with furthering your education. If you look at the impact that places on graduates when they enter the workforce, however, it places a higher level of financial instability on graduates for an unforeseen timeframe once they are able to earn a living from their degree. That has a negative effect on the economy — when you can’t invest in a home, car, or other purchase because you have the obligation of paying towards student loan debt for many years to come. Until this disparity is addressed, the full value of higher education won’t likely be realized since there is an affiliation with such a burdensome stigma.
Super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator?” Please share a story or example for each.
- Build from experience — related to my earlier story about feeling inadequate in the classroom as a newly practicing pharmacist, I had that sense of “impostor syndrome” that has recently been named in more popular culture. Once I had an opportunity to experience what it meant to practice with a degree and a license, it allowed me to provide a more meaningful experience to my students.
- Be Humble — depending on your curricular area, you always have more that you can learn, and learn from places you might not anticipate. Being open to the knowledge that you don’t know it all and being able to learn from others experiences helps you to frame your expertise in a much more appropriate light. However,
- Don’t shy away from your expertise — my dad used to share the quote with me “sometimes if you don’t toot your own horn, no one will ever hear the music.” With that in mind, as an educator, you’re expected to bring your prowess as a subject matter expert into the classroom to impart on your students. If you don’t find ways to humbly showcase that expertise, you may not have as impact on your students.
- Find ways to connect with your students — building relationships and finding common ties with your students empowers you to not only find ways for them to learn, understand, and retain your content, but also be able to bring your content to life. There’s plenty of writings out there to discuss different learning styles so I won’t rehash that, but building that connection allows for you to identify the best way to help your students to learn.
- Balance — I’ve talked with a number of educators who struggle with the concept of balance when it comes to assessment, particularly in disciplines that lend themselves to more subjectivity. You need to be able to balance all of the areas discussed above: your experience, your humility, your relationships — and still find a way to fairly and appropriately assess provide feedback to students so that they can grow.
As you know, teachers play such a huge role in shaping young lives. What would you suggest needs to be done to attract top talent to the education field?
From what I’ve seen, particularly in the pharmacy education space — there’s a huge need to learn from that experience component, and like my younger self, pharmacists tend to undervalue the impact they can have on forming others across the profession. Serving in an educator-type role may be an afterthought for some when the day-to-day of their job consumes their regular thought process; however, many others before have volunteered their time, talent, and training to help you to grow into the practitioner you’ve become. Why not share some of that knowledge with others to help them to grow as well?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I am the one thing in life I can control” — Aaron Burr, Hamilton. You aren’t able to always control the messaging that circles around your experience. However, if you live your life with integrity, your reputation will speak for itself. Once you lose your integrity, you lose yourself and your ability to maintain meaningful relationships. I’ve found that putting my integrity first, and controlling myself, has always won out and helped me to grow both professionally and personally.
We are blessed that 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, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
My dad was an educator until he retired — started teaching math, then served as a principal, then eventually earned his EdD and was a superintendent for a K-12 district (he, unfortunately, passed away in 2017 before I really began to dive deeper into the educator portion of my career). Related to education, I’d want nothing more than to have one more drink with him to talk about his experiences. I recently was given a copy of his dissertation and have started reading and learning from that and didn’t fully have the time to appreciate his career while he was still here with us. It’s that sharing of expertise, finding commonalities in situations, that would be an incredible opportunity for me.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Personal LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanogurchak
Company LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/managewithstack
Company Facebook: www.facebook.com/managewithstack
Company Twitter: @managewithstack
Company Instagram: www.instagram.com/managewithstack
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!