“Success is knowing what your biggest priorities are and using them as your beacon for how you manage your day” with Mandy Long and Chaya Weiner

I think that success is knowing what your biggest priorities are and using them as your beacon for how you manage your day. Don’t let the things that aren’t important to you take your time or energy. It’s so easy to let that happen. You have to come back to what matters in order to […]

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I think that success is knowing what your biggest priorities are and using them as your beacon for how you manage your day. Don’t let the things that aren’t important to you take your time or energy. It’s so easy to let that happen. You have to come back to what matters in order to help you decide where to go next. If you do that more often than you don’t, you’ll be successful.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mandy Long, Global Head of Product Management for Watson Health Imaging and Founder/CEO of The Lumos, Co. A Chicago native and mother of four, Mandy has spent her career in healthcare technology. She currently is the Global Head of Product Management for Watson Health Imaging and Founder/CEO of The Lumos Co. Previously she was Vice President of Product Management at Modernizing Medicine and Vice President of Product Management at Experian Health. Prior to Experian Health, Mandy held a number of senior leadership positions at Epic. She was recognized as one of the Most Powerful Women in Health IT by Health Data Management and received a 40 Under 40 award from South Florida Business Journal.

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I was born and raised in Chicago, IL. I am the oldest of three children, and was an Olympic Trials qualifying swimmer while I was growing up. I have always been competitive and grew up in a family where that was embraced. Whether it was sports or school, the bar was set high. I think there were pros and cons to this when I look back now, but it taught me self-discipline and that if I was going to be successful it was going to be because I worked hard and showed up.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I am a risk taker. When I look back at how I got here, a very large part of it was because of hard work, but another large part was because I took some major risks. I was going to be an investment banker, but I got an interview request from a random company in Verona, Wisconsin (Epic) that had a cryptic website and decided to see what it was all about. I met the love of my life and decided to quit my job and move with him to North Carolina without another job lined up. I was able to convince the CEO of an extraordinary company to hire me without a title or team to grow his business (Passport), and I then quit that job after having my first child because I decided that I couldn’t be a road warrior anymore. I then convinced the CEO of a different company to hire me into a role that didn’t exist previously (Modernizing Medicine) and ended up running the entire product portfolio. I have a pattern of finding the sweet spot — organizations that need strategic help and a leader to help drive culture, change, and value. I’ve done it again at IBM Watson Health when I was recruited to lead their AI portfolio and then was promoted to take over the global business for Watson Health Imaging. I’ve been able to lean in to my leadership skills, my knack for product and execution, my ability to learn on the fly, and my obsession with the culture of how you do business. It’s what has gotten me where I am today.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

I’m still in that incredibly challenging phase with a young child who breastfeeds and co-sleeps (my youngest just turned 1), so I wish that I could say that I was really knocking it out of the park on eight hours of sleep. I’m not. That being said, I do go to bed early and try to get as much sleep as I can (even if it’s broken). When I’m not traveling, I’m typically up for the day between 5:15–5:30 am and gather the rest of my children as they wake around 6:00 am (I have identical twin 3-year-old boys and a 5-year-old girl). I like to see everyone in the morning when I can and then I leave for the day around 6:30 am. My day is a mix of meetings, built in time for whatever my top priorities are, as well as balancing pumping. I try to be at home every night that I’m not traveling for dinner and bedtime and would say that I’m successful 75% of the time. This is really important to me — it’s how I stay connected to my kids and what is happening in their lives. I set a boundary of 5:30–7:00 pm as family time every day that I can. After bedtime I do some catch up and then head to bed.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

One of the things that really hit me personally on this was a gift I got from my kids on Mother’s Day. Each of my children filled out a sheet that talked about me as their mom, and every single one of them talked about how I was good at work and my phone. Actually, my oldest used the exact phrase “making money” as what I was good at. This was hard for me to hear, because it can be heartbreaking to see proof that you aren’t prioritizing your children as a mother at every moment of every day. But what stood out to me, was that they all listed me spending time with them as their favorite thing to do with me. In my experience, it’s not always about the big activity or gift, it’s the fact that when you’re sitting across from them, you’re present. That’s how they know that you are in the boat and genuinely care about what is happening in their lives. It’s how they feel confident taking their own risks and being their own person. Watch them do cartwheels and pretend to be a robot — that’s the stuff that matters.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

My children are my greatest achievement. They are why I work in health tech and why I get up in the morning to work hard to create the life that we have. When I spend too much time away from them, I don’t feel like myself. It’s why I’ve changed careers in order to stay closer to them. I think that spending time with your children is not only beneficial for them, but it provides perspective for you. There is nothing more grounding than watching your child take their first steps, or celebrating a first visit from the tooth fairy. Life’s too short to spend it at work all day. My children help me remember that.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

I 100% agree with this. Dinner and bedtime are my consistent quality time with my children. We also spend most of our weekends together doing things as a family. I choose to co-sleep because it helps me feel closer to my youngest, and I try to go to my oldest daughter’s school a couple of times every school year for lunch — it makes her feel special and helps me give her 1:1 attention. My boys get breakfast dates 1:1 sometimes as well.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

Ariana Huffington spoke at the IBM Watson Health Advantage Conference recently, and her talk really resonated with me. Since then I stopped keeping my phone close to me when I’m with my children, and I don’t sleep with it next to my bed anymore (I actually bought an alarm clock!). I think that in addition to removing the temptation, that deliberately slowing down makes all the difference in the world. I’m notorious for mumbling “ok, what’s my purpose” to myself when I’m trying to figure out what to do next, but a 10 minute break without my phone/laptop really helps me to ground myself and recognize that sometimes my purpose is painting everyone’s nails in the bathtub for an hour.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

Unconditional love is how I define a “good parent”. Parenting isn’t always pleasant, and sometimes you don’t like your children very much (#truth), but your child knowing that they are unconditionally loved is what makes them feel safe and what gives them confidence to take risks and be themselves.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I am so fortunate to have children who dream big, and it’s something that we embrace as a family. I think the best example that I have of this recently is with my oldest. She has started to show an interest in gymnastics, and we have talked openly about how working hard every day is what is going to make her a world-class athlete. She’s taken it to heart, and probably does 100 head stands and cartwheels in our kitchen every day. She also wears her leotard whenever it’s not in the wash. Who knows if in two years (or two months) she’ll still want to be that gymnast, but we’ll stand next to her encouraging her to push herself and achieve the goals she sets every time.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

I think that success is knowing what your biggest priorities are and using them as your beacon for how you manage your day. Don’t let the things that aren’t important to you take your time or energy. It’s so easy to let that happen. You have to come back to what matters in order to help you decide where to go next. If you do that more often than you don’t, you’ll be successful.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I think that so many people take parenting too seriously. I tend to lean in to the funny side of it all — things like #imomsohard and The Pump & Dump make me smile when I think about the reality of being a mother on a day-to-day basis. On the more serious side, the First Connections mothers’ groups that I have found after giving birth have gotten me through an incredible amount. I’ve struggled with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, and having a group of women who will listen and be there for me is everything. Our mom group now does a monthly “mom’s night out” and it’s something that I look forward to. It helps prop me up.

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

“Smile. Breathe. Listen.”

That’s a quote that I made up in my head, printed out and taped to my laptop one year after I graduated from undergrad and had received some of the toughest career feedback that I have gotten to-date. I made it into stickers, and have it pasted on my laptop and on several notebooks to this day. I’ve found it to be a very simple and effective mantra. Think of how much power lies in those three actions. They have the ability to change your perspective and the perspective of those around you.

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.

I’m deeply passionate about the impact that medical debt has on the lives of so many people in the United States. It’s the leading cause of bankruptcy and has a direct impact on health outcomes. What’s even worse is that a decent chunk of that medical debt is due to errors. I want to figure out a way to help people navigate the complex maze of medical billing without being consumed by it.

Thank you for all for these great insights!

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About the author:

Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.

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