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“Why it’s important to challenge traditional notions of what “success” looks like” With Candice Georgiadis & Shannon Burke

I think it’s important to challenge traditional notions of what “success” looks like, for example, dispelling the idea that recognition and money are linked to happiness. Being at the top isn’t easy, and it’s a tremendous obligation when you realize you are responsible for driving an organization that sustains the livelihoods of so many people. […]

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I think it’s important to challenge traditional notions of what “success” looks like, for example, dispelling the idea that recognition and money are linked to happiness. Being at the top isn’t easy, and it’s a tremendous obligation when you realize you are responsible for driving an organization that sustains the livelihoods of so many people. It’s a calling to want to be in that type of leadership position — it takes a particular drive and personality type.

I don’t believe it has to be “lonely at the top,” either. You have the power to change that. This applies to all executives, not just those working at the C-suite level. As you climb the ranks in your chosen field, focus on developing a network of support and people you can trust. Good executives build an entire community of partners throughout their careers.


As a part of my series about “Leadership Lessons I Learned As An Accomplished Female C-Suite Executive”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shannon Burke.

Shannon Burke is an industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry, particularly with technology startups, health insurance, pharmacy and managed care organizations. She joined CareCredit in December 2019 as Senior Vice President and General Manager, Health Systems. As the leader of the company’s Business Development and Strategy teams, she helps lead the development and implementation of strategic and tactical imperatives to expand CareCredit’s offerings to newly acquired and potential health system clients, practitioners and healthcare technology partners.

Prior to joining CareCredit, Shannon served as Vice President of Technology, Health Systems Sales & Customer Relations at Surescripts LLC, where she led the sales organization and managed customers and relationships with more than 300 of the nation’s top health systems and more than 100 major health technology vendors and channel distributors. She has also held leadership roles at companies such as MyHealth Bank and PacifiCare Health Systems.

Shannon earned her BS in Business Management from Cal State Polytech and earned her MBA from the University of Southern California. She reports to CareCredit CEO Beto Casellas.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s funny — at first, I couldn’t think of an example because I think we work hard to forget embarrassing missteps that happened earlier in our professional lives. But I do have a good one.

At the beginning of my career, I was working at an insurance company. I was working on large accounts, but I was the most junior person on the team. I had just joined the company and the team when we were in the process of pitching PepsiCo, and I begged to be able to join the meeting. While I wasn’t allowed to contribute to the meeting, my bosses finally relented and agreed to let me come in during the lunch break and listen to the conversation — with the understanding that I was not to eat any of the food.

On the day of the pitch, the entire PepsiCo executive team came to our office. Around lunchtime, as I was waiting for my opportunity to head in, I decided to grab a soda from the vending machine to bring with me. I opened the door and walked in slightly before the break when suddenly everyone froze and stared at me. Without thinking, I had just walked into a Pepsi pitch holding a can of Coca-Cola! Of course, I was immediately shooed out of the room.

At the time, I was mortified, but looking back, I realize it was a valuable lesson in self-awareness. I realized the impact that my actions can have — even small ones — and why it’s important to always show up with purpose. Even in the earliest stages, it’s essential to understand your ability to impact the business.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I was incredibly fortunate to find a great mentor in my first boss, Pat. I believe that I had a lot of unrefined talent at that time, but so much of it was still very raw. Pat was an athletic guy — a former football player — and he ended up being one of the best coaches I could have asked for. He identified me as a person who had potential, and he did a great job being patient and working with me to start honing the skills that I had.

You would never guess from his physical persona that Pat was an extreme introvert. I learned many important things about how to lead by watching how he would conduct himself in meetings full of people. He would never contradict or undermine one of his team members in public, opting instead for a behind-the-scenes coaching manner.

He also taught me one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in business: “Past performance indicates future performance.” When you’re evaluating people and are not sure how to make a decision, it’s best to look at what they’ve already shown you they can do.

Pat was very wise. He took me under his wing, and I didn’t understand how his impact would benefit me until later in my career. I don’t think I would have had the opportunities I’ve had without his guidance.

Unfortunately, I never had the chance to thank Pat. That’s why I always try to make an effort to thank leaders now. Good leadership can often be a very thankless job.

Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?

Cultural diversity drives success, delivering the best outcomes in the shortest time frames. It’s also the right, equitable thing to do. Still, if you want to look at it from a purely practical perspective, I believe that diversity truly drives the best opportunities to succeed in business.

Of course, it’s not always easy for people with different backgrounds and worldviews to come together — sometimes, the process will be more challenging. But the outcomes, in my opinion, are always better.

I believe that good leaders seek diversity and challenge themselves to think about it as broadly as possible — culturally, racially, and with regard to different lifestyles. While teams should be reflective of a range of genders and ethnicity, we should also be mindful of including various age groups and personality types. For example, introverts may have a lot to contribute to a project, but can quickly be silenced by a room full of extroverts without a leader who has the skills to make them feel seen and heard.

No company wants to recognize when they might be falling short in certain areas, but putting in the effort to achieve broad diversity is always worth it.

In just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

I think there are two factors — the first is clarity of vision. Good leaders have the skills to create a vision for people that gives them purpose on a higher level. They’re able to articulate this vision and use it to inspire people, often through storytelling and by creating a compelling narrative. Good leaders know how to tell a story about who we are, where we’re going and why it’s important. This makes other people want to be part of the journey.

The second factor is the ability to practice “service leadership.” I believe that a good executive understands they are here to serve as well as lead. This style is about empowering your team, helping your people develop and perform to the best of their abilities and focusing on achieving authority rather than power.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?

I think it’s important to challenge traditional notions of what “success” looks like, for example, dispelling the idea that recognition and money are linked to happiness. Being at the top isn’t easy, and it’s a tremendous obligation when you realize you are responsible for driving an organization that sustains the livelihoods of so many people. It’s a calling to want to be in that type of leadership position — it takes a particular drive and personality type.

I don’t believe it has to be “lonely at the top,” either. You have the power to change that. This applies to all executives, not just those working at the C-suite level. As you climb the ranks in your chosen field, focus on developing a network of support and people you can trust. Good executives build an entire community of partners throughout their careers.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

It’s the classic double-edged sword. Any woman in business can tell you about how men get praised for being assertive while women get criticized for being cranky and bossy — that’s the well-documented edge. But the edge we don’t talk about as much is that sometimes, women are given opportunities we may not feel ready for as part of the quest for diversity, and how much pressure there is for us to perform and be successful.

In my experience, people have taken risks and put me in positions that challenged me to rise to the role, sometimes developing my skill set in real time. There was a lot of pressure on me to do well because there were many people who thought I wouldn’t — that I couldn’t handle it or that I didn’t deserve it.

For me, that’s the other side of the conversation: the challenge of rising up to take on opportunities and how much is at stake.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

I’m an avid collector of words of wisdom, little things I’ve heard throughout my career that have stayed with me and stick in my mind. I can’t take the credit for these — I didn’t make them up — but I use them all the time and can share them with you.

“Tell the truth and tell it fast.” I love this quote because delivering bad news can be challenging. We always want to tell people what they want to hear, especially in business. But the quicker you get out there with the truth, the better off you will be. It gives you the ability to course correct that much faster. Even if people don’t like what you have to say, it will help you build trust and respect.

Past performance indicates future performance.” I mentioned this one earlier, but it bears repeating. In business, we deal with so many people we haven’t had the opportunity to know personally. If you need to make a decision about what someone is capable of, looking at their past performance is the closest thing you have to a crystal ball.

Practice an attitude of gratitude.” This one sounds simple, but there are days when it’s incredibly tough to focus on the positive and say, “I’m glad to be here.” Being able to say that out loud is important personally and professionally. If you can’t, you might need to make some changes.

Own it and fix it.” This is an excellent approach to problem-solving because it’s twofold. Identifying a mistake is the easy part and only half the battle. In business and life, fixing a problem is harder and a lot more valuable. It’s an investment that usually pays off.

Opinions are like bellybuttons; everyone’s got one.” This one is from my old boss. Throughout all business trainings and personal assessments, we’re encouraged to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. Feedback from others is valuable, but at some point, you realize that not every opinion you receive will be constructive. You have to learn to be discerning and listen to the feedback that will help you drive forward and create positive change.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to sit down with Judy Faulkner, the CEO and founder of the healthcare software company Epic Systems. I consider her the Frank Sinatra of healthcare; she did it her way, through sheer conviction and drive.

As a self-made woman who achieved unbridled success and accomplished it all without the technology we have today, I would love to hear her insights on some of the challenges we’re currently facing. The healthcare industry is navigating truly unprecedented changes amid this pandemic, including a rise in demand for new and improved technologies. Patient needs were already evolving, and now, there’s even more demand for convenient interactions with providers, touch-less care and payments, and financing options to help people who are facing challenges like unemployment. While it feels like there’s never been more at stake, it’s also an incredible time to add value and make a meaningful impact in people’s lives.

Having an opportunity to sit down with Judy and learn more about how she’s approached these critical moments in her career would be fascinating for me.

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