Sally learned a lot about health care from her 18-year career in the industry and from her personal experiences coming from a family of physicians and entrepreneurs. She spent a successful career at Anthem, one of the nation's largest health insurance companies, building cost-effective and innovative products. An entrepreneur at heart, she also ran a long-term health care business and wore leadership hats at several health care start-ups. Like many moms out there, she is a savvy consumer who navigates the health care maze everyday, while managing the health affairs of her family including two young children. Because of her passion to make health insurance and health care simpler and more approachable through Wellthie's work, Sally was honored in January 2015 by Medical Marketing & Media as a Top Health Care Transformer. She is a graduate of New York University and received her MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in Health Care Management.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Health care and entrepreneurship have been a part of my life since childhood. I have been fortunate to have strong women role models - my grandmothers and mom - each of them leaders and connectors in their own way. In my career, I have found the greatest satisfaction from the creative processes of problem solving, building teams and building products. I've also been very passionate about solving for the complexity of the health care industry. In addition to being the "go to" person in my circle of family and friends to resolve health care issues, I've personally gone through two complicated pregnancies, leading to a mountain of insurance questions and paperwork, that inspired me to apply my expertise in health care to building new solutions that can simplify the convoluted process of choosing and then using your health plan.
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Wellthie?
I worked at one of the largest health plans in the country for eight years, building products and solutions. As the Affordable Care Act was passed, I realized the immense change that was required to transform the industry. I have an insider's appreciation for the challenges and opportunities of the industry. Taking that expertise, I've partnered up with a great team of technologists and designers to bring innovative technologies to engage consumers as they become retail purchasers of health care.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Wellthie?
As a two year old company, we're off to a strong start and experiencing fast growth in our products, customers and team. The roller coaster analogy of a start-up has rung true for us, where the challenges of fundraising and recruiting are balanced with the thrills of working with satisfied customers and launching enhancements to our products. We have a sign in our office that says "enjoy the process," because the highs and lows occur every day.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
6% of digital health companies have a woman at the helm. And yet, 80% of health care decisions are made by women. I wish that more women would decide to start companies and get the funding they need. I urge women to feel confident in their abilities, instincts and creativity to solve the many problems in health care - the very problems that we experience firsthand! Don't wait for the "perfect time or the perfect idea" to be an entrepreneur because the process is iterative and the most important step is to get started.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Resilience is a vital trait. We are faced with challenges, setbacks and rejection on a regular basis. I've learned that successful people are not necessarily the most brilliant or highly educated people, but those who didn't give up or lose their heads despite the onslaught of challenges.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is a work in progress for me. While I work long hours, I keep a flexible schedule for myself and my team, so that I can step out in the middle of the day to take the kids to the doctor or attend a school event. I think being a parent has helped prepare me for the juggling act required in being an entrepreneur, and vice versa. Being an entrepreneur - having courage, solving problems, creating new solutions - is the example I'd like to set for my two daughters, no matter what path they choose for themselves.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
It's unfortunate that there aren't enough role models for us to emulate. There are only 5% women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies; only 3% of companies who have gone public had a female CEO and only 6% digital companies who were funded in the last 4 years had a female CEO. We need more women in top leadership roles in both the start-up and corporate worlds.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I've sought mentors in every stage of my career, both men and women, to gain a broader and long-term perspective on my journey. It is also very gratifying for me to now share my experiences with students, younger professionals and other entrepreneurs.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
There are so many great female leaders to learn from. But the woman who has had the most impact on my career is my grandmother. She was orphaned at age 7, did not finish high school, and worked hard to save up enough money to start a successful business while also raising seven children.
What do you want Wellthie to accomplish in the next year?
In addition to keeping the momentum we have with new products and customers, I look forward to introducing new ways to help people make sense of their health insurance plan, take advantage of everything it has to offer to keep people staying healthy (rather than only use it when you are sick), and feel empowered by it.