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The latest subject in our series, "How I Landed My New CIO Job," is Edwina Payne, who joined Halyard Health, a medical device company, as CIO in January 2017.

Heller Search: What was going on for you career-wise before you joined Halyard Health?

Edwina Payne, CIO, Halyard HealthEdwina Payne: I had left Zimmer Biomet in February of 2016 to take a CIO role at Sealed Air in Charlotte, NC. It sounded like a great opportunity, but after three months there I realized that it wasn’t the right fit for me. It is a terrific company, but it wasn’t the right place for me from a culture and industry perspective. I missed medical devices, so I spoke with my boss and told her I felt she needed to look for someone else.

What did you do next?

I took the summer off, and I did some career soul searching. I wanted to make sure I learned something from that experience. There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake, but I certainly wanted to avoid making the same mistake again.

It really was a time to be introspective, which, given how busy life is at times, is difficult to do. What is going to make me happy? What is important to me in a new role…and what can I live without? How can I have an impact in my new role?  We all want to make a difference – what were those things I could bring to the table in a new company and make an impact?

Did you find any answers?

Yes! Looking back, there were four big ones:

First, I realized that I love the life sciences and the medical device industry. I love being able to connect what I do every day with improving peoples’ lives when they are most in need, the most vulnerable. I missed that when I left the industry.

The second realization had to do with company size—did I want a big company role, or a smaller one? I have worked in some very large companies during my career, including Johnson & Johnson, and Kellogg’s, and led large IT organizations, but at this stage in my career I decided I wanted to work in a smaller company (Halyard is a $1.6 B company).  I thought that my 30 years of experience with business and IT transformation could have a bigger impact at a smaller company. You don’t have the huge budgets and teams, but the pace of change and the ability to see results is faster.

Third, in my next role I needed to be a member of the senior leadership team. If IT doesn’t have a seat at the table, you can end up being roadkill. We’ve all been there… I wanted a role where IT was an equal member of the leadership team, driving business strategy and owning the outcome.

And lastly, while not a deal breaker, I wanted to leave the snow behind.  I like to ski…but after 20 years living up North I was ready to move somewhere South.

How did you apply these to your job search?

When talking to people about the position I was seeking, these parameters were invaluable. And I talked to a lot of people. It allowed me to be specific with them about what I wanted. When you are networking or talking to executive recruiters, they want to know specifically what you are looking for. Telling them that you are looking for ‘a CIO job’ is not enough. Having clearly in mind what you are looking for in your next role makes it easier for people to help you. And people really do want to help.

You need to have a good network out there. It helps you tremendously when you are thinking about making a career change. To me, it was invaluable. I spoke to the friends I have made over the years at SAP, Deloitte, E&Y and PwC and picked their brains about what they were seeing out in the market, since they work with so many companies across the industry. Their insights helped me as I crystalized what was important to me and what I was looking for. I had never worked for a smaller organization…but they had. They could share the positives and the negatives.

How did you hear about the CIO opportunity at Halyard?

Through my network, in fact. A couple months after talking to my contacts at SAP and Deloitte, they both heard about the available role at Halyard. My future boss received my resume with strong recommendations from two different organizations.

What piqued your interest in the position?

It checked all four of the boxes that I mentioned – medical device industry, smaller company relative to my past employers, a seat at the table, and a location in the South. In addition to those, I could see that Halyard was looking for a transformation in IT. Reading through their investor decks and listening to quarterly earnings calls, I heard the leaders saying that they needed to transform IT.

What about your professional background was most attractive to Halyard?

My medical device experience, and my global IT experience, for sure. But they were determined to find someone who could be a true business partner – not someone who could only weigh in on IT and couldn’t relate to the business process challenges. I could speak their language and translate what IT does and how it impacts them from a business perspective. That was key for them. 

How did you prepare for your interviews?

Like most people do, I took the time to reflect back on my past positions, and what I learned and delivered in each role. That helped me map my strengths to what Halyard wanted so that I was able to say, “Here is what I believe Halyard needs, here is the experience I have with that, and this is what I can bring to the team.”

I also made a list of the questions I had for them. These were things I wanted to hear from them to ensure that, if they were interested in me, that I would be interested in them as well. “What is it that you are looking for in your next CIO?” “What skills and experiences are most important to you?”

What were their answers to those questions?

They wanted a business partner, not just someone to run IT; a true partner at the table with IT expertise who can help them make good business decisions. They were also looking for a transformational leader – someone who could paint a vision of what IT should be, and a clear path to make it happen.

Was there a particularly memorable question or exchange that took place during your interviews?

We had a great conversation around IT costs. I was asked, “How do you talk about your IT budget?” It wasn’t something I had prepared for in advance of the interview, but it was a great question. As IT leaders we are asked to defend our budget on a regular basis, especially when business leaders are looking at their IT allocation!   

What I said is that IT organizations essentially do two things: we implement and support applications, and we support users. I prefer to look at an IT budget from an activity-based costing perspective – what does it cost me to support an application?  What does it cost to support an employee or contractor?  The TCO associated with adding a new application into your IT portfolio or hiring 50 new sales reps tends to get lost when you are viewing an IT budget purely from a “natural spend” perspective. But when you can say “it costs X dollars to support SFDC, and Y dollars to support a user…so which one are you willing to cut out or reduce to drive down IT cost?” it is a different conversation. This transparency is key – because now we can have a conversation around business value.  

How did you prepare to start your new role?

I turned attention to my team first. I met with the HR business partner for IT before I started, to learn about the IT leadership team. I wanted to become familiar with their names and roles before day one. I also wanted to understand the near-term business challenges, and whether there was anything on fire that would have to be addressed immediately from their perspective. During the interview process I learned what the leadership team expected…but I wanted to hear from my IT team what was going on from their perspective, and what their challenges were. 

I held one-on-one calls with my leadership team before I started. That way, we had connected already, before day one, and it made it easier to hit the ground running.

Was anything, in fact, on fire?

While it didn’t come up in my initial phone calls, it became clear that the relationship with our managed services provider needed work. Nothing was wrong with the company, but our relationship wasn’t working. The costs weren’t appropriate for the services we were receiving…so we worked together to change that. I’m happy to say we are in a much better place today, and the relationship is much stronger.

Who do you report to?

The CFO

There is a lot written on whether CIOs should report to CFOs or CEOs. Care to comment?

In this case, it is going well. Honestly, the CFOs know where all the money is! I don’t see a down side to it so long as it is a true reporting relationship, rather than a filter.

What steps did you take to learn the business and build relationships?

For the first 30 days it seemed like all I did was one-on-one meetings. I held them with all of my peers on the leadership team and also with their direct reports. I had a list of questions for them: What’s working? What do you need more of? How do you want the relationship with me to work? It helped me learn a lot about how IT was supporting them, and how we could be more effective. I also had small group meetings with my entire team – I wanted to get to know them and let them get to know me as well.

I also spent time visiting our manufacturing facilities to see the shop floor and what sort of impact we could make there. I love supply chain and manufacturing – it is the heart of what we do.

It has been almost a year since you started your role. What have you been working on, and what has gotten done so far?

It has been an exciting time! Not too long after joining, I learned Halyard was contemplating a divestiture of our Surgical and Infection Prevention business. We’ve recently announced the sale to Owens & Minor, enabling us to focus on our medical device business (press release). We have been very busy planning for this significant transaction, and for the transformation of IT to support the company we will be after the sale. In fact, I will be making my recommendation to our Board very soon on our path forward from an IT perspective.

What does digital transformation mean at Halyard?

Digital transformation has two meanings for Halyard.  First is that “bread and butter transformation” from our legacy systems – those which we inherited when we spun off from Kimberly-Clark three years ago. While stable, they were designed for a large consumer packaged goods company – not a growing medical devices company. We need to ensure that, as we move forward, our IT applications meet our business needs.

The second definition is definitely the patient engagement space. We currently sell our products to hospitals and distributors, but we have started to get more connected to patients, who are the actual consumers of our products. We recently launched a new patient engagement software application that IT and R&D jointly collaborated on. It is called ON-Q*TRAC. It is a pain tracking application enabling surgeons to track patient progress and recovery following outpatient surgery. Using the application doctors can monitor patient pain levels, receive alerts, and send customized messages to patients. Doctors can also perform analytics on the data collected which, over time, will improve patient outcomes. This is a new revenue stream for Halyard which IT had a huge part in creating. Exciting times for the IT team!

How do you know when your IT organization is succeeding?

There are the usual metrics – how quickly you respond to and close support tickets, meeting application availability service levels, managing your IT budget effectively — those are the obvious ones. But when people seek you out, when they see IT as an enabler instead of an obstacle, then we are succeeding. Are we seen as a real partner? Are we able to engage with our business partners and articulate our value to them in business terms? When we say ‘no’ to something, do people understand why, even if they don’t like the answer? If so, my organization is succeeding.

If you were granted a ‘redo’ on your first 100 days, what would you do differently?

Spend more time with my IT organization. I don’t think you can ever spend enough time with your team. I still haven’t made it to our Asia-Pac locations yet. It is a constant juggling act - spending time with my business partners and being visible to my team. 

What is your favorite place to travel on business?

Definitely Europe. I speak several languages so I love it there.

What new consumer technology do you personally find exciting ?

Two things: Alexa (Amazon Echo) and Sonos wireless speakers.  I love music. It’s a passion of mine. All I have to do is ask Alexa to play a particular artist…and it’s like magic.

What advice do you have for an IT executive thinking about entering the job market?

Be realistic about how long it is going to take to find the next great job that meets all your criteria. While there are always CIO jobs out there, it takes time to find the right one. Invest the time to find the right one for you!

About Edwina Payne

Edwina Payne is Vice President and Chief Information Officer of Halyard Health Inc. (NYSE: HYH), a medical technology company focused on eliminating pain, speeding recovery and preventing infection. Previously, Payne served as Vice President and Chief Information Officer for medical device manufacturer Zimmer Biomet. She began her corporate career at Kellogg Company, and also worked at Johnson & Johnson’s medical device unit from 1999 to 2010. Payne earned a bachelor’s degree in computer technology from Purdue University. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

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