‘There’s Always Innovation and Opportunities to Learn’: Insider Advice on Growing a Tech Career

Sponsored by UnitedHealth Group

Patricia Jordan. Photo courtesy of UnitedHealth Group (UHG).

Patricia Jordan. Photo courtesy of UnitedHealth Group (UHG).

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May 28, 2024 at 2:56PM UTC

Ever since she was a child, Patricia Jordan has had an interest in tech. “I always liked computers and remember programming in DOS in my pre-teen years,” she recalls. This passion led her to minor in computer science and mathematics in college — which would end up defining her future career. “Even though my plan was to work for an international organization,” Jordan says, “I got a job as a programmer to help pay for my master’s degree. I liked the job and the pay, so I stuck with IT.”

Within this field, Jordan eventually pivoted from programming to database administration. This switch led her to a position at Advisory Board, where she managed a team of database and Informatica administrators. Then, in 2017, the Advisory Board was acquired by Optum, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group (UHG).

This turned out to be a fantastic opportunity for Jordan. At Optum, “I have been given many opportunities to network with other women in tech, as well as participate in cohorts that help prepare me for various opportunities in leadership and management,” Jordan tells us. 

Today, Jordan is the VP of Enabling Processes and Technologies at Optum. In this role, “I am accountable for the delivery of a net new analytics platform, so I get to facilitate the resolution of new problems every day,” explains Jordan. “I am also responsible for many initiatives across an entire portfolio, so I get to influence behaviors to meet operational needs. What I enjoy most is that I can’t predict what each day looks like. I also get to work with people from different parts of the organization, which gives me a wider view of the strategies in progress for making healthcare better for everyone.”

Here, Jordan took the time out of her busy schedule to share the best advice she’s learned during her tech career…

Let’s start by discussing the tech field. What is it like being a woman in tech? Do you believe it is harder for women to make it in the technology field?

It’s getting easier to be a woman in tech, but I still don’t have a lot of peers, especially at my level. Most of the women in tech are in product management or technical operations, but not in engineering. Most jobs are obtained via networking, so it’s definitely harder for women to get in via that mechanism because there are not a lot of us in hiring positions.

Could you share the most rewarding and challenging aspects of being in tech? And how do you overcome these challenges?

I really like the pace at which technology changes. You can’t be complacent with your skillset, as there’s always innovation and opportunities to learn about new features of existing software, or new software altogether.

When growing your career in tech, was there anything that surprised you?

It had not occurred to me that in order to be better in tech, I would also need to understand the business. Understanding the challenges our end-users face as well as the company’s strategy has helped me be more proactive.

Next, for women who are hoping to enter the tech field, what are the top three qualities that you think they should have?

  1. They should always be curious about learning new things

  2. They should also be confident in what they know and use it as a starting point for new challenges and opportunities. 

  3. Lastly, they have to be ready to advocate for themselves and find someone who can also advocate for them.

As a VP, could you tell us your best advice for managing others? How do you ensure that your direct reports feel supported and empowered?

Make sure you treat every person as an individual with different needs and motivations. Not everyone likes to be challenged the same way or rewarded with the same methods. Once you understand what each one of your direct reports wants in their career, make sure to advocate for them, even if that means you’re managing them out of your team.

Finally, what’s your No.1 piece of advice for women who are looking to make a career in tech?

Take advantage of every opportunity you’re given. You’ve earned the right to be in every team and meeting that you are part of, so actively contribute and claim your contributions. Do not consider that as showing off or being brash. You’d only be acknowledging the hard work you have put in.

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