Living Like a Leader: A day with of U of Rochester's Associate CIO Robert Evangelista

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"The most rewarding part of the day is when I am heading home, and I know things are working as designed. It's knowing that the people and staff are in a good place and I'm leaving the university and medical center in a better place than where we started."

 With balancing clinical objectives, financial concerns and complex data systems, there don't seem to be enough hours in the day for healthcare technology executives to address the diverse set of organizational goals they are tasked with accomplishing.

However, leaders succeed despite these challenges. And they each have their own habits, hacks, styles and methods to do so.

Since joining the University of Rochester (N.Y.) 22 years ago, Robert Evangelista has served as a technician, engineer, manager and assistant director in networking and communications. He now serves as the associate CIO for core technology services at the university, where he oversees the communication and technology systems across academia, research and clinical service lines.

Mr. Evangelista is tasked with managing the voice systems and communication systems within University of Rochester Medical Center. In addition, his team has oversight of the internet access, IT contracts and four different carrier services used across the medical center.

Mr. Evangelista manages a team of 75 to 80 employees, which includes a network team, voice engineering team, collaboration team, contract management office and tech store.

Here, Mr. Evangelista talks with Becker's Hospital Review for our "Living like a leader" series, which examines influential decision-makers' daily routines to offer readers an idea of how they manage their energy, teams and time.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What's the first thing you do when you wake up?

Robert Evangelista: As much as I hate to admit it, the first thing I do is check my phone. I like to review emails and my calendar so I can start thinking about the day as I get ready to leave. Beyond that, I take care of my kids because my wife leaves very early in the morning. I have to make sure they have what they need to be successful for the day and ensure they are all set to get on the bus and make their way to school on time.  

Q: Do you complete any work before you get to the office? What about after work?

RE: In the mornings, I respond to pressing emails, texts and questions that popped up since I checked my phone the night before. We manage a 24/7 network operation center, so messages are coming in all throughout the night. A lot of times, text messages start up very early in the morning. They usually begin between 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. and keep coming into the late evening hours. 

I do a lot of work in the evenings, too, all the way up until I go to bed. There's not really a bunch of down time, unless I tell myself, that, "Hey, I'm going to something with my wife or a family event, where I'm not going to check my phone. I'm not going to interact with what I'll refer as my 'work life.'" I literally have to tell myself for the next hour, let's be respectful of the home life versus the work life. In addition, I try to detach from work when on vacations, but even that is difficult to do sometimes.

Q: How do most people on your team contact you outside of work hours?

RE: The majority of people use SMS or text messaging as primary means of communication now. It used to be that text messaging was just for high priority items and email was the main means of communication. Most people were okay with the timing of email, but that has changed. Most people these days want the immediacy of SMS. The culture used to be if you got a text message, you'd respond right away. Now, when I get a text, I sometimes won't look at it for 15-20 minutes because so many other things are going on. I have gotten numb to the number of messages coming in via text. It's a bit of an alert or communication fatigue.

Q: Is there anything that really makes your office set-up unique, with it being in the university?

RE: Probably not more so than any other leader in the institution, but I do have a few large monitors and a machine specifically to look at different alerts. Even though I have a team that updates me on any tech-related issues, I still have a machine that monitors some of the more important and critical services that the team is looking at. In addition, my office door is always open, except for when I am having one-on-one meetings. Besides that, it is an open-door policy, which I think has a lot of pros. I love that people feel they can come talk to me about everything, even if it isn't work related. I try to make it so employees don't have to follow the normal matrix management. They are welcome talk to me about something instead of telling their manager or the assistant director, who would then relay that information to me. I like that I can be accessible to every employee in this way.

Q: What is the first thing you like to do when you arrive at work?

RE: There's usually a lot of papers to sign from the admin, who gets there a little earlier than I do. She's usually there at 7:30 a.m. She prints out several documents for me and spreads them across my desk. This includes my calendar for the day and various papers that need signatures, like new contracts, addendums or travel plans. I try to get those things signed and off my desk so I can clear it, feel like I am ready to log into my machine and start my day in the office.

Q: What do you like to have done before lunch or taking a break?
RE: I usually work through lunch or my break responding to emails. I probably get pulled into six or seven one-hour meetings per day, and during those meetings I can't get to a lot of the emails that come in between 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. That said, what I like to do before lunch is really pick away at all the high-priority items so I can use my lunch hour to get through emails. I try to have my calendar set up where some of the more critical meetings happen in the morning, where I might be a little more alert with certain things. But, there's just so many meetings and priority items that need to get done throughout the day that it's often hard to get all heavy lifting done in the morning.

Q: How much time do you spend with your direct reports/team?

RE: They can come into my office whenever they like. But for the most part I don't see them daily. However, I have standing one-on-ones for an hour every week with the assistant directors and bi-weekly meetings with the managers. Most of my team members are in the same building, but I have two managers who are not in the same geographic location. I try to call or chat with those off-site managers on a weekly basis.

Q: Can you describe how you think your routine is different from other technology executives?

RE: Since the services I support are across academia, research and clinical lines, something that's a little different for me is that I must manage the priorities of the services within those different areas. For example, any issue involving patient care or clinical services is always a top priority over a research or academic issue if they're happening at the same time. So, I have to weigh a lot of those issues daily. Additionally, there are very different styles of management between research, clinical and academia, and you have to change not only how you interact with people but also how you think about different solutions.  

Q: What's the last thing you do before you leave the office?

RE: I usually walk around the large areas where my folks are sitting and just see what's going on. I don't necessarily stop in every cube, but I do walk around to see if things are okay, what people are doing, how people are doing. I also make sure to check in with my admin to ensure everything is set with her and nothing needs my immediate attention. Then, I begin to start thinking about what I am doing for the evening. I'm married with young kids. When I leave my office and start walking out, I begin to mentally shift gears into that aspect of my life. Even though I think about my family throughout the day, I begin literally thinking, "OK, who is at practice? Are we traveling for a tournament? What does my evening look like?" For me it's literally two lives, my work life and my home life, which require two different modes.

Q: What is the hardest part of your day?

RE: It depends on the day, and whether there are a lot of operational issues or "fires" going on. So, if there are things breaking or major services not working as intended, dealing with those issues is the most challenging. But if we're in a mode where operational excellence is achieved and everything is working, I would say working on strategy, technology shifts and making sure all the priority projects in the pipeline are taken care of — those are the most challenging aspects. In addition, I'd say always making sure the team is providing the most value, for the contract we have with the institution, is challenging but rewarding.

Q: Speaking of rewarding, what is the most rewarding part of your day?

RE: The most rewarding part of the day is when I am heading home, and I know things are working as designed. It's knowing that the people and staff are in a good place and I'm leaving the university and medical center in a better place than where we started. Not just on a day-to-day basis, but also knowing I am always striving to provide top-notch service to the university throughout my career. That's rewarding.

Q: How do you unwind?

RE: I'm lucky because I don't need to do much to unwind. Typically, I'm unwinding by doing some type of physical activity, whether it's walking on a treadmill, walking outside or doing something in my garage. I also do a lot of unwinding with my kids. Just watching them succeed in sports or other activities helps me relax. My unwinding is detaching from that work life. I don't go hit a bag or need a heavy amount of training. I just need to shut my brain down from the work aspect for a bit.

 

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