6 Lessons From 6 Years at PAA
Reflecting on my time at Providence Anesthesiology Associates
I just hit my 6 year anniversary at Providence Anesthesiology Associates.
Looking back on this time, I see clear lessons from each stage of my career here.
Stage 1: Choosing PAA
My undergraduate program had a lot of high achievers. I was surrounded by driven, smart classmates everyday. Many of them were receiving offers from consulting firms, graduate programs, etc. well before graduation.
I wasn’t so lucky… instead I spent the last few months of school freaking out about my lack of a job offer.
Finally, in the last weeks of the semester, I received an offer from Epic (large EHR company). It was a solid job at a solid company. Relief!
Then I received a call out of nowhere from a high school friend’s dad at PAA. He had an idea for an entry level role focusing on basic data collection and analysis. I would be a department of one. And I’d report to the physicians, not a traditional manager in the office. Sounded interesting but… risky.
I interviewed in the president’s living room and was asked how I’d improve upon PAA’s data collection and reporting, which was paper-based and rarely tallied in a centralized database. So, on the spot, I quickly built a rough “app” based on a Google form, an app icon on the iPhone home screen, and reporting based off the Google Sheet results.
This was a key moment for me. I had always loved to tinker with different web platforms, work with data, etc. But in this interview, I’d found a unique situation where my curiosity could be leveraged and fuel my creativity for problem solving.
Lesson: Don't always opt for the safe route. Look for high-upside opportunities.
Certainly, the PAA opportunity could have been a bust. However, the upside was undeniably higher than Epic’s. A similar level of “success” at either company would go much farther in the unstructured, merit-based environment at PAA.
I’m glad I made that bet.
Stage 2: New Kid
I joined PAA as a 22 year old and reported/collaborated with physician partners decades older than me. They had vastly more clinical knowledge, business acumen, and “real world” experience.
So what was I going to contribute?
They had the self-awareness to recognize a gap in their own knowledge and skillset. Working with data collection platforms, becoming Excel wizards, putting together reporting packets… that simply was not a good use of time for most physicians.
Lesson: Recognize your own limitations.
"A single arrow is easily broken; a bundle of ten is not" - Japanese Proverb
Could the physicians have solved their data collection and analytics needs without me? Of course! But at a cost of their already limited time and effort for non-clinical endeavors.
As a manager today, this is something I’m continually learning. I love to get in the weeds, learn new technical skills, tinker with data tools.. But my responsibilities have shifted. Now, it’s my job to focus on objectives and communicate them to my team.
Stage 3: Off to MBA
After two years at PAA, I headed off to Emory’s Goizueta Business School for the two year, full-time MBA program in Atlanta. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave PAA.
I had nagging thoughts: Was I challenging myself enough in my current role? Would I be ready for a management level role when the opportunity arrived? Did I want to work in healthcare?
Lesson: Put yourself in new situations and challenges to determine “match quality”. The earlier, the better.
I recently came across this term in Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by author David Epstein.
"Match quality is... the degree of fit between the work someone does and who they are - their abilities and proclivities.”
Pursuing my MBA allowed me to try out different skills, learn about other industries, experience other company cultures. In my case, it eventually affirmed the “match quality” I had at PAA.
Stage 4: Choosing PAA… Again
While at Emory, I worked at a few different companies - SunTrust, Anthem’s Digital Innovation Studio, and a non-profit health research team. These were incredibly valuable experiences, as I learned what did and didn’t work for me.
I really don’t like bureaucracy. It slows everything down, complicates things, and frequently creates power struggles between teams. No thanks!
I thrive in environments where creativity is king. I love to build things, whether it’s an automated process, a financial model, a slide deck…
Lesson: Trying new things → More self-awareness
I learned which strengths to double down on and the work environments to seek out.
Stage 5: What do you do here?
When I returned to PAA, the company had expanded the administrative team. Previously outsourced departments were brought in-house. New departments were created.
My new title - Manager of Strategic Initiatives - was quite… broad. Where I fit in at this new stage wasn’t totally clear Day 1.
As the resident “utility player” I found my way into a wide range of projects and interacted with nearly every corner of PAA. Clinical quality data, automation processes, data analytics, financial pro formas, managing our interventional pain clinic… Once I eventually ended up managing our Data Analytics team, this breadth put me in a better position to understand the data I was working with.
I wasn’t just responding to specific data requests - I could contribute my own insights.
Lesson: Generalists can “connect the dots”
Again, from Range:
“Breadth of training predicts breadth of transfer. That is, the more contexts in which something is learned, the more the learner creates abstract models, and the less they rely on any particular example. Learners become better at applying their knowledge to a situation they’ve never seen before, which is the essence of creativity.”
At a bigger company, in a different role, I could have doubled down on one type of assignment, such as building out pro formas. But then my pro forma work would not have benefited from my experience managing a pain clinic, generating medical billing productivity metrics, and more.
Stage 6: Director of Finance
For so long, I operated solo.
I generated ideas for projects, scoped them, worked through multiple iterations, implemented them, and maintained them. I personally worked the project from A to Z.
Eventually, I ended up just maintaining a lot of projects! That’s where I found myself when I started managing our Data Analytics department. With three awesome analysts on my team, the way I approached work had to change.
Lesson: Successfully managing a team means letting go of that day to day control.
"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together" - African Proverb
It hasn’t been an easy mental switch for me. My framework is shifting from “complete the project” to “achieve the objective”.
In the short term, that has lead to some delays or simple mistakes as projects are transitioned - it would be easier to just do it myself sometimes! But with a longer term perspective, those processes are getting more robust and impactful. And I’m freed up to organize our efforts towards larger objectives.
The next stage at PAA is shaping up to be all about SCALING. We're growing consistently every year and need teams, processes, and platforms that can keep up. Should be fun!
Thanks for reading!