One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for February 2020

Caregivers & Health Care: A Complicated Relationship

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As a caregiver for my mother, I frequently interact with our health care system. Having received a liver transplant ten years ago via Medicaid and Medicare, my mother has also experienced other health consequences including kidney disease, type 2 diabetes, and chronic heart disease. Last Friday, my mother went in for an angiogram on her liver (to determine flow) while I struggled with a skin infection on my arm. Although my mother and I belong to different health provider networks, navigating the health care system for caregivers and the people they care for provides the basis of a love/hate relationship.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

My mother had scheduled the procedure for 12:45 pm on a Friday, with our arrival time at 11:15 am. (Thankfully, I had called my doctor for an appointment about my skin infection the previous week, but was sent to Immediate Care due to a lack of appointments) A notification text the day before had indicated the time moved up to 2:45 pm, but my mother had clarified the time since we were depending on medical transportation. So we were both surprised when that Friday, at 5:30 am, we received a call from the transportation provider asking if we could be ready for a 7:00 am pickup. From that point,

  • We arrive at the hospital with nothing in their records about Mom’s appointment. After being bounced through various departments, we learn where we’re supposed to head, and we’re allowed in.
  • After arriving at the appropriate department. , we wait for Mom to be prepped. To kill the boredom, I sign up for text notifications about Mom’s procedure. While waiting, I call my primary care physician for follow-up; luckily, I’m able to schedule an appointment in between job search efforts and watching YouTube.
  • Once Mom is formally prepared, I grab lunch and sit in the family lounge. My time is spent writing, doing some job searching, and catching up on social media.
  • After making my way into the family lounge, I wait for another two hours when I am notified by an attendant that Mom is heading into her procedure. During this time…
  • I receive a call from Mom’s transportation provider; after I apologize for the delay, the driver informs me that his manager does not want his drivers out after 5 pm, necessitating a last-ditch effort (Spoiler: hospital staff ensured that we had transportation home), and
  • I discover that it was #NationalCaregiversDay on Twitter, and a tweet declared that “Caregivers are the health care system” and that caregivers “rock” at negotiating health care services.
Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

And that’s part of the problem: too many people advocating for caregivers do not understand the totality of negotiating the health care system. (Watch the above video from Last Week Tonight With John Oliver for details). Rather than focus on advocating for systemic changes, these advocates tend to focus on more superficial issues. Many caregivers dealing with the complexities of the health care system on top of their caregiving duties have a greater risk for compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout. There’s a lack of acknowledgment about the burden and toll of caregiving on the individual, substituting self-help platitudes for more adaptive caring strategies and fostering connection and community.

But the greatest challenge in negotiating health care is engaging in self-care as a caregiver. Many caregivers are more likely to sacrifice their own health when caring for an elderly relative, and some caregivers experience health issues as a result. (Mental health issues for caregivers, especially male caregivers, are also critical). Caregivers are rarely reminded that self-care is not an indulgence, but a discipline. Negotiating a complicated system only adds to a caregiver’s stress; working to “game the system” makes it harder for caregivers and their relatives.

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Final note: I was fortunate to learn that my skin infection was easily treatable with antibiotics.  However, getting to that point involved negotiating a tricky, often contradictory system that lacks empathy for patients and their loved ones. With the recent focus on public health issues around the coronavirus, it would be tempting to take a less even-handed tone about health care. However, caregivers – like many other people – have a complicated relationship with health care because of bureaucracy, costs, and lack of access to services.

And it shouldn’t be – health care is not an indulgence, it’s a right.

Please join the conversation via our Facebook page or leave your comments below.

Thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

February 27, 2020 at 9:17 am

Women in Tech: A Conversation with SPR

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Recently, philanthropist Melinda Gates pledged $50 million towards “inclusive tech hubs” through Pivotal Venture’s “Gender Equality in Tech Cities” initiative. The initiative seeks to increase the power and influence of women in tech through greater education and hiring, and the UIC College of Engineering received an initial grant for its computer science program in an effort to eliminate gender disparities in the tech field. In a city where there are numerous efforts in Chicago to drive inclusion and diversity in technology, provide software development training for young women curious about technology, foster professional networking for women in tech, and increase awareness around diversity and inclusion issues (with an upcoming performance for International Rescue on February 14th), we wanted to explore the implications for Chicago’s tech community.

We recently spoke with two representatives from SPR, a Chicago-based firm that has consulted with businesses around technology needs for almost fifty years. We spoke with Executive Director Litha Ramirez, who leads their Experience Strategy and Design Group, as well as Chief Technology Officer Matt Mead, who spearheads company efforts like SPR’s Women’s Q & A series for the company and its partners and the Women in Chicago Tech Happy Hours. Both of them agree that Melinda Gates’ initial effort is a great start towards not only fostering more women in tech but also fostering a greater sense of diversity and inclusion.

A quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to mind: “None of us are free until we are all free”.

Although this investment is a great move to improve the number of women in tech, neither Litha nor Matt believe that this is a cure-all. With two other potential candidate cities to receive funding, Melinda Gates’/Pivotal Ventures’ effort should serve as a motivation towards engagement than a “one-shot” remedy to address gender disparities in the tech field. (With other, smaller organizations working towards driving gender and other inclusion into the tech field, Litha remarked that Chicago has multiple resources and that this funding is like an additional “one inch of icing on the cake”.) Matt described Melinda Gates’/Pivotal Ventures’ action as a “public proclamation”, engaging and mobilizing some organizations towards action and placing pressure on other local organizations to increase their involvement and potential funding. Either way, Melinda Gates’/Pivotal Ventures’ announcement of fostering inclusive tech hubs and greater percentages of women in tech fosters greater attention towards the issue and potentially greater funding and action/activism in Chicago.

Although women comprise slightly more than 30% of tech startup founders, they also have a much higher dropout rate for women in tech than their male counterparts. However, part of this can be alleviated through policy and workplace programs for working mothers and family leave. However, this initiative provides a great opportunity to engage the latest generation of women in the tech field. Setting up

Both Litha and Matt remarked that Chicago has the largest tech scene (and the biggest market) outside of both coasts. With its relatively subdued presence and minimal hype, Chicago is primed to foster more successful startups with greater opportunities for growth and a better sense of balance. (In other words, “the clay hasn’t been put into the kiln”). Chicago also has a more geographically and racially diverse city, with communities that are “hungry” for learning, services, and greater grassroots engagement. The overall idea is that building opportunities to drive collaboration and cooperation can be empowering to many professionals (not just women in tech), and provide stronger teams and more effective solutions.

But the Melinda Gates/Pivotal Ventures initiative to foster women in tech should not be seen as the sole solution but as a critical first step. Just like Netsquared Chicago started a conversation that continues and flourishes around technology for nonprofits (and full disclosure – I am a former Netsquared organizer), this action should be seen as a rallying cry for both the Chicago tech scene and the greater public. Both Litha Ramirez and Matt Mead of SPR emphasized that the Melinda Gates/Pivotal Ventures initiative should serve to kickstart a mix of the right investments to make fostering programs that foster diversity and inclusion both sustainable and profitable.

And fostering the inclusion of women in tech is a key start.

Please leave your comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page, or email us directly.

As always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

February 9, 2020 at 4:26 am

West Monroe Partners’ 2020 Plans: A Talk With Tom Hulsebosch

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(Special Thanks to Tom Hulsebosch of West Monroe Partners for his time and insights)

Earlier this month, Tom Hulsebosch stepped into the role of Office Leader at West Monroe Partners, and the consulting firm has big plans for their Chicago office. Although the firm has been featured on this blog for its corporate social responsibility program, West Monroe Partners also seeks to make a major impact on the Chicago employment scene. With plans to double its local workforce from 800 to 1,600  by 2024, West Monroe Partners has some ambitious plans…and we spoke with Tom Hulsebosch for more details.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. As you’re stepping into your professional role and integrating West Monroe’s plans to double its workforce, what is your overall vision and approach toward your role?

There are two principles I will focus on in this new role: Continuous improvement in our people-first culture and doing engaging, high-value work for our clients. As employee-owners of West Monroe, we empower people to power growth. In fact, one of our 13 core values at the firm is “quality over growth.” We strive to care more, do more, and achieve more – for ourselves, our clients, our firm, and the communities in which we live and work. Growth is not the most important part of our strategy: In our business, the most important things are the fulfillment of our employee-owners and delivering value to our clients

West Monroe is looking to double its workforce by 2024. What is your overall strategy for making this happen, and how will you balance aggressive recruiting/hiring and maintaining employee retention?

The strategy is to hire very purposely and methodically. Each August we hire a new class of campus graduates—in 2019, we hired more than 100 new graduates in Chicago alone. For experienced hires, we find that a vast majority of people who come in to interview are “sold” on the company. So, a key part of our strategy is to get them to meet with as many people as possible and experience as much of the culture as possible. Our interviews are, at minimum half-days and for more senior positions we conduct days’ worth of discussions and interviews. During this time we give them a tour of the office, meet with people on and off their teams—getting to know the culture, the people, and the opportunities through transparent conversations,

How do you see West Monroe as an organization adapting administratively to this challenge? (Also, how do you see it impacting the organization overall?)

We made the investment in 2019 to hire a chief administrative officer in Kevin Rooney, whose primary responsibility is to make us as efficient as possible—which is incredibly important for the next stage of our growth going from 1,500 to more than 3,000 employees. We also recently hired Alberto Ruocco as our chief information officer, who will be focused on creating a digital workplace that fuels an engaging, productive work environment and employee experience. We are looking inward and finding new areas of efficiency, through redesigned processes and technology, in finance, HR, onboarding, employee learning, employee communications, IT, and more. The key here is finding ways to improve our high level of client service and continuously improving our employee experience.

Doubling a workforce while maintaining (or improving) profitability can be a challenge; how can an organization like West Monroe (or any organization) be aggressive in recruiting new talent while maintaining current profitability?

As a 100% employee-owned firm, our leadership pays very close attention to profitability—because not only does it determine viability for future growth, but it also affects every single employee’s financial well-being. So we balance hiring with many other factors, including profitability, employee experience, the ability to put someone to work right away, and others. But we don’t set hiring goals and push on without constantly reassessing the numbers and needs. If we see a slowdown in our future work, we hold back on hiring for a bit until our revenue pipeline bounces back. So we never hire people without having the true need for them.

West Monroe serves clients through nimble, multidisciplinary teams—industry experts, operational experts, and technologists. This team-based approach breeds a culture of collaboration and truly engaging work, which attracts smart, motivated people. If we stay true to this commitment, we will attract the right people that want to enhance our organization, our clients and our community. The financial metrics are not an input to our strategy, but rather a measure of its success.

Finally, what is it about Chicago that makes it ideal for West Monroe to engage such an ambitious hiring strategy?

The Chicago area has some of the best talent in technology, our core industries, and our key functional areas as well. With a robust campus recruiting program and alliances with local organizations, as well as our very dedicated talent acquisition team, we are able to hire hundreds of people every year in Chicago. It helps that we win the best place to work awards every year—that piques people’s interest. And we also find success in recruiting people back to Chicago—those who grew up here, but left for other cities, and are looking to come back to settle down or just return home.

I believe the workforce of the future that is currently at CPS and City Colleges are other resources we have in Chicago, and that we must all better utilize. We can complement our educational institutions to provide these students with professional experience and mentor support that will accelerate their entrance into tomorrow’s digital workplace. At West Monroe Partners, we are partnering with organizations such as Genesys Works, HFS Chicago Scholars, Chicago Apprenticeship Network, Springboard Foundation and so many more that are helping students across our city get the experience and mentorship they need to be prepared for a professional career. I look forward to partnering with industry leaders, educational institutions, and non-profits to create our future leaders and the future workforce of West Monroe Partners.

(Special thanks again to Tom Hulsebosch for his time and insight – please leave comments below or join us on our Facebook page. And as always, thanks for reading!) 

Written by gordondym

February 5, 2020 at 10:43 am