Name: Catherine Shih
Title: Senior Consultant
Company: Cognizant Business Consulting
Education and Professional History Prior to Joining Cognizant
I received my Bachelor of Arts in Economics at the University of Alberta (Canada) and my Master of Arts in Economics from the University of British Columbia (Canada). I then spent 3 years working for the Canadian Federal Department of Finance as an economist in the area of oil and gas taxation and later international trade.
After three years doing economic analysis, I decided I wanted a change and the opportunity to pursue another passion – international development. I spent the next two years in Cameroon as an Organizational Development Advisor, carrying out economic development and community health projects. This experience made me realize that I wanted to pursue a career in the area of health and that regardless of whether I worked in the developing or developed world, business skills were crucial.
I completed my MBA and MPH at Boston University with a focus on international health and health sector management. I became interested in the consulting industry because of its ability to offer exciting engagements with multiple clients in various states and even countries. It was a career where I could bring my creativity and analytic skill to solve problems and tackle the challenges related to health reform.
I have been with Cognizant’s provider practice for just over a year, having joined immediately upon graduating from Boston University. My work has been focused on Population Health Management projects and I have been predominantly serving a large integrated health system in the North East.
With Population Health Management as my area of focus, I have found myself in an exciting and challenging area of healthcare. An area where health systems and hospitals are embarking on new models of care in the hopes of reducing waste and improving quality. My projects have included evaluating the business case of care management programs, implementing and managing population health programs, assessing programs in order to improve processes and IT solutions and designing reporting and analytic solutions. Through these projects I have gained significant experience in project management, executive communication and presentation, data collection and analysis, modeling and forecasting, vendor evaluation, strategy development, application development and design, and program development or redesign.
Since Cognizant has its roots as a technology company, we are at a unique intersection in the healthcare space because we have domain expertise, an understanding of the IT required to enable health initiatives, as well as a methodology that is design centric and focuses on the end user to ensure the solution meets their need. Not only can we assess an issue but Cognizant has the capability to design, build and implement a solution which is a unique offering in the market. I have gained an immense amount of knowledge around health IT which is invaluable in the industry.
Describe a typical day as a consultant in Cognizant’s Healthcare practice
Similar to other consulting firms, there is no typical day as a consultant. Your days are always full of opportunities to challenge yourself, learn new things and solve problems. In any given day you will likely be working on deliverables for your client, participating in business development initiatives such as writing proposals or developing service offerings, and contributing to thought leadership by writing write papers. There is definitely a lot of travel and I find that I generally spend from Monday to Thursday at the client site. On Fridays I usually work from my home in Boston unless I need to be at the client site for meetings. Working from home on Fridays is nice because it can give you a chance to catch up on things like laundry, but usually it is quite busy with endless conference calls.
Biggest challenge you’ve encountered during your time with Cognizant
The biggest challenge related to consulting is maintaining a work-life balance. Being on the road 4 days a week and living out of hotels makes it easy to be sucked into working long hours with little focus on other activities. Long-term survival requires setting boundaries and personal expectations for what sort of work-life balance you are willing to live with. For example, I make sure that my schedule can accommodate my work out sessions at the gym; I even managed to get a trainer to come to my hotel for 630am sessions.
Biggest opportunity you’ve encountered during your time with Cognizant
As a Senior Consultant, I am a key player on project teams and often lead teams at the client site which is often not the case at other firms. As a relatively small but rapidly growing practice, the provider practice at Cognizant offers unparalleled opportunity for its team members – I have been able to participate in C-Suite presentations, lead sales pitches and manage the development of service offerings. I have been able to identify areas of improvement for Cognizant, such as on-boarding of new hires, and spearhead initiatives to improve the processes around on-boarding. Senior leadership encourages and commends being proactive and Cognizant fosters a professional atmosphere that is team-oriented rather than competitive.
One of the greatest things about Cognizant is the people you will get to work with. Since day one, my colleagues have been amazing – they are supportive, intelligent, personable, kind and genuine. I am lucky enough to work at a client site where Cognizant has multiple projects so on any given week there are 4-8 of us. Despite our varying roles and responsibilities, you won’t find a hierarchy and more often than not, our director does coffee runs for us. If you get overwhelmed with work or have a really stressful week there are always people around asking if they can help or if you need anything.
Words of wisdom for those considering a career in heathcare consulting with Cognizant
Cognizant’s healthcare consulting practice offers a career that is fast-paced, challenging and an opportunity to think creatively and develop new solutions. Working with a company like Cognizant that has a strong foundation in technology can give you an opportunity to not only enhance your technology knowledge but also provide end to end solutions. In addition, with its global presence, working with Cognizant’s healthcare practice gives you the opportunity to participate in proposals and projects around the world.