MBAs on the Move

Bridging the Gap Between Technology Innovation and Business Value

Evelyn Gallego, Founder & CEO – EMI Advisors

Alumna: York University’s Schulich School of Business (MBA, 2005), George Washington University (Masters of Public Health – Health Policy, 2010) and University of Toronto (BS, Human Biology & Psychology, 1997)

A study of Evelyn Gallego’s life reveals contrasts. She has Colombian origins but grew up in Canada, where the Hispanic population is small. She wanted to be an artist at a young age but later discovered interests in technology, business, and health care. She majored in Human Biology & Psychology with a minor in Art and considered careers as a physician or a medical illustrator. At her core is an enthusiasm for health care, which has remained consistent throughout her extensive education and professional life. It has also been important to her personal life – she ran half-marathons before having children, and last year she and her husband ran their first marathon. Now, as the founder and CEO of a certified minority- and woman-owned consulting firm, Evelyn uses all her varied talents to offer policy, strategy and technology advisory solutions to healthcare clients.


A first generation Canadian

My parents are both from Colombia, and they moved to Canada before I was born to start a new life for their children. Growing up in Toronto, I was exposed to other cultures – there are large Indian and Chinese populations, for example, where education is emphasized. My father is one of 16 children, and my mother is one of six. Neither of my parents received higher education. On my mother’s side, I am the first female to go to university. In my experience as first-generation from an immigrant family, Hispanic culture has not always stressed education. Women are often encouraged to pursue careers that allow them to stay close to home. My parents never made me feel that they would be disappointed if I didn’t pursue higher education, but I was very driven to do so because I wanted something better. As an undergrad and MBA student, I joined the Latino-focused science and business groups not only because the fields of study were important to me, but also because I wanted to encourage more Hispanic women to pursue these fields.


Early years: Wanting something better

Evelyn’s parents moved from Colombia to Canada to give their children a better life. As a first generation Canadian, Evelyn was driven to succeed.

First job: Discovering an interest in IT

Despite studying medicine and art as an undergrad, Evelyn developed a career-long interest in technology after landing a job in telecom.

Pivotal moments: MBA and MPH

After getting her MBA, Evelyn worked for large consulting firms in the healthcare sector. She decided to pursue a masters in health policy to set herself apart from the multi-degreed crowd in DC.

Entrepreneurship: Using technology to improve the delivery and cost of care

With a certified minority- and woman-owned consulting business, Evelyn provides strategic solutions to her federal agency and private healthcare clients with a goal of leveraging technology to improve healthcare outcomes.


From art and medicine to IT and business

For my undergrad, I majored in premed and minored in art. I learned about a masters program in BioMedical Communications where I could blend medical illustration and communications with health. I thought it was the best of both worlds. This was during the tech boom, and a counselor saw that I had only taken one computer science class. Maybe sensing that I was making decisions too quickly before exploring all the options, the counselor recommended I get some work experience in technology before applying for a masters degree.

It was good advice – you don’t have to go straight into a masters program after undergrad, and I had been in school for five years at that point. I decided to apply for an internship with a telecom firm, which turned out to be serendipitous because I was given the opportunity to learn about the software development lifecycle and deploy technology enabled business solutions across the world. The role allowed me to experience first-hand the role technology plays in improving business value while offering me the exceptional experience of working among diverse teams and cultures in cities across Europe, the U.S. and India. I stayed with the company for five years. I was inspired by the women leaders in the firm, many who were MBAs, to take my career to the next level by applying for an MBA.

Getting an MBA and international experience 

When deciding on MBA programs, I chose Schulich because it had an international focus and a high percentage of women students and graduates. I didn’t want to be in the minority, and I wanted the opportunity to focus my studies on European business. The MBA was valuable to grow and advance in my career and – given that I didn’t have a business undergrad – it was helpful for my credibility.

I met my husband during my internship in Paris – he was an American expat working for a large telecom company. We would have liked to stay in Europe, but back then if you weren’t a European resident, it was very hard to start a career there. Right before I graduated from the MBA, my husband was offered the opportunity to work in DC under the second Bush Administration to help with business transformation at the Department of Defense. I had never previously considered living in the US and had never been to DC.  Then I fell in love with the city and its layout – the L’Enfant city plan reminded me more of Europe than other North American cities.


Honing a healthcare focus and getting another masters

My first job as an MBA was with Booz Allen Hamilton as an associate in its IT strategy department supporting military health. At the time, health information technology or health IT wasn’t a big area. Most of the work was geared to the Defense Health Agencies and the Veteran’s Administration because they had established electronic health records to support their beneficiaries. Most of the country remained on paper health records. All of a sudden, there was a big policy shift that required every American to have an electronic health record by 2014.

Because I was Canadian and unfamiliar with the US health system, I quickly learned that I needed additional credentials to better navigate and consult around the health IT legislative and regulatory processes. I decided to pursue a masters in Public Health with a focus on Health Policy while still working. It was also a way to differentiate myself – there were so many MBAs, PhDs, and JDs in DC already.

I later moved to CapGemini to take on a more senior role as account executive for their Federal Health Practice. The role allowed me to further hone in on my business development skills as I worked to gain new business with the federal agencies. At the time, my husband was traveling frequently for his job, and I was working full-time. I was struggling with work-life balance, my son was a toddler at the time, and I had no family or friends in the area to lean on for support.  When I discovered I was pregnant with my second child, I decided to leave consulting to figure out what was best for my work-life balance situation.


An accidental entrepreneur

I wasn’t thinking of starting my own company, but then an amazing client found out I was leaving the firm. I had a good relationship with her, and she offered me a contract job as an independent consultant, which surprised me because I had never thought about working independently.

The first contract job was with the National Institutes of Health, and it was not in health IT – it was a business management role. My client was a well-recognized senior federal leader – also with an MBA –who appreciated my business acumen and perspectives on how to address organizational operational and governance issues.

As an entrepreneur and consultant, you learn that relationships are key. Being genuine in how you work with your clients, your partners as well as with your competitors, is important. Saying what you mean impacts credibility and outcomes.

I didn’t focus on entrepreneurship as an MBA so I have learned a lot since I started. One of the biggest lessons is that I cannot do everything by myself. I focus on my strengths and hire the right team members to get other parts done.

Helping federal clients leverage technology to improve healthcare outcomes 

Most of my clients are federal health agencies, and many of them have authority over regulations. Their constant challenge is educating others (e.g., technology vendors, associations, healthcare manufacturers and providers) on those regulations without being prescriptive and saying, “You must do this.” My team and I focus on translating those requirements with the goal of achieving understanding among all the stakeholders involved and bringing awareness about the value of adopting these regulations. I call what I do stakeholder engagement and facilitation, with a goal of helping others understand how technology can be used to improve the delivery and lower the cost of health care.

As an example, I worked on a project with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has authority over medical devices. Let’s say there is an adverse event with a medical device – an implant, for example. The doctor has to report the event by completing and submitting a form to the FDA. This is burdensome for the doctor, and most often the report is not submitted. My project was to convene and facilitate discussions with electronic health record (EHR) vendors on how the FDA could leverage their technology to enable a simpler, smoother process for healthcare providers to complete and submit the forms using patient data already existing in the EHR.

Leading a woman- and Hispanic-owned business 

While working for the Department of Defense, my husband became familiar with the Small Business Administration programs that certify minority- and women-owned small businesses. The goal of these programs is to ensure that there is a diversity of vendors providing services to the Federal government. My firm has received both certifications. Having these designations allows the Federal government to “sole source” work to my business directly without having to go through an RFP (request for proposal) process. It’s made a big difference as a small business owner.

Words that define her: Genuine, Trustworthy
Career wow moment: When negotiating for a salary once, I was debating my worth. My husband encouraged me to ask for the amount he would ask for if he was in my position, which I felt was higher than what I was worth. When they accepted my price, I realized that I need to be more confident as a woman in asking for what I want.
Career blunder: I once spent too much time trying for this one woman at one of the companies I worked with to agree to be my mentor; she spent more time ignoring my emails and requests for meetings than actually meeting with me.
Role model: Sheryl Sandberg – I thought it was so cool that she taught aerobics when she was an undergrad at Harvard. She also was able to bridge the gap between government (Treasury Department) and business (Facebook), which is similar to what I do.
Book that inspires her: The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker – It was written in 1966 so I always tell people to remove all the references to men.
Song that makes her turn up the volume: Express Yourself by Labyrinth – It’s good to run or dance to, and the message resonates: be yourself in all that you do and whatever you do, do it good.

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