Dave Patzwald’s is the former CIO of Schneider Electric North America. And his story is inspiring to anyone, but especially to those stuck in corporate careers that long to branch out. Dave believes you can have your cake and eat it too, in many senses of the phrase. Dave is currently transitioning to another executive role, as he’s cofounded a revolutionary organization called i.c.health. This new organization strives to give new career opportunities to hundreds of Chicago inner-city young adults. Check out what Dave has to say about his new venture
ME: Let’s talk about how it all began. Since I personally visited with kids at i.c.stars I can attest to this amazing organization. It supports young adults from our city’s disadvantaged neighborhoods by encouraging them to build professional IT careers. i.c.stars partners with local companies to give students real insight into corporate IT structure. It also teaches them leadership skills and most importantly gives them the courage to try and the confidence to succeed. Dave, how’d you get involved with them?
DAVE: Years ago, a colleague of mine at Schneider introduced me to i.c.stars and I never stopped working with them. This is something I truly believe in.
ME: And did you come up with the concept of i.c.health?
DAVE: If you look at my background, I’ve shuffled between corporate and entrepreneurial roles. I had an IT consulting business for a few years in between my corporate positions. I noticed that in my executive roles with large companies, I frequently built my own job descriptions and therefore, took risks. (And encouraged my reports to do the same.) So I’ve always had an adventurous spirit. This attitude and approach leads to better results, allowing for a much more rewarding career.
Supporting i.c.stars after hours helped me realize I want more than one professional focus. Serving on the board of La Rabida Children’s Hospital in south side Chicago gave me some insight on challenges the healthcare industry experiences with technology. Hospitals are pressured on IT compliance but simply don’t have the resources to accommodate these projects. Electronic Medical Record (EMR) projects require well compensated and often hard-to-find local subject matter experts.
I found an amazing pool of talent at i.c.stars. These young men and women have been groomed to be community leaders. While in the program, they’ve already demonstrated persistence, drive and resilience. If we focus their training in IT healthcare, they could be the ultimate solution. Instead of high-priced traveling consultants, hospitals can employ local community members … who might have even been admitted there as children!
ME: I can see how hospitals would benefit from that. Aside from financial relief, they’d get people who care about their community and want to build their career with them. Speaking of which … how do you envision a career path of an i.c.stars grad involved with i.c.health initiatives?
DAVE: There are several career paths i.c.stars grads may be able to pursue. Just like any in any other organization, there are infrastructure and support roles, data and applications roles as well business relationship roles. Delivering education will be another huge opportunity, including the untapped area in the social media space. Most people have no idea how the healthcare system even works.
The big advantage for i.c.stars grads is their access to three-part training: internship, fellowship and residency with an entry level opportunity. Even after they complete their i.c.health initiative, they may be able to stay with the hospital. If they don’t, they still walk away with healthcare-focused IT experience, putting them in a high-demand position in the job market.
ME: Well this is a great concept that will undoubtedly turn into a successful venture. I can see you and your partner are very excited. So what’s your biggest short-term goal?
DAVE: Finding the right partners is an ever-constant goal, but building a curriculum that makes sense is number one on the agenda. We have some great things in the works. Keep track of our progress on ichealth.com. If anyone is interested in getting involved, please contact us there!