HealthCare IT’s Harry Greenspun: How To Effectively Use Social Media and Networking

Posted on April 4, 2011, by , under Featured Interview.

Harry Greenspun, healthcare IT professional and Chief Medical Officer at Dell, talks about why your personal and professional brand should be the same and how to build a meaningful and engaging online presence. Greenspun also believes that working in a variety of settings has allowed him to make meaningful connections.

What is your background?

I started my career as a cardiac anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins.  While I was there, I became interested in using information technology to improve healthcare.  What started as a research interest turned into a company, which then moved me progressively out of the clinical world and into the business world.  I’ve had a number of clinical and business leadership roles.  Prior to becoming Chief Medical Officer at Dell (via its acquisition of Perot Systems), I was the CMO of Northrop Grumman focusing on military medicine, public health, and the research community. Dell is now the largest provider of health IT services globally, so I spend most of my time speaking and writing about improving healthcare through IT.

How would you describe your on-line and off-line brand?

I try to be pretty consistent, so when people meet me they aren’t surprised.  I think/hope people view me as approachable and relatively funny.  I use a lot of humor in my speeches, mainly because that helps people retain my core messages.  It’s also easier to be essentially the same person in public as you are in private, otherwise you start to feel schizophrenic.  So many people try to maintain a particular public image which really isn’t them, and that’s unsustainable.  Obviously, working for a publicly traded company, you can’t say or do anything you please, but the less you need to filter or orchestrate, the better.

You are a thought-leader on health IT on a global scale.  What advice would you give for someone to follow in your lead?

One thing that people value most about me is my very broad perspective and my ability to translate issues and trends into how they might impact or serve them.  It is less about what you know about their business than about your being able to help them understand what others are doing that might help them.  I’ve made a conscious effort to learn as much as I can about all aspects of the healthcare industry as well as linking with other industries such as telecom, retail, intel, and aviation.  Most of the problems we face in healthcare have been solved by other industries, so being able to take lessons from them is very useful.  I’ve also traveled all over the globe learning about local and regional issues, highlighting similarities and differences.  For someone who wanted to follow me, I’d tell them go broad rather than deep, listen intently, think creatively, and prepare to log a lot of miles.

What are your thoughts on how to best leverage social media?

Social media has been integral to what I do, so I have been very deliberate in how I use it.  At the highest level, I use Facebook to communicate who I am as a person and strengthen ties to personal and professional contacts, Twitter almost exclusively as a channel for professional communication, and LinkedIn simply to update contacts.  People who follow me on Facebook get to know who I am, what I’m up to, things I enjoy, etc.  I am an avid photographer and, since I get to go to some very interesting destinations, I can share those travels with my friends. I’ve posted shots ranging from snake charmers in Marrakesh to desserts in Geneva to street life in Shanghai.  I’ve found that I have gotten closer to many people in my network through their understanding what I’m about, and my ability to learn what they are doing.  I do try to make my posts meaningful and engaging, and avoid trivial updates.  By contrast, I use Twitter to express what the CMO of Dell thinks is important in terms of articles, events, and other “tweetable” items.  Finding good content takes help, so I have a researcher working with me to provide good content.  Finally, I’ve been able to use these outlets at key points to mobilize my network, such as when my book was published or when important events were coming up and I wanted to spread the word.

How has being connected to the right people helped your career?

Networking has been huge for me, as it has gotten me opportunities I never would have otherwise.  Early in my career, being introduced to influential people gave me a chance to serve on important committees, speak on panels, and overall elevate my visibility.  Over time, having a very broad network has allowed me to help people under almost any circumstance.  They know that if they come to me with a question, I can either answer it or I know someone who likely can.  I think people give me credit for being more knowledgeable than I am simply because ultimately I helped them find their answer.  Another aspect is that people in our industry tend to move from role to role and company to company, so you never know where one of your connections will wind up that might help you.  Similarly, good companies are always looking for good talent, so as your needs grow, you know whom to call as a source or a potential hire.

What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?

The best advice was to always look for how you can help others.  If you can learn their needs, you can create a basis for collaboration and make something actually happen.  I meet people all the time looking to network or introduce me to new companies or hoping for introductions.  Early in the conversation, if it isn’t obvious, I’ll ask them directly, “How can I help you?”.  Then we can start determining productive next steps, which builds a great relationship.  Sometimes they mistakenly think I’m the right guy to talk to, but I can quickly identify that I’m not and, hopefully, identify the person who is.  It saves everyone time and is greatly appreciated.  Sometimes they aren’t sure what they want and that can spur an interesting discussion.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

The irony of this question is that most people don’t know that if they friended me on Facebook, they would know virtually everything worth knowing about me.  There they would find out that I am an avid sailor, a diehard motorcyclist, a good cook, and a surprisingly serious guitarist.  Probably the most important thing they would experience is what it is like to raise three boys on your own.  I spend a lot of time chronicling what we do and really appreciate the support and affirmation I get from my friends.

One Reply to "HealthCare IT’s Harry Greenspun: How To Effectively Use Social Media and Networking"


gnayyar  on April 4, 2011

Great interview!

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