Amanda Burkey is a spirited Millennial leader who is defining passion in whole-hearted ways and pursuing life and work with full engagement. I met Amanda through my work with the HIMSS team and at the annual HIMSS conference. She is diligent in her efforts and honest in perspectives.
We had an opportunity to catch up recently, and the resulting interview is below. Amanda represents her generation well. Read more and gain a glimpse into her story and thoughts.
Spirited Millennial: Interview with Amanda Burkey
Jon: Tell me about what your current role is at HIMSS and what excites you about what you do on a day-to-day basis.
Amanda: My current role is to do the daily social coverage for HIMSS North America and the HIMSS Analytics brand. I make sure there are posts on all of our channels. I coordinate recent announcements, and I make sure that any paid promotions and campaigns are all scheduled and ready to go. For the past few months, Michael Gaspar has given me the direction to run with the campaigns. I get to create more of the paid ad campaigns and push them out on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
What Is Passion?
Jon: Several months ago, we discussed passion, and you had some interesting ideas around it. How do you define passion? Whatever your definition, is it overrated, needed, or necessary?
Amanda: I would say my definition of passion would be something that you truly believe in. It’s like my last job. I did search engine optimization and copywriting. I felt like I was just blurting out random words that sounded good.
I didn’t feel like it was very fulfilling at the end of the day. With HIMSS, I may not be directly impacting someone with what I post each day, but I know that, in the end, I’m furthering the health IT community and trying to improve healthcare for everyone. I’m working towards something that I believe in, and think will benefit other people, instead of just going to a job to make money and churn out my 9-5 so I can get home and have my real life. I really love what I do at HIMSS. I love everyone I work with.
I think passion is believing in what you’re doing and the end result, knowing you care about something. You’re not just there to do a 9-5 and get your paycheck.
Jon: Two added questions. Does that also include people? Is the mission enough? Does the mission matters more than the people, or are both required to believe in?
Amanda: I wish I could say that the mission of the organization would outweigh the people, but I have worked before with people who I knew didn’t have my back. I need to feel like, if I run into a situation at work where I really needed my manager to support me, they will. I didn’t feel like I had that at my other job.
I honestly think that you not only have to love what you’re doing, but you have to feel like the people around you are also passionate and care about you and your well-being. And that you can feel the same about them.
With this job, Michael and Cari have my back no matter what. I never have to be concerned. I know that if I believe in what I’m doing, and I think that the path I’m taking to make this campaign the best it can be, they will support me.
Jon: Did that theme of what passion is – believing in what you’re doing – was it a trigger point as far as making that job switch from the skin care organization to health IT?
Amanda: It was, along with getting myself to Chicago. I’ve been in love with Chicago forever.
Jon: Place plays a big role, too, then?
Amanda: A passion of a different type.
I knew that I really wanted to try living on my own. By deciding that, you know what, I’m going to find myself a job without help. I’m going to move there, and I’m going to see what it’s like to be on my own. I grew up in the Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska, area with the entirety of my family. So I kind of wanted to get out. And at the time I was living with my cousin, so I was really not branching out too much.
Amanda: I found a job here, and it happened to be healthcare which I felt really comfortable with because, in a roundabout way, I’d worked in healthcare for a year and half. So, fortunately, the job felt right. The connection I had with Cari and Michael in my interview seemed right, too, so I took the job. Two weeks later, I was here.
Passion: Believing, Caring, Place
Jon: So passion, in at least three different areas, is key to making it work for you – A mission that you believe in, people you believe in, and a place you believe in.
Amanda: Exactly. They all can impact your mood.
Jon: That’s a good point. Because attitude plays a big role in what we do in life and, having those three aligned, help our attitude.
Amanda: Absolutely. Say I have a really bad day at work. I come home, and I think, wow, I love this city. I have great friends here. I have my dog. I have friends at the gym. I come home, and I feel better. Or, if I am having a rough day at home, I can go to work and think, at least I really like my job. I like what I’m doing. I feel needed. I feel respected.
No matter what happens in the day, there’s always some part of my life that makes me remember that I have it pretty good.
Being Selfish in Productive Ways
Jon: That’s perfect. Another area I wanted to explore is your view on selfish versus selfless, specifically when it comes to work.
Amanda: I take after my dad a lot in the fact that I work hard. I work a lot. I grew up with him working extra hours and working hard to keep moving up. I’ve grown up having a job since I was 16, whether it was an internship or a part-time job. I got burnt out at one point last year. I would work extra hours because I felt like I needed to. I felt like I couldn’t just do 9-5.
I finally realized I was just working myself too hard. I stopped taking work home. I found out very quickly that I need to be a little selfish. I realize that this project needs to be done in the next day or two. But, selfishly, I need to go home. If I don’t, I’m going to end up putting myself in a bad mood. I’m not going to be as useful tomorrow when I come in the office. And not giving myself the mental time to refresh and come back tomorrow ready to go again.
There’s an importance to remembering to be selfish a little bit. It took me a while to realize it, and I think that goes for life in general. Work. Everything. That sometimes you have to put yourself before your job or other people, because you can wear yourself out and burn out pretty quickly if you don’t.
Jon: That’s a great point. You have to take care of yourself. That’s more selfish, if you will, but that’s also very important for a lot of reasons to be recharged and refreshed.
Jon: Productivity feeds into that formula well.
Amanda: I was telling my friend earlier today. I had hip surgery back in November. I was actually looking forward to having it because I knew that there was a two-week time where I didn’t go to work. I took two full weeks off to get my bearings after the surgery, and then I worked from home for a month. I was excited to get a brain break for basically a month and half.
Jon: That’s interesting. I’ve started to do some work with the Center for BrainHealth, and they offer training on brain wellness or brain health. Taking those brain breaks are so important. Not only for innovation and creativity that we need in the workplace or in life in general but just for a healthier lifestyle, a healthier brain.
Amanda: I agree. You definitely need some time. You don’t realize how much it impacts you until you find yourself in a very downward spiral of just not wanting to go to work that day. Whether it’s in the morning or the afternoon, I try to get up and at least walk around outside or around the office and talk to people. Even that can make a huge difference in your day. Not sitting at your desk the entire day and pounding away at the computer.
Focus on Others and Gaining Confidence
Jon: Absolutely. I think this plays into another conversation, which is, you don’t like your birthday.
Amanda: No, I don’t.
Jon: And why is that?
Amanda: I hate being the center of attention. I turn bright red. Cari and Michael always love giving me my review. It’s typically a positive one, which is good to hear, but they know that I’m going to turn bright red. Cari calls it my red face, and she thinks it is so funny. The more positive things she says about me, I turn red and get more embarrassed. And I just want to sink into a hole and disappear.
Jon: That’s very anti-Millennial of you!
Amanda: Right! I hate being the center of attention. I like to pretend that my birthday is not a thing. Gaining confidence, believe it or not, fits with this.
I talked to Cari a few months ago about where I see myself moving in the company and what I wanted. I just feel a little stuck. I feel like a lot of my friends are moving forward in their careers, and they’re making these steps. I was ready for it.
I felt like my leadership or confidence at work wasn’t quite where I needed it to be. She agreed with me completely, and said, “What I’d like to see over the next few months is for you to take a bigger jump in your confidence. I want to see you be more confident on calls with clients. A lot of the time, the calls are with more senior people that I don’t work with often. I get nervous and sound like I’m not sure of what I’m saying. I sit quietly on the call and let everything happen. Or I’ll chime in and be like, “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll look at this suggestion.”
What Makes Good Leaders and Great Leaders
Jon: What do you like to see in a good leader? What makes a leader a good leader?
Amanda: Number one is they have my personal interest at heart. I want to know they care about me as a person. I know a lot of people tell me, “You can’t always trust the people you work for. You always have to have yourself first, and sometimes you can’t trust everyone.” But this is essential.
So, number one is they have my personal interest at heart. They may not put me first, but they at least care about me as a person. That builds trust.
A leader has to be trustworthy. I have to know that whatever I come to them with, or if I need them for anything they’re doing what they can for the team and the company to their best abilities.
Jon: I’m going to challenge you a little bit more. What makes a great leader great?
Amanda: Getting challenged at work. Sometimes I do something, and they say, “Okay, this is really good, but I feel like you can do better.” As a great leader, they ensure you’re hitting all your marks, but they push you to grow more.
I feel you could be doing your job really well, but I think there’s always a way to do it better. You should always take the time to see something from someone else’s viewpoint. You might learn something from the way they’re doing stuff that could make your processes much better. Through this, your outcomes are much better.
Health IT: Making a Difference
Jon: A question related to fun. What makes working for a health IT association fun?
Amanda: What makes it fun? I think it’s fun because I finally care about my own health. Up until I moved to Chicago, I didn’t really pay much attention to my medical visits. I never really had any major health concerns. So it was very routine. But when I moved here, I finally was on my own. I had to make sure that I was on top of things. Once I had to go to urgent care, I wanted to make sure I had my Tetanus shot. I called my doctor, and they said, “We have no records for you.” I called my mom, and she was like, “I don’t have any records for you.”
So I learned the hard way that I had no medical history prior to my moving here. That gave me the kick in the pants to take initiative and say every doctor I visit is going to have an electronic health record (EHR). And I’m going to make sure I have all my records. And when I go in to have this hip surgery, I can tell them “I’m allergic to this.” Or, “As you can see here, I had these shots.” It was interesting that not only did I finally take the initiative, but I also was in a situation where I had an important medical situation that I needed to keep a log of my MRIs, my injections, and physical therapy.
That’s when I finally learned the importance of taking care of myself and keeping all of my health information intact and together. I found out the benefits of health IT. For me, it was exciting because it was a learning moment. It was an important way to become a better adult.
Jon: And that’s a good thing.
Amanda: That is good thing. Eventually, you have to grow up and be an adult. And now I know how to take care of my own medical insurance, history, and wellness.
Jon: That’s a lesson that, no matter your age, people are continuing to learn. We need to reach new levels of patient engagement. Your work definitely helps others along that path as well.
Amanda: I agree. A lot of my friends, when I tell them what I do, I have to explain to them what an EHR is, which still blows my mind.
Believing, Doing, Caring: Necessary Work Life Ingredients
I am grateful to Amanda for sharing her story and insights. Believing in what you are doing is important, just as having people believe in you. An essential element to career development and an engaging organizational culture. Doing the work creates the foundation to explore and craft a work-life tempo, vital to leadership development. Caring is in the middle, gluing many elements together. Caring about others, place, and purpose creates the opportunity for growth in work and community.
A new generation is in our workplaces, and Amanda is setting a meaningful example.