Julie Stern is the Chief Technology Officer for Accolade, which is a consumer healthcare engagement and influence platform for large self-insured employers and payer organizations. Accolade has a mission to bring a health assistant to every person in the United States. Stern received her Bachelor of Science in applied mathematics, computer science from Carnegie Mellon University.

Can you describe your duties in your field?

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“My role as CTO focuses on creating technology solutions that help our health assistants gain instantaneous access to the information they need to support our clients and to ensure that our clients can reach our health assistants however and whenever is most convenient to them.

Overall, that means that my team receives requirements from the business teams that describe what they need technology to support. My team then defines how the technology will deliver to those requirements. We also have responsibility for taking calls from our users and fixing any issues that may be identified. We also have responsibility for building training environments and implementing new Accolade customers on our technology platform.”

How has education prepared you for your career?

“As a high school student, I volunteered to arrive before school to support my math teacher who was helping to develop a new computer science curriculum. From there, I went to Carnegie Mellon for a math degree focused on computer science.

I still find that my college degree prepared me exceedingly well for my career. My degree really focused on strategies for solving problems rather than programming classes that focused on specific disciplines (which was most common at that time). Knowing how to approach solving the problem is, therefore, a critical skill when specific technologies can become obsolete in just a few years.

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My education also taught me to take risks. Those who were innovative were more highly rewarded than those who just successfully solved a problem in exactly the same way it had been solved before.”

 What continuing education is required for your role?

“The most critical part of my education today is keeping current with industry trends and advancements in my field. However, it wasn’t that long ago when it became critical to my company’s success that I gain expertise in areas where I didn’t have any.

Earlier in my career, learning best practices around new technologies was most important. Now, my focus on continuing education is in areas where I only have experiential knowledge such as business and contract law. I’m not looking for a degree in those areas. I do want to be able to understand the implications of our leadership discussions and potential new contracts on the goals, objectives and strategies for my team.”

What advice would you give someone just starting out?

“Set a goal, then follow your heart. One without the other will not lead to a satisfying experience. I’ve always held on to the philosophy that I could do anything for a year. That let me take chances, but I’ve found that the chances that I take work out better if I believe that they will help me achieve a goal.”

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Christina Thompson is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia. She reports on various topics such as: Social Media, Local Events, Entertainment, Food and Drink and more. Her work can be found at http://firstsendmedia.com/