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Career Development Story: Karina, Director, IT Governance

Josephine Brennan

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Karina, Director, IT Governance, recently made a move within Foundation Medicine from the Engineering Team. Karina reflects on her life-long passion for learning, her desire to keep leading, and her quest to find innovative solutions to keep us moving forward. 
 
What was your first role at Foundation Medicine, and where you are now?  
 
My first position was as a program manager -  I was hired to work specifically with the Enterprise Systems Engineering (ESE) Team. In this role, I focused on building organizational structures that improved the teams’ ability to focus on prioritized work by limiting unnecessary distractions and focusing on process improvements. I also had an opportunity to introduce new roles and capabilities, including technical writing and release management. These roles further support quality and timeliness in delivering value to our users.  My role also focused on making sure that as Foundation Medicine grew, we had a sustainable growth strategy. We are growing incredibly fast, and it was imperative that the way we worked reflected the makeup of the team, which consisted of full-time employees and contract employees, as well as locations around the globe. When I first joined, we had about 13 people and when I moved to my new role, there were almost 60 people on the team. During my time with ESE, I was very humbly appointed a senior program manager, and also had an opportunity to take on the role of associate director of product management as our technology team continued to grow and evolve. I am grateful to the ESE team for trusting me along the way and thrilled to have had a chance to work with them. 

In my new role, I moved to Information Technology  (IT). The technology team is comprised of two parts: Engineering, focused on delivering cutting edge technology solutions and data to generate decision insights, and IT, focused on providing excellence in IT services and delivering secure, reliable, and agile technology. I am excited to be part of the IT organization and honored by the opportunity to build a new team called  IT Governance. I am working to build a vision for the future and work with the team to ensure ongoing alignment between IT and organizational strategy, further shaping how we make an impact at the company. A big part of my new role is leading change so that we can sustainably and continuously improve the way we work. 

What skills did you hope to learn with your switch to your new role?   
  
I am a life-long learner, so I value each opportunity to learn something new. I tend to be very strategic and focused on the future, which I have been able to continue to develop in this role. I look forward to honing my leadership skills, and I believe that servant leadership is most effective. We can't do the work we need to do without our teams, so it's important to ensure that our teams understand the vision and strategy to deliver. It isn’t just about delivering great products and services, leading also means building a positive culture and helping people to grow and develop, and I am excited to have the opportunity to do just that.  
  
What kind of support did you have getting to the point that you're at today?  
  
The past two years have been an intensive learning course, much like an immersive class. Massive growth across the company has allowed me to meet new people with new ideas. 
 
I am very lucky that I have a mentor, Lisa, who serves as our VP, Program and Portfolio Management. She has been incredibly helpful, and it has been great to have another woman leader in the organization take the time to teach me so much. She has supported my efforts to better myself, advised me on how to hone my skills and what to focus on, and has been a resource in moments when I’ve faced difficult situations or challenges.    
  
I was able to begin my relationship with Lisa simply because I reached out and asked. I enjoy reaching out to folks across the company and understanding what it is that they do and what I can do to help them succeed in their roles. It has been great to connect with so many people, especially women also on the technology side of the company. The network you develop is likely one of the most important resources at any company, especially here at Foundation Medicine as the organization continues to grow and evolve. It's so important to have your anchors, so as the tide sways from one side to another you have an opportunity to stay firmly planted and continue to do what you need to do in order to help. I encourage everyone to reach out to others. We can all learn from each other.  
  
What do you hope to do in the future?  
  
I hope to continue to build bridges - I use the phrase “destroyer of siloes and builder of bridges” to describe myself. Having unified and diverse teams allows for better solutions in the future. I hope to continue to collaborate across departments, to broaden our perspectives and to keep us focused on the future of cancer care for patients.  
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If I were to give advice to folks joining an organization, it would be to treat every new interaction as an opportunity to learn and grow, and to focus on building a network. Both have helped me to increase my scope of influence here and have given me an opportunity to contribute in new ways. The relationships you build can help you understand what is most needed and can open new doors. 

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