In This Episode:
In this episode, I interviewed Sylvia Flores, an IT/EHR business analyst for a senior care organization in Texas. Sylvia has also filled the position of project manager in previous roles.
3 Personal Mantras:
healthcare, business analyst, project, Visio, Project Manager, Agile, Teams.
Walt Sparling, Intro, Sylvia Flores
Welcome to the pm mastery podcast. This podcast is all about helping you master your project management skills by sharing tips, tricks, tools, and training to get you to the next level while sharing the stories of other project managers on their journey in project management. And now here's your host, Walt Sparling.
Walt Sparling 00:35
Welcome, everybody to the current episode of pm-mastery. Today, I have a PM from Texas. Sylvia Flores. Welcome, Silvia.
Sylvia Flores 00:46
Walt Sparling 00:49
So glad to have you. And we can thank Kurt for setting us up.
Sylvia Flores 00:56
Walt Sparling 00:58
Let's start out by telling us a little bit about who you are.
Sylvia Flores 01:03
Well, I was actually born in Mexico, we moved to the US approximately when I was about four or five. So I lived in the Dallas Fort Worth area since then. Then I started the public school system here. So the US is all I really know as far as where I come from and what I relate to. I started working in healthcare IT in 1993, give or take. And that's where I made my career. I've done a lot of traveling implementing EHRs. And I've traveled through several areas across the US in particular. And I've been doing that since the mid-1990s. And moved to Florida around that timeframe. And I chose to stay there. That's where I met my, my, my husband at the time. And we moved back to Texas in 2018 to be closer to my family.
Walt Sparling 02:09
So what is an EHR?
Sylvia Flores 02:11
It's another electronic health record. Okay,
Walt Sparling 02:14
So - a system
Sylvia Flores 02:15
It is a system, it's the electronic health record as it relates to what we used to if you have ever been to the hospital or worked with your physician, on your treatments, or whatever brought you to the doctor or to the hospital, to begin with. It's basically your history from beginning to end, since you reported in for some kind of medical treatment or another,
Walt Sparling 02:39
okay. First, I'd heard of that. It's interesting, a little more on your title and your job description, you like size, a company, etc.
Sylvia Flores 02:52
I currently work as an IT EHR business analyst. Like I mentioned before, I've been in healthcare it since the mid-1990s. As a business analyst, I'm currently working in senior care. This is long-term care, this is where skilled nursing comes in. So this is more so for the elderly population. And it's a big difference from the acute setting. The acute setting is where you traditionally think of hospitals. As far as you know, having different service lines, whether it be pediatrics or cardiology, where you have surgeries, is a whole lot different. This is actually a little bit what I call chill. There's not a whole lot going on this is from a senior care perspective, just making sure that everybody is comfortable and their healthcare needs are being met. This particular organization that I work for, is very small too, by my standards by hospital standards. So the whole organization is just a little bit over 3,000 employees across three states. And the business analyst role now it is maybe a little bit deceiving. Currently, because it's it's not only being the business analyst, but it's also executing on the projects that we have.
Walt Sparling 04:18
Okay. And I noticed in the notes that when you first move moved out, you were working as a business analyst and a project manager kind of a combined role. Yes.
Sylvia Flores 04:30
When we moved back to Texas in 2018, I took on more like reinventing myself now what did I want to morph into, and I decided to go into being a business analyst because two reasons. One, within the organization, I was in Florida. That was a fairly new role in that particular role. The only business analysts that we had at that time came from my team When we supported the EHR, that particular role came from a member, one of my members of my team became the business analyst for that division. So I thought that was pretty insightful. I wanted to do something similar because I did, it did appeal to me as far as trying to resolve or identify what an optimal solution would look like. And when I came on board, to one of the acute organizations here in the Dallas, Fort Worth area I came on as a business analyst, that particular role that I took on morphed for me, it may not have more of there was not a standard progression for the role itself, unless you chose it. But for me, it was more because I was the business analyst at the time. And there was actually a shortage of project managers within our organization to execute the projects. So as a business analyst, I wrote out all the requirements and documented all the requirements that are that were needed. So who better to run and execute the project than the person that did all the research about it? I mean, I've understood why there were two separate roles. But for me, they allowed me to take on the pm role, as well as the business analyst role, which was pretty exciting for me, I really enjoyed that.
Walt Sparling 06:31
Yeah, I'm trying to think if there would be any kind of conflict of interest, if you knew that was your normal job where you were both the business elements analyst and the project manager, you could probably justify the project better as being on the analyst side.
Sylvia Flores 06:50
Absolutely. And one of the other things that, I think was a great benefit, and being able to approach the project from both ends, is that I was able to identify first where we might experience some issues or some obstacles or something that needed to get fleshed out and worked with, that was able to see that in advance by serving that role first.
Walt Sparling 07:15
So healthcare, IT, business elements, project manager. So what drives you to do this?
Sylvia Flores 07:24
Healthcare, in particular, has always been, for me, something that has interested me from a business perspective. So I was definitely a business major all the way through college into my master's. And I chose healthcare because I knew that that was something that in the long run, we're all going to need that service. And there was a great way for me to acknowledge those services that healthcare offers. And in a way, even though not being a clinician, it was a way for me to help as well.
Walt Sparling 08:04
And, now with the various positions, business analyst, project manager, healthcare and in general, how do you, how do you keep up or continue to learn,
Sylvia Flores 08:18
I do a lot of reading on LinkedIn, with the various technology impacts on healthcare, I do love the motivational aspect of healthcare. And I do tend to migrate towards those folks that lead and inspire. So I do try to keep up with some of those leaders, if you will, on LinkedIn that make a great impact. I do admire that. In addition, there are certain things within it, not just healthcare, but just in general, some different types of knowledge that has emerged as new roles or new, new positions. There are some things that surfaced that didn't exist 15 years ago. So I want to make sure that I can at least keep up with some of those trends. And I do sign up and take courses on, I guess it, some people pronounce it, udimity and some folks you call it Udemy. So there are different courses that I take online and one of them is going to be Six Sigma as well as Visio. And there's I think there's another one that I'm interested in SQL, is the other one.
Walt Sparling 09:51
Okay, the database.
Sylvia Flores 09:52
Walt Sparling 09:54
So Udemy and I pronounce it u-da-mi and LinkedIn, are both excellent resources for taking classes and learning stuff. They cover so many industries and so many topics. I have more classes saved in my to-do in LinkedIn than I will probably ever get to because they keep sending me recommendations for new ones every week. And I'm like, Oh, that's a good one.
Sylvia Flores 10:22
Oh, that's a good one. Yeah, I'm the same way. Walt, I'm totally the same way.
Walt Sparling 10:23
What it does do though, is when a topic comes up, and I feel like I could brush up on something, I'll go to my list and go, what have I got saved in here because I need to supply a good one there. So phenomenal stuff on there. I love both of those. So now you do a lot of Agile-type projects.
Sylvia Flores 10:50
I you know, and that was one of the things that I started to migrate to, you know, I used to kid with, with Kurt a lot saying, you know, they just don't move fast enough, or, you know, why? Why do we have to be so methodical on some of the things that we do? Some things are very straightforward. And I don't understand why we have to go through, what I call the pomp and circumstance of it. So I started to look into Scrum, one of the agile methodologies for project management. And I thought, man, this is really cool. So Scrum is basically executing on a project. But instead of trying to get to the end result, and only identify the end result, and you're all in, you're done, when the end result is in place. Scrum is different, where you're actually identifying interim goals, and adding functionality and producing something useful all the way along until it reaches that imperfect goal that you were looking for. So it's, I describe it like, like a, like a, like building a car, you know, you know, you're going to build a car. And you know, you needed to get from point A to point B. But instead of going through the process of Okay, let's plan it out, we're going to do the engineering, okay, then we're going to take it through the assembly line, what Scrum does, it gives us something functional, until you reach the car. So you might start off with the with a dune buggy, you might start off with, you know, just something bare and minimum, that's still going to get you from point A to point B, it's still functional, it's something you can use. It's not the perfect end car that we're going to reach eventually. But if every step of the way, with Scrum, you're producing something useful, something functional, you're adding value as you go.
Walt Sparling 13:10
Yeah, I don't do much with agile, and I'm more since I work in the construction world, it's pretty much waterfall. But there are agile aspects that can be implemented like the design portion because this is similar. You want to you're going to design you're going to start with an idea. And that design is going to ebb and flow as you go. And it might not end up exactly where you thought it was when you started.
Sylvia Flores 13:35
Walt Sparling 13:36
Once you get into the field, though, and now you're taking what's on paper and you're building it. It's pretty much waterfall. You might have like you could have daily stand-ups for what's going on that day. And you can have today and what is it that they have the parking lot they have now and what's the next step?
Sylvia Flores 13:57
Yes, they have a backlog, and yes.
Walt Sparling 14:01
so I'm still trying to get a better handle on that, and how I could utilize that in certain aspects. And some of the firms out there, some of the contractors already do a little bit of their own agile practice, which is good. It's sometimes interesting when you get in conversations with folks, and it's like, agile is the way or waterfall is the way and it's like, don't get your mind so boxed into one way.
Sylvia Flores 14:27
Absolutely. And I mean, in construction, you still have to start with a foundation, you can't go anywhere else, I'll tell you the foundation in place. So I know and at least in the prior role that I was in, when I first moved here and that one company that morphed to then became the BA and then in the PM, one of the things that I saw interesting that was started to happen as they started to create hybrid projects.
Walt Sparling 14:56
Sylvia Flores 14:57
So yes, yeah, so that's right. Okay. All right. Me But he gets it. That's good. That's good. Because I think there's a great place to apply waterfall and agile. I think they're they, they almost have to work concurrently to really take advantage of the best parts of both of them.
Walt Sparling 15:19
Yeah, and I actually just read an article on PMIs website about that, about hybrid, and it seems to be that a lot more projects are moving in that direction than just one or the other. Okay, let's see. Some of the no matter what we do, no matter what job, whether it analyst pm construction, or it, you got challenges to deal with? So what are some of the biggest challenges you have dealt with recently, or that you are dealing with right now?
Sylvia Flores 15:23
Um, what are the biggest challenges I faced in prior roles as prioritizations were so much going on, there is always something in healthcare that takes priority, and everybody's priority was number one. And you really can't have 10 number ones. So one of the biggest challenges was just trying to ensure that everything stays afloat, to make sure that everything gets the attention that it deserves. It was a matter of opinion how much attention something deserves. Trying to manage the expectations of some of those stakeholders is always very challenging. The people aspect of what we do is very challenging. The challenge that I'm having now with my current role is the opposite. It's the lack of challenges. So I went from a fast pace. Hurry, hurry, hurry, cast that hustle and bustle of an environment to senior care. where, again, it's chill environment, you're not going to implement pediatrics in senior care, you're not going away. You know, there's a lot of services that senior care does not have that existed in the hospital setting that kept us busy. So now it's almost the opposite is like a lack of challenges. And probably one of those personalities that need to have something always go in. And so I have to do the shaking myself, I have to go seek out my own challenges.
Walt Sparling 17:33
Yeah, that, I can say that I haven't been in a job like that for a while. You didn't see something in your notes about it. And maybe this is something you need to look at, again, is doing something on your own mentioned that you invented a product.
Sylvia Flores 17:50
Yes, I did. I invented a product, it's and it's a tablet accessory. At the time that I thought this up, it was very particular to the iPad is because it was the biggest invention at that point that I pad itself and some of those Apple products, and I invented an accessory for it. And I called it the iBall where it's an ergonomically correct or ergonomically soothing tablet holder that also serves as storage. And it can also serve as a prop to actually put it on a desk or a tabletop or account or whatever the case may be. So it was a multi-purpose type of accessory for the iPad. And I got so far as to get a design patent for it that the time. But I really, really, really, really want to seek out that utility patent for it. So I'm interested in maybe know a little bit more about pursuing licensing for it, it's going to be very difficult and has been very difficult for me to pursue manufacturing it on my own. So that's kind of what I'm looking at. And there's a lot of ideas floating around in my mind as well for other inventions.
Walt Sparling 19:18
Okay, well, that's cool. That shouldn't help take up some of your time.
Sylvia Flores 19:22
Walt Sparling 19:23
There are resources out there, I've seen that they'll like if you want to manufacture something that they will hook you up. They'll like to do research. And of course, a lot of these places are in China, but they'll hook you up with a company and walk you through getting that done because it's amazing. The products that have come out in the last few years when you have systems like GoFundMe, and what's the one? Oh, they did - Kickstarter.
Sylvia Flores 19:56
Oh, yes, yes, yes.
Walt Sparling 19:58
Yeah. So you can actually put it out there and Get interest. And if they are serious about it, they'll give you money. And that proves how interested they are. So that's another option to get get the funding to get it off the ground.
Sylvia Flores 20:11
Now that would be amazing.
Walt Sparling 20:13
So speaking of an iPad, iPad is an awesome tool, what tools do you use in your job, whether it be software, hardware, you know, anything that helps you get your job done?
Sylvia Flores 20:23
Well, definitely the technology itself with respect to laptops and computers is your number one go-to tool from a software perspective, especially when I embarked and being a PM, up the Microsoft Project was obviously one of the big ones that I used. That one has a lot of functionality. And I don't know about even begun to tap into that functionality or Microsoft Project. But that's also a very important tool that they wrote one for project management, I have to tell you that my favorite ones are the ones that have been most impactful for me to be a little bit more efficient. And to tell a story with respect to the project has been Vizio, where we're flowcharting some of the processes and we're flowcharting, the data flow, whatever we need to know as far as how this is going to go. To paint a picture has been really impactful. There's a lot of visual folks within healthcare, and I'm sure everywhere in whatever industry, and when you can tell a picture and show, you know some of that information, it kind of resonates with folks a little bit better. They can Oh, yeah. Okay, I see it. Now I see what you're saying. So So Visio has been one of the most impactful tools. I hadn't used that before I became a PM, the other one has been OneNote. And trying to organize agendas, and meeting minutes, and even some tasks on the project plan. I'm trying to organize it and basically put it in bite-sized pieces, for whoever may need it, at that point has been a very useful tool to help me stay organized and keep some documentation handy. And to be able to disseminate that information to whoever needs it.
Walt Sparling 22:34
Yeah, OneNote is super popular. I just did a blog post on it just the basics of getting a Project Setup. There's a lot of people are like, Okay, well, that's cool. How do I set up a project? I don't even know where to start.
Sylvia Flores 22:47
Right? Right? Anything that keeps me connected, I am definitely an extrovert. I am a social butterfly sometimes. And anything that keeps me connected is another tool that I fully take advantage of. So whether it was Skype at the time, whether it's Teams, wherever I can chat and pick up, you know, just start typing and reaching out to people, that's been a very impactful tool as well. Especially if there is a project going on, and we need to stay in touch, it makes sense to be in touch more real-time than to say schedule a meeting. So that's been very impactful as well.
Walt Sparling 23:30
Yeah. And since COVID, Teams has really blossomed. Right? Yes, We made the switch from Skype to teams like right in the early days of the pandemic. And, of course, getting used to the new platform and getting people to you know, we had them both running for a little while. And we finally got moved over. And then man teams will zoom was huge. And then teams started to catch up. And now they've made so many enhancements. I'm in teams all day chatting meetings and video conferences. It's constantly going. Yes, so that is definitely a good one. So OneNote, common teams common Visio. I don't think anyone else has brought up Visio. I remember back in the networking days used to use Visio for doing diagrams. One of my favorites is Snagit. And it's more of just a presentation tool to put together graphics because what we do is pm is so important to communicate effectively and clearly. And being able to do screenshots or Google Maps shots and then throw on some notes about a site or a building are super, super handy.
Sylvia Flores 24:48
Walt Sparling 24:49
Good deal on tools. So the one question it's kind of near the end here, which is the Did you know everyone gets to Did you know so we can help share some piece of knowledge with people out there that may not be aware? So do you have? Did you know for us?
Sylvia Flores 25:09
Yes, did you know that on a tube of toothpaste, there is a color band on the end? And depending on the color of that band, it will let you know how much chemical or what the composition is, of natural versus chemicals is. And you can have green, which is mostly an all-natural type of, of toothpaste, you can have blue, which is a little bit of a combination of natural and chemical. Man, you can have black and black primarily means that it's composed of mostly all chemicals. So that you're one of those folks that seek the natural sources or tries to maybe not use as many chemicals or intake as many chemicals as part of your day-to-day that may be something to be on the lookout for.
Walt Sparling 26:11
That is that's news to me. And that is cool. And I guarantee you when I get done here, I'm going to be taking a look at my toothpaste. See what color I've got down there? Yes. Wow. NOTE: Further research reveals that this is a commonly shared internet-spread falsehood. https://www.healthline.com/health/toothpaste-color-code#toothpaste-color-codes All right. Well, I'm glad you took the time out. Kurt will appreciate this too because I know he had told me about you right after we did his. And I'm glad you did agree to do it. It's always good to see some different, different positions, different locations, and different experiences, how we grow because project management is not typically something that someone in high school says, I want to grow up to be a project manager.
Sylvia Flores 27:00
Right? That's so true.
Walt Sparling 27:03
So it's interesting how we get into the end of these positions. Well, I do appreciate your time. Do you have anything else you want to add? Or ask?
Sylvia Flores 27:12
No, no, this is great. And well thank you so much for having such a forum so that we can get a little bit more insight from others and participate and share our stories. So I do appreciate your time as well.
Walt Sparling 27:26
Well, I am glad to have you. And speaking of that, I have started, I put together some information on a project management mastermind. So it's a it would be a Zoom meeting. And it would basically be an opportunity for five or six folks that are PMS are wanting to be a pm or something to get online and talk about project management struggles they deal with things they want to learn etc. And I just want to put it out there for those that are listening. You can go to the website, there is a link for the mastermind on the menu bar, check it out and reach out to me if you're interested in getting involved in that. It'd be good to get enough so we can go ahead and kick it off. And with that being said, I want to thank you again and thank you, everyone, for listening. And we'll see you on the next episode of PMS rate.
Thanks for listening to the pm-mastery podcast @ www.pm-mastery.com Be sure to subscribe in your podcast player. Until next time, keep working on your craft.