Kevin Apperson is a people-first leader. “You need process, you need strategy, you need technical acumen, but I always start with understanding goals and objectives,” says the chief information officer at Maxim Healthcare Group. “I spend a lot of time listening so I can easily break down problems into easily digestible components for team members.”
Because technology is constantly changing and challenging to keep up with, Apperson knows it takes people working together, who believe in each other as a team, to actually deliver that.
“My job is to lead and create the space for [my team members] to work together to solve problems, remove obstacles, and help them grow,” he explains. “There’s a lot of teaching in my role.”
Holding a degree in electrical engineering, Apperson spent the early part of his career designing circuits and systems for RCA and working on microcomputers in the 1980s. Because he also had a programming background, he was enlisted to write software and code, eventually transitioning to a full-time software engineer.
After leaving RCA, he did a five-year stint at Martin Marietta Aero & Naval Systems writing software for defense systems, followed by nearly six years at UPS, where he started managing people in its Geographic Information Systems technology group.
“That’s when I moved into a full-time management role in IT,” Apperson explains.
He was then offered the chance to become applications manager at Aerotek (the original name of the Allegis Group). Aerotek was a fast-growing company in the technical staffing market, and in five years, he was promoted from manager to director and eventually to chief information officer.
After spending seventeen years with the company—ten as CIO—Apperson took a job as CIO at Maxim Healthcare Group, a medical staffing company headquartered in Columbia, Maryland. So far, he’s enjoyed his role for nine years.
“As CIO, I’ve done just about every possible project you can think of in delivering IT services for a company, and it’s been quite an experience,” Apperson says.
Over the years, he’s learned that technology can’t build itself and needs to be built by human beings. So, Apperson has a specific set of requirements in mind when looking for people to join his team.
“You need people with the ability to think through and solve problems, design solutions, build them out, and test them in the real world,” he explains. “And as you deliver the solution, you have to interface with customers—or in this company, employees, patients, and caregivers, who are not technical experts. So how you deliver that software is really based upon how well you understand the user and what their needs are.”
That’s a big focus of Apperson’s role: making sure that his internal team understands the tools, the processes, and technologies; that the team is trained and motivated; and that the right culture is in place to build exceptional solutions.
“To me, that’s the heart of it,” he says. “If you have good people who are motivated, they can build exceptional solutions to solve almost any kind of problem you can think of.”
Apperson sees all the complexities of normal software delivery and solutions in healthcare, but he also has an additional level of responsibility to ensure everything is compliant, secure, and meets the needs of all patients and caregivers.
“Healthcare IT requires a lot more human interaction than in other systems,” he shares. “We’ve built services here that are mobile, used by caregivers to collect information at the bedside of a patient. We’ve built applications that collect medical data. We’ve had to create virtual networks and make sure that applications were robust so that when something failed, it didn’t break the entire application.”
One place Apperson’s engineering background helps is when it comes to complex problems. He can be very systemic and work through processes to solve them.
“I’m willing to have the tough conversations with people; we’ve had some great times and we’ve had some tough times,” he shares. “Just being honest with team members, the company, and our business partners is the best way to get any problem solved.”
A big initiative for the department is working in DevOps, a methodology around delivering higher-quality products and services faster by integrating teams on both the back end and front end of application delivery services.
“We have another concept we call ‘shift left,’ where we include all teams upfront in the imagining and delivery of an IT service so they can weigh in and give their feedback,” he explains. “It’s more of an agile approach that adds faster speed to market and increases the quality of the product or service.”
Both of these initiatives build confidence in the team and helps them grow, and Apperson appreciates that the IT department is building leaders.
“I know someday I am going to leave, and when I do, I’m going to leave behind a really confident, smart group of people,” he says. “That’s what gets me excited every day.”
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