Julia Zhou

CIO at Community Behavioral Health

Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself.
I am the Chief Information Officer at CBH, where she is responsible for building an organization-wide technology strategy that streamlines business processes and maximizes innovation, efficiency, and security. Community Behavioral Health (CBH) is a non-profit 501c (3) corporation contracted by the city of Philadelphia to manage the delivery of behavioral health services for Medicaid recipients of Philadelphia County. Services are delivered in accordance with Pennsylvania’s HealthChoices Program, administrated through the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS).
What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?
It has been a great ride definitely not short of challenges. Since CBH is a single payor for the city of Philadelphia behavioral health program, we do not have any competition. So years of accumulated technology debt due to no innovation and try to control admin cost to a minimum. I came on board in Nov of 2020 and immediately did the IT assessment and created a multi-year technology roadmap. With first year focus on sunsetting legacy system, implement numerous standard process and procedures, strengthen our security posture when result in improving and modernizing 95% of our legacy system in merely 13 months. Improved overall system stability with SLA and service desk center of excellence. We came from 25 years of technology debt to owning state of the art data platform on Azure cloud with Snowflake as our central data repository.
Has it always been your vision to reach the position you’re at? Was your current role part of your vision to become a tech leader?
I have strong passion in technology and how it can change the world. My focus is to utilize what digital solution can offer to help our members and providers all along my career. I'm lucky that my passion shows in my work outcome and the result I deliver, which ends up in current high leadership role and having greater responsibility to make bigger impact.
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Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?
Along my career I met many great leaders, I paid attention to their behavior and leadership style that helped me to become a leader that I wanted to be. Which is lead by example champion changes and never afraid to challenge the status quo.
How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?
Technology leader has been shifted from backseat supporting role to a more co-pilot position who can be a contributor for business growth. Meanwhile, being the leader of changes and transformation, technology leader need to be focused more on people and process. The traditional technology leader which is very tech savvy need to pivot to people savvy. Without people and process, there's no technology strategy can be executed successfully.
What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?
This future leader need to have great communication skills and can influence even without power. This person need to connect well with people at all levels and able to translate his/her vision easily and timely. Leading changes is not easy and he/she need to be laser-focused on the mission and never give up.
How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?
Since technology is my passion, learning is my hobby. I love to learn new technology and often enroll in formal training and classes. I also acquire professional certificates for improving myself as a technologist.
I attend conferences to keep current with information and changes in the industry. I also reads a lot, listen to daily tech news and podcast, share knowledge and information with my network of peers.
What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?
Machine learning and AI is playing trivial role in current new technology. With proper control and good quality information, we can greatly improve the way we deliver care, with much better accessibility and affordability.
"Keep curious and have an open mind"
If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?
Keep curious and have an open mind, there's always better way to do things. Don't settle on mediocracy.
Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?
I have been in healthcare field for 20 plus years, I would love to continuously dedicate my time and passion to make healthcare a better place. Especially behavioral health which have great impact on our younger generation. I would love to see, because of my contribution in this field that our community is healthier, stronger and happier.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Behavioral and mental health awareness start from kindergarten education, that there's no shame in seeking mental health help. It's just like a flu or cold which everyone have no problem to get the treatment, your mental health is part of the whole person health and should be considered equally if not more important.

A big thank you to Julia Zhou from Community Behavioral Health for sharing her journey to date.

If you would like to gain more perspective from Tech Leaders and CIOs you can read some of our other interviews here.

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The CIO Circle Editor
Post by The CIO Circle Editor
February 9, 2023