For those passionate about innovation, technology is more than a hobby or a job. It’s a recurring theme that shapes the ways we think and live.
Former board member of the Greater Nashville Technology Council (NTC) Kristin Darby is a healthcare executive and entrepreneurial technologist. For as long as she can remember, business and tech have had a major presence in her life.
Shedding Light on a Path Into Tech
Kristin’s history with technology goes back to when she was a young girl in Florida during the late 70’s and 80’s. “My family had a small business growing up that was a lighting company,” Kristin recalls. “It was for both retail and custom high-end residential and commercial lighting and electrical design.”
The family business had a “lighting lab.” Here, customers could experiment with styles of lighting. Previewing how natural and artificial lighting effects looked with architectural accents, artwork, or other home or business features helped them make the right selection.
“Many of the residential design customers had multiple homes and there began to be a demand to have visibility and connectivity between those homes,” Kristin explains. She remembers one particular job for a customer that wanted to remotely respond to delivery notifications. Her family’s business connected the primary residence’s doorbell and video enabled telephone. When a delivery driver would ring the doorbell, this would trigger a script to run via a 9600 baud modem. The primary residence’s modem would call the secondary residence, letting the homeowners know of the delivery and speak to the delivery driver!
This was before desktop PCs were sold in stores. At the time, home automation was an unknown concept. So, the family started purchasing PC parts directly from Taiwan. “I would work at the business after school. My Dad assigned me to start assembling computers.”
When Kristin was 10 years old, the family business founded a software development company. The primary product was a software solution for a retail lighting showroom that also streamlined draw payments for construction projects. “I started learning software coding when I was about ten,” Kristin says.
Being the Right Woman for the Job
Although Kristin had many years of technology experience, she opted to attend the University of South Florida, first getting her Bachelor of Science in Accounting and then immediately continuing to complete a second Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems (MIS).
This education was put to the test by her employer, Fresenius Medical Care (FMCNA). Kristin was working in the accounting department at the Tampa, Florida office when one day they had an urgent technical issue. This issue was related to payroll, and no one onsite could address it. It was suggested by one of her bosses that Kristin could fix the issue, since it was known she was taking night school tech classes. With the telephone assistance of colleagues at the corporate headquarters, she was able to resolve the issue.
The company was impressed with Kristin’s skills. The leadership team decided that Kristin should take over IT for the company’s Southeastern Business Unit. After some hesitation of leaving her accounting career path, she accepted the offer.
Determined to equip herself to meet the challenges of her new position, Kristin earned as many technical certifications as she could. For the next 10 years, Kristin continued her education. She never took a semester off until she completed her baseline educational pursuits at age 32.
“I achieved many technical certifications, including Cisco, UNIX, Microsoft, and Lotus Notes,” Kristin recalls with a laugh. “For any department that I was responsible for leading, I made sure I got all of the necessary certifications that would be expected of the members of my team.”
Becoming a Tech Leader
Continuing to learn not only kept Kristin sharp, it also forced other FMCNA employees to do better. On top of the certifications, Kristin earned both her CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner) licenses and her MBA was earned through an international executive program at the Henley Business School in the U.K.
Over the years, Kristin worked her way up the company ladder. She eventually became the Director of Information Technology for FMCNA. The organization provided her the opportunity to participate in hundreds of M&A transactions, lead numerous technology functions, develop scalability expertise, and innovate with technology solutions that directly benefited the patients being served.
From her work at FMCNA, Kristin has two patents from a patient education and entertainment system that improved dialysis patient experience and outcomes.
She enjoyed her work with the company, staying with them for 12 years. In 2009, Kristin decided it was time to take on bigger responsibilities. She took her first Chief Information Officer (CIO) role at the Risk Management Foundation of Harvard Medical Institutes (CRICO) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
CRICO is the captive malpractice and patient safety organization that serves the Harvard Medical Institutions.
Later, she served as the Boston and Chicago Market Divisional CIO for Vanguard Health Systems which she joined in 2012. During her tenure, Vanguard Health Systems was acquired by Tenet Healthcare. In April 2014, she became the Enterprise CIO of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, serving this organization for almost five years, based in Phoenix.
“It was very rewarding to be part of the emergence of personalized and precision medicine and see the direct benefits that oncology patients were receiving from this approach to care,” Kristin says.
Moving to Nashville (and Further Up the Corporate Ladder!)
In 2018, Kristin was recruited for the role of Enterprise CIO for Envision Healthcare, based in Nashville. Envision Healthcare is the largest medical group with the largest concentration in emergency medicine, anesthesia, and radiology specialties. The company treats about 10 percent of the U.S. population every year.
Kristin relocated from Phoenix to Nashville to serve in this new role. She was excited to move to Nashville, as she was already familiar with Music City through her work at FMCNA, Vanguard Health Systems and business associates she had worked with that were based in Nashville.
“It immediately struck me just how welcoming everyone was,” she says. “Everyone I met was focused on creating a welcoming and collaborative environment. There was also an active community of start-ups, entrepreneurs, and technology organizations. This was when I realized that Nashville had become a tech talent hub that had a strong base of talent.”
In Nashville, Kristin had found a city that was great for her and her family. “It really bubbled up to the top as the best place to relocate to,” she recalls. “It has four seasons, but they’re mild. It has a great work environment, culture, and economic attractiveness. All of those things came together, and we selected Nashville.”
As the Enterprise CIO for Envision, Kristin oversaw the technology strategy and operations for the organization’s business divisions focused on physician services, ambulatory surgery centers, home health and hospice. This included clinical, RCM and operational technology solutions with many different tech products. For instance, the organization has a “proprietary distributed radiology solution” that enables hospital partners to identify the optimal radiology care delivery model across numerous facilities, geographic areas and specialties.”
Kristin says, “It was impressive to me the caliber of professionals that got involved in these organizations and their passion for serving the Nashville community.”
In July 2021, Kristin left Envision Healthcare to establish a strategic advisory practice for early-stage organizations leveraging technology to transform and scale. She is taking advantage of Nashville’s integrated networks of tech, healthcare, and business, to be selective with the work she is performing. In January 2022, she joined the U.S. Medical Management as Chief Information Officer to lead the technology transformation that will deliver high value home-based care to high complexity patients. This is an incredible opportunity to transform and grow the accessibility of care to patients in the home setting. Kristin has served as an Independent Director for the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati (FHLBCIN) since January of 2021. She is currently a member of the Risk Committee and Chair of the Business Operations Committee.
Kristin says, “I lived in Phoenix, Boston, D.C., Tampa, and none of them had the same supportive and collaborative culture that Nashville provides. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to meetings and people say, ‘How are you doing? Can I help you with anything? or proactively offering to connect you with individuals in their network that may be beneficial to you.’”
She adds that Nashville isn’t one network, but tiered support structures for professionals at whatever the present stage of their career happens to be.
For further information about Kristin Darby, be sure to visit her on Linkedin.