Consultant Profile – Dawn Mitchell
Managing Director and Advisor, Cromford Health
I met Dawn in the fall of 2015, while she was with The Chartis Group, and I was at Accenture. She was trying to recruit me to join Chartis, and while that didn’t play out (we both left our respective firms shortly after), we did stay in touch. And, actually I have Dawn to thank for introducing me to the marketing firm and individual – Erin Hutchinson – who I work with daily to support all of the web and collateral design for my businesses. The Consultant’s Closet, along with my other ventures would still just be ideas I wanted to launch were it not for all of Erin’s help – so all the thanks to Dawn for that introduction.
As Dawn and I have remained in contact through the years – she’s been extremely supportive of this venture, and when she heard I was coming for a photoshoot in Chicago – there was zero hesitation at making it a priority to attend.
Thank you to Dawn for your willingness to share your consulting career, how you’ve navigated a track record of success through the years, the advice you have for others, and the part your wardrobe has played along the way.
Q: Dawn, you by all accounts have a very successful career in consulting – how did you get to where you are now?
A: With a background in IT, and a computer science degree from Northern Illinois University, Dawn started her career at Motorola Cellular. She spent 10 years there and quickly moved from development into project management within a very fast-moving division and earned an MBA while working full time. It was a rewarding experience that had her working tirelessly to stand up new systems quickly, which took her to England for several years, while also getting to support new factories being built and brought online in Scotland and Germany.
In her last few years with Motorola, Dawn worked on a large program to reengineer the manufacturing and cost accounting processes for Motorola Cellular worldwide in an effort to replace the legacy mainframe systems – from utilizing a startup vendor to implementing SAP. Then the initiative changed direction again, at which point Dawn said – it’s time to go. She remembers vividly making the decision to leave when one of her original stakeholders that she worked with walked out of a meeting with her and said – “the days of getting things done are over aren’t they? We’re just meeting for the sake of meeting.” The fast-paced, lean, and dynamic environment had shifted, and as a result Dawn made the jump into consulting.
She elected to transition into consulting for the diversity of clients, engagements, and experiences it offered. Out of college she had wanted to be in software sales, and she liked that consulting offered a sales-focused mentality. She chose to join a small firm out of Michigan and worked with one client in the Minneapolis area the entire two years she was with them. The client, a pharmaceutical benefits manager, provided her first exposure into healthcare. While working with them she migrated a data center, brought up a data warehouse and led an initiative to develop a custom rebating system (which was politically charged).
When that client was purchased by Express Scripts, Dawn supported their IT merger, and then decided to change firms. She transitioned to Cap Gemini America – wanting a bigger firm that wasn’t too big. While with Cap, she worked at their local Chicago office serving in a variety of program and account manager roles across industries. During her time there she had her son, and wanting to get off the road, transitioned into the role of Delivery Director where she was responsible for delivery quality and client satisfaction. In 2002, Cap Gemini acquired Ernst & Young Consulting and Dawn assisted with the merge of delivery and performance management processes and tools.
Because of Dawn’s focus on pursuing impactful work that she loves, she has never been interested in being a Partner in a large firm or having to focus on the career ladder. As a result, after the acquisition of EY and the changing dynamic at Cap Gemini – Dawn reconnected with the leadership from her first client and was asked to launch a Chicago / Milwaukee office for Healthia Consulting.
Healthia was growing during the Epic (healthcare electronic medical records software company) boom – when healthcare systems were just starting to really realize that they needed to digitalize medical records. As a result, the firm ended up going nationwide, and Dawn became the Regional VP for Sales – Midwest. Healthia then sold to Ingenix, and Dawn wanting to come off the road a bit transitioned to a smaller firm for a year that wanted to launch healthcare consulting services – Laurus Technologies. Unfortunately, that firm never got enough traction, and Dawn elected to transition to Aspen Advisors, a cornerstone strategy firm delivering higher level healthcare advisory engagements. She served as a principal and partner for many years at Aspen and led the Clinical practice there.
Aspen Advisors was acquired by The Chartis Group in 2014, and Dawn remained with them for a year to support the transition and then branched out on her own in order to take back control of her workload and her work focus. Since 2016, she’s been working with a variety of healthcare providers and start-ups, and had the opportunity to serve as the interim CIO for a large independent home health group in the Chicago area where she became passionate about making a difference in healthcare beyond the hospital and clinics.
Dawn is currently focusing in telehealth, working with Cromford Health to provide strategic and operational leadership and research, and advise start-up vendors and clients to solve their cutting-edge needs, while continuing to raise the bar on her own growth, and the success of her client’s advancements.
Q: You’ve made several strategic career moves and transitions through the years – how did you know when it was time to pivot?
A: It’s a combination of growth opportunities, timing, and sometimes seeking a reduction of hours and travel. I like to be learning and growing, and spending time on the ground with clients and team members. When that’s not happening, I know it’s time to make a change.
In addition, having a child had an impact on my career moves, which were often aligned with my son’s major milestones. The older he got, the more my travel impacted him.
Q: Favorite part of consulting?
A: I truly love building and delivering upon services with clients – especially when that can be focused around change management. I firmly believe the success or failure of every project or relationship is a direct result of how well the change and communication is managed.
Q: What would you tell people just now entering consulting?
A: Two things: One: Do what you love to do and the rest falls into place. Ken Graboys, CEO at The Chartis Group always told us – “Love what you do, love who you do it with, and love who you do it for”. Looking back on my career, the times when I was following this advice were the happiest and most rewarding.
Two: Learn everything you can in the first third of your career – find great mentors, get out of your comfort zone, take risks, build relationships, travel and focus on absorbing all that you can so that you can grow constantly. After that, explore all the interesting and exciting opportunities available to you.
Q: As someone who has spent considerable time as a consulting managing director what do you think makes you an effective leader, and what advice do you have for others entering the leadership ranks?
A: I consider myself to be a good leader, and a good team builder, and I attribute that to the fact that I firmly believe in getting to know my team members both professionally and personally – understanding what is important to them, what drives their goals and interests – so that I can be vested in their success. Knowing my team, caring about them, and supporting them builds effective, loyal teams that enjoy doing what they do.
Q: You’ve experienced many different corporate environments through the years – what role has your wardrobe played along the way?
A: It’s played a large part – have lived through it all in terms of levels of professionalism and feel strongly that your wardrobe is so critical for confirming positive first impressions and establishing credibility and projecting confidence.
When with Motorola, my office was in the middle of the factory and the dress code was extremely formal – full suits and nylons – the women would go to the bathroom together because all the men working in the factory would whistle at us as we walked by. Things have changed a bit since then, but I still dress in a full suit for client presentations and sales meetings, though the work from home wardrobe is far more comfortable.
Have to laugh though – the startup I’m now working with focuses on telehealth, and our CEO recently shared a story about a telenurologist who took a patient consult in his bathrobe – so while work from home wardrobes are sometimes casual – there’s a time and a place, and even digital video conference calls require some decorum and formality for the audience.
Also, I love the goals of The Consultant’s Closet, because people really struggle with how to dress well, especially if you don’t have someone in your life to help you with what to wear and how to be professional. It’s not an innate skill that many have, and as a result, knowing how to put everything together effectively so as to put your best foot forward is a challenge for many.
Q: Worst Travel Horror Story?
A: In reality, have blocked them out! Instead I can tell you about the travel woes my team members have faced through the years because those are always the ones I’m most worried about – hearing someone had to sleep on the floor of an airport, or get stuck somewhere horrible is far more memorable than my own travel snafus.
That said, I was just stuck overnight in NYC with two grumpy teenagers – which was fairly harrowing!
Q: What are you currently reading?
A: Ed Marx – Voices of Innovation: Fulfilling the Promise of Information Technology in Healthcare. For those of you unfamiliar with Ed, he’s currently serving as the CIO of Cleveland Clinic.