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The Benefits of an Unconventional Career Path: Lindsey Baron of athenahealth

In an industry full of highly trained and skilled specialists, there is still room for talented generalists who love to solve business problems. Lindsey Baron, Executive Director at athenahealth, is one on these versatile leaders. She brings years of experience in diverse jobs and industries to her role as head of athena’s Communities marketing group.

We had the opportunity recently to chat with Lindsey to learn more about her career path and how she uses her experience across industries to help athena grow.

Give me the elevator pitch for athenahealth
athenahealth helps medical groups and health systems operate more effectively. Our products and services work together to drive clinical and financial results and reduce the administrative burden on healthcare providers. Our vision is to create a thriving ecosystem that delivers accessible, high-quality, and sustainable healthcare for all.

How long have you been at athena? What is your role?
I’ve been with athenahealth for almost seven years and most recently joined the Marketing organization in February. I lead the athenaCommunities team whose mission is to nurture and champion our numerous critical stakeholder groups, including customers, our Marketplace partners, and strategic partnerships.

Tell me a bit about your background
My background is unconventional! I studied Spanish and Business in undergrad at Emory University and started my career working as a Territory Manager for ExxonMobil. In short, I ran gas stations. After a few years in that role, I worked for a privately held industrial supply company in their Manager training program. I ran supply-side inventory management in a million square foot warehouse—I wore steel toe shoes to work every day. While there, I also completed my MBA at Northwestern University. My youngest son was born with three heart defects, and we moved to Boston to transition his care locally here. During that event, I found athenahealth and instantly fell in love with the mission and the people—I can’t imagine working anywhere else.

You’ve had an unconventional career path. Do you see benefits to that?
Absolutely! I’m smart enough to know that there are lots of people that are much smarter than me—and I want to partner with as many as possible! Being a generalist in this way has allowed me to learn from incredibly talented professionals in different industries with different backgrounds and training, and they’ve all helped me and taught me new skills.

Does athenahealth support employees with experience outside of tech and/or who want to move around to different roles within the company?
I’ve had the opportunity to work with Girls Who Code through athenahealth and was recently talking with some seventh graders about career pathing. I was joking with them and saying that I am the least “techy” person I know—and I was a Spanish major!! athenahealth values thought diversity and critical thinkers, which inherently means we’re accepting of people with a variety of professional backgrounds. We know that a team doesn’t get stronger by building more of what we already have, but rather by continuing to build and fill more of what we need.

athena had been through a lot of change in recent years, and the current year has been so disruptive. How has the company continued to build and support its workforce during these times?
The past year has been disruptive for everyone, and you’re absolutely right—athenahealth has matured impressively over the last few years. We have a stable and experienced leadership team in place and are continuing to build an amazing company that’s aligned against our vision. As such, we’ve weathered this year’s storm quite well, including virtually onboarding hundreds of new athenistas to fill critical positions and maintain our competitive advantage with top talent. We have numerous initiatives underway to support our workforce as we all adjust to the new normal, including a “Work from Home Wins” Teams channel where we all share photos, stories, and best practices from working remotely. We’re continuing to run at full speed with a tactically aligned and united team, and as our chief human resources officer Fran Lawler says, “it’s a great day to be an athenista!”

What would you say to a recent graduate or young professional who is thinking about their career path?
I recently had a great boss that was helping me think about my future career path. He liked to ask me, “what types of business problems do you want to solve”? I adore this question. Business problems can be similar across industries, be it in oil and gas, industrial supplies, or healthcare. Learn how to solve sets of problems and then apply that skill in a different setting. You’ll never be bored! I’d also add that healthcare, despite all the recent attention, is still ripe for improvements. Have I mentioned we’re hiring?

Any final thoughts?
Healthcare is a unique industry, poised on the precipice of fundamental change. The problems we’re trying to address can be so complex and layered that they appear impossible to solve- and they would be if we were doing it alone. I remind myself daily that I am part of a team; a community; a thriving, global organization loaded with talent and passion. There’s plenty of room at the table for unique ideas and smart, dedicated people who want to make a difference.

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