By Joseph “Jody” Harris

In this fifth, and final, installment of his CIO Journal, Joseph Harris plans to spend only a half day on his last day of work at Camelot Healthcare, but continuing tech issues push it past the lunch hour. He then spends the third quarter of his day packing up his Louisiana apartment, where he lived during the week, before embarking on the four-hour ride home to Mobile, AL. While sad to be leaving a position he enjoyed and knowing he’s going to miss good friends (and food), Harris is eagerly anticipating a new role—a potential CIO position at a healthcare services firm 10 minutes from his front door. Editor’s note: TechRepublic is sincerely grateful to Mr. Harris for providing such a personal look at a CIO’s life during what was clearly an emotional career point. We wish him the very best in his future endeavors.

Joseph “Jody” Harris

Last hours packed with work


It’s Friday, my last day. I plan to work a half day and then finish packing up my apartment and head home to Mobile, AL. Working away from home has been less difficult for me than most. My children are grown and the wife and I are mature enough to understand that sometimes you do what you must do. But even with these things in mind, it has still been hard. I do not recommend that anyone do this if they can avoid it. It is hard on the marriage and difficult for the person on the road. You find yourself growing apart from your home and developing a whole life that does not include your family. You even become less sure which is your real home. I love the town and people of Rayne, LA, but my home is Mobile and my heart is there. Should I work away from Mobile again, I will move and live where I work.

I am truly excited about my prospects. I am preparing for my third job interview with a healthcare vendor in Mobile. I have had several interviews with other companies, but this company is the one. It will be a pleasant change to live 10 minutes from work. Today should be a relatively easy day.

8 A.M.: MS4 tech hurdle crops up
So much for an easy day. Lagniappe Hospital, Camelot’s main facility, is down. (By the way, “lagniappe” means “a little bit extra” in Louisiana.) We check the connections and determine there is no connection to the Siemans AS400 for MS4. I call Siemans and report that the line is down, and I contact the CFO for Lagniappe to let her know that the line is down and is being attended to by AT&T.

9 A.M.: Passing along vital information
I am working to create menu changes for the document management in Accounts Receivable. I explain to the field technician the methodology for accessing MS4 support: the phone number to dial, customer number, option numbers to select for MS4 or line down, and various other things to check before you place a support call.

9:30 A.M.: Explaining critical privacy issues
I meet with the accounts receivable manager to discuss why all users should not have access to medical records and what needs to be done about it. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance is going to mean a very difficult transition for most healthcare people. It is not the technical factors of compliance that makes the transition difficult. It is the human factor: People do not want to change their behavior. Training will be the biggest and most needed investment for HIPAA compliance, and it will need to become a repetitive process in order to keep it at the forefront of the healthcare staff’s thought processes.

10 A.M.: Back to AS400 challenges
Back to menu changes on AS400. I am very rusty at this. I have not done this in a long time, but I will take a shot at it. It should not be that hard.

11:30 A.M.: One last spicy feast
I had not planned on lunch today, but two of my friends reminded me that Chef Roy’s has Fried Shrimp Dianne on special today. The fried shrimp are placed around a bowl of thick noodles that are covered with a light sauce that has a wonderful blend of chives and spices that just delight the taste buds and make you perspire just a bit. Cajun cooking is spicy but not set-you-on-fire spicy like Mexican food.

1 P.M.: Packing up my second home
I finish packing up my apartment in Rayne and figure I will be home by 7 P.M. if I leave here by 3 P.M. Baton Rouge is one long traffic jam if you arrive during the 3:30-5:30 P.M. rush.

Looking forward to the future
I have grown much in my two years as CIO for Camelot. The basic skills to perform this job have been there for some time, but the hands-on experience is worth so very much. I created an IT department where there was none. I have now written policies and procedures from scratch for an IT department and developed a disaster-recovery plan. I have had the opportunity to plan the IT strategy for a company that would not give me a budget at all. I have worked with management and accounting types that could not see the value of IT, and I have read articles that help me understand that I am not alone in this arrangement. Other CIOs are experiencing the same thing.

I have gained an extensive understanding of hospitals and how they work. Even though I had worked with hospitals before, this position allowed for a more intimate knowledge of nursing homes, rehabilitation hospitals, and acute-care hospitals. My knowledge of the new federal privacy and electronic data regulations for the healthcare industry will be invaluable in any healthcare organization I should go to.

During my years at Camelot, I established a help desk and support software to monitor issues, got the company connected to the Internet and negotiated the contracts, built a VPN and implemented it, designed the enterprise network, negotiated communications contracts with AT&T, established hardware and software standards, and so much more. I left them with a cutting-edge, low-cost connectivity solution that could grow with them, and I also left them the people that I hired to support this enterprise network.

I’m anticipating my third job interview with the healthcare vendor in Mobile next week, and I am very confident that I will take a new position soon after. I have been preparing for the possibility of losing this position for some time now. I have posted resumes on the Internet, contracted a company to mail resumes to a large mailing list, and e-mailed companies directly. My best response came from contacting people in Mobile and telling them that I wanted to come home. I am really impressed by the number of responses that I received. The people I contacted were not acquaintances but were strangers. However, the comments I received and the offers of assistance reminded me of why I call Mobile home. They care.

I will miss this place, this town, and especially these people. Rayne is a very small town, and I have lived here for over two years. Monday through Friday, it has been my home. You get to know people and their families, and they get to know you. It has been a pleasant experience, but it is time to move on and make new friends and face new challenges.

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