HFMA Chair Carol Friesen unveiled her theme “Where Passion Meets Purpose” at HFMA’s Leadership Training Conference in April. As I read those words, I reflected on my journey during the last several years and realized that I was at a turning point in my career.
After college, if someone would have asked me what I ultimately wanted to do with my career, I most likely would have said, “Be a hospital president.” I started my career in public accounting and then moved to a large health system. I have always been a bit of an overachiever and was raised to work hard and accomplish things in life. I progressively added more responsibilities at work and learned various business lines and different parts of the revenue cycle, always finding ways to adapt to new challenges. I had twins (apparently also part of my efficient make-up), cut back on my responsibilities at work for a couple years, and learned a whole new element of creativity and flexibility in management to juggle it all.
Once my kids started school full-time, I went back to a more traditional work schedule and gradually added back other activities like HFMA leadership and volunteer work. I was always big on volunteer service and working alongside my management team on projects in the community. Knowing my passion for community service, one of my fellow HFMA chapter leaders invited me to go on a mission trip with her church to Biloxi, Miss. While spending a week rehabbing houses and learning how to use power tools, I met some amazing people and heard some incredible life stories. I also learned that there is life outside the corporate world and that there are people who have chosen to serve others as a career.
When I returned home, I kept thinking about these conversations and how they challenged me to rethink what I wanted out of life. I had always looked at my “free time” as being for volunteer activities and things I was passionate about, but now I wondered if it was possible to make that the focus of my career. That was the start of a three-and-a-half year journey into re-evaluating my goals and what I wanted to do with my life.
It was a challenge to decipher which direction to go. On one hand, I continued to get more responsibilities at work, was able to build a strong management team, helped create a new culture in my department, and achieved some great financial results. On the other hand, I felt like I wanted more, only “more” now had a different face. It wasn’t just about financial results and career advancement anymore; it became about influencing lives.
That’s when I made the decision a year ago to walk away from a great job that I loved to find what was best for the next phase of my life. When I gave my notice, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was that I wanted to do, but I knew that I wouldn’t find it if I didn’t make the leap. It was too easy to stay comfortable and continue on the path that I had always planned. Although I was confident I was making the correct decision, I still had doubts about what my future would look like. Would I get bored in a different role, and was I wasting all of the technical and leadership skills I had acquired over the years? I also didn’t have experience doing anything outside of the healthcare finance realm.
Fast forward one year: I now work as the vice president, community partnerships for one of my former vendors. I am responsible for our newly formed corporate foundation, and I get the opportunity each day to meet with leaders of nonprofits, churches, government entities, and other businesses to discuss ways we can work together to address some of the social issues in our communities. Although I no longer read federal registers or have a large staff to manage, I’ve grown personally and expanded my knowledgebase and leadership skills more in the past year than ever before. I am learning each day what it truly means to be a servant leader. Putting that into practice and living it daily is harder than I had ever imagined. It was easy to say that’s what I believed previously, but now I am learning to intentionally put it into action. My days are vastly different now, and my accomplishments are no longer measured in dollars; they are about taking the time to invest in people and help wherever I’m needed. It’s about building relationships and seeing the power of what can be accomplished by bringing different groups to the table. It’s about being creative and working on new solutions to help address old problems.
My previous jobs gave me the skills I needed, and this new endeavor has helped me hone them. As different as the two worlds seem on the surface, the skills needed in both roles are remarkably similar. I still have a ton to learn in this new arena, but it’s comforting to know that I have finally found the point where my passion and purpose intersect. I hope others continue to pursue their points of intersection as well. What a difference we can make once we find that point!
Hayley Studer, CPA, FHFMA, is vice president, community partnerships for Credit Adjustments Inc. and is responsible for overseeing the company’s charitable division.