As the first woman to hold the presidency of Purkinje Inc., a pioneering Canadian company that aims to improve healthcare services through IT solutions, Mary-Anne Carignan has built and
directed a team who successfully orchestrated a profit turnaround for the first time in the company’s 30-year history. No small feat for this seasoned management professional with over
20 years of international experience including time in New York, Switzerland and Montreal. What is even more impressive is her commitment to promoting the advancement and
mentoring of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and her volunteer work for the Montreal Children's Hospital and the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.
“The patient must be at the heart of a progressive healthcare system and technology facilitates the collaboration needed to achieve optimal health outcomes.”
How would you describe your job to someone who has no idea what you do?
I manage a company that develops, markets and supports medical software solutions. We implement software that receives and manages data that help healthcare providers make decisions that directly affect patient care.
What milestone kickstarted your career?
For my career in general, it would have to be the financial reconciliation project I worked on in Zagreb, Croatia in the nineties. I managed a complex project that spanned all ex-Yugoslavia
regions, eventually winning an award for finance management. A key milestone in my current role was establishing our solution as one of the best in Canada for multidisciplinary healthcare facilities. By focusing the development in Quebec and reducing our use of distributors in other provinces, we reclaimed our clients. I firmly believe that
the patient must be at the heart of a progressive health care system and that technology facilitates the collaboration needed to achieve optimal health outcomes.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of improving our work environment to be supportive and inclusive. When I started at Purkinje, I met with all 80 employees individually during my first 3 weeks. Some meetings lasted 20 minutes, others 2 hours. I learned so much from them during these encounters (and even received a great chicken recipe). It helped me re-formulate our strategic plan and change the direction the company would take.
How did you perceive your line of work before living the daily reality of your work today?
I thought being a president would mean total freedom, the creativity to form and move teams forward to success. What I came to realize is that the responsibility is real. People’s lives are affected by my decisions so I put an emphasis on planning and risk mitigation while moving forward strategically. It is sometimes lonely at the top but peer networks provide immense
“Know yourself – Try and understand why you do what you do.”
What is your management style/method?
I use business management benchmarks. Trust the process and know the time-tested rules so you can be creative while keeping the focus on the outcomes (in other words,
“winging-it is not a strategy). Concentrate on the results, not endless efforts -if you know where you are going you will know when to turn.
Who has been your biggest mentor?
I easily remember my first mentor. He was my VP of Finance in 1992, but at that time I did not know he was a “mentor”. He encouraged hard, smart work and made me question myself, my
thought processes, conclusions and how I evaluated results. While this was the toughest time of my career, my business absorption was exponential. I am grateful for having had that
experience and his subtle, but present encouragement.
What is the best advise you have ever been given?
All excuses are good; but none of them are acceptable.
What would be the best piece of advice you can give?
Know yourself. Try and understand why you do what you do.
Mary-Anne Carignan obtained her MBA Cum Laude from the Business School of Lausanne in Switzerland in 1994. She was the first woman appointed to the International Budget Department at Philip Morris, and the first woman VP for an American healthcare IT company. She established Nursefinders Group operations in New York to serve hospitals and long-term care centers and co-founded the Quebec branch of the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada. She is also currently serves on the boards of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and the MUHC Research Institute.