Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cool Friend: Debra McKnight

Debra McKnightRecently I caught up with my cool friend Debra McKnight who agreed to be interviewed for my cool friend series. I've know Deb for over 10 years. She is currently serving as Director of Affiliate Technology Services for the American Heart Association. I consider her a great friend and truly value her insights.

So Deb, what single project would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career so far?
This is a pretty hard question. ANY Project that that really transforms the culture of an organization for the better or helps a non-profit’s mission move forward is the project I love at the moment and value as significant. Providing technology to help staff help AHA save lives just rocks my world. Technology is so cool because it’s so broad in scope… everything from designing donor and volunteer-facing web portals and planning mobile app strategies to moving around infrastructure in field offices, it’s all great fun. Probably the most significant focus I’ve had over the years however was not so much around technology tool, but rather trust. I was asked to lead the first charge in building the organizational trust needed to centralize our IT services from regional self- governing groups into a true corporate IT organization. With the help of a lot of great IT and business folks, it worked out great and now we can leverage our enterprise size for even more impactful gains for AHA’s mission

What do you think is cool? Why do you think that?
The technology at the moment I think is pretty cool is definitely three-D printing’s application in the health field. It you haven’t seen the TED video of the researchers printing a human bladder, find it and watch it. This technology will continue to mature and save lives by disrupting the current lousy supply chain for human organs. People are dying today because we have more demand than supply – this technology is going to ultimately fix that. And, as an aside, I would have paid good money to be there when the initial innovator had that first thought. “ Hmmm, I wonder what other media I could use with this ink jet printer…” And in the not so distant future, some percentage of us will have three-D printers in our homes for generic use. Devices with a sub $2000 price point are already in the mainstream marketplace.

What is your favorite book?
Oh, gosh; that’s an impossible question. My favorite “just for fun” genres are historical fiction and science fiction, just for the entertainment of experiencing human behavior in different cultures and time periods. Ken Follett and Isaac Asimov are at the top of the list. It seems that our intrinsic motivators and basic human nature really never change over the centuries. I’m not sure what to think about that, actually. My favorite management books (for their concrete impact) are “Who Moved My Cheese”(actually changed jobs after reading it), “FYI: For Your Improvement” (a great coaching book for anybody responsible for developing staff) and of course the classic “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” (rules to live by.)  I can’t help but add “Six Thinking Hats” and “Please Understand Me,” too. Please don’t ask me to just pick one!

So thanks to my cool friend Deb. You can connect with Deb on Twitter and LinkedIn.