CIO Interview: Dr. Joe Perez, NCDHHS, Solontek

How do you land key messages and resonate with your audience? Find out in this exclusive one-to-one interview with North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Senior Systems Analyst, Dr Joe Perez. 


In a fast evolving digital world, effective communication is at the forefront of many business strategies. 


Dr Joe Perez has dedicated his career to mastering the art of such communication; leveraging it to improve influence and land key messages with teams and partners, from his time as an educator to becoming the experienced IT leader he is today. 


In an exclusive interview, we delve into Perez's approach to communication, cross-department collaboration and staying ahead of the curve. 


Watch the interview highlights with Dr. Joe Perez below:


A passion for communication and collaboration

Dr Joe Perez, Senior Systems Analyst and Team Lead at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, has always had a passion for communicating knowledge. 


Prior to his current position, Perez obtained Masters and Doctorate degrees, in education, computers and theology, going on to become an educator for ten years before getting into his current line of work. 


Having taught everything from economics and Spanish to computer literacy, Perez says he “rose up through the ranks at university” over 25 years, taking on roles as Computer Training Manager and Business Intelligence Specialist, to name a couple. 


Perez’s current position involves leading strategy for technology platforms and partnerships, while trying to adopt a motivational style of leadership for his team. 


He said it is his responsibility to pick apart processes before “putting them back together again” to improve efficiencies  - and to encourage business and technical specialists to work together.


“My mission is to harmonise the collaboration between technical experts, divisional business partners, and our dedicated HHS professionals,” he said. 


“One powerful approach I've adopted is the facilitation of cross-functional conversations and collaborative initiatives tailored to our specific domain.


Perez gives one such example, of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services looking to optimise the utilisation of healthcare resources to better serve the state's residents. 


After helping to assemble a multifaceted team comprising data analysts, IT specialists, and other HHS professionals, Perez said the state would embark on a journey with one shared vision: improving the allocation of resources, expediting case processing, and, most importantly, enhancing the support it provides to vulnerable individuals in North Carolina.


“As the facilitator, I'd play a pivotal role,” he says.


“For our technical experts, I would articulate the potential of advanced data analytics and how it can be tailored to our unique challenges within DHHS. Simultaneously, I'd create a platform for our divisional business partners to voice their specific needs, the intricacies of client interactions, and the outcomes they strive to achieve.


“This collaborative discourse not only cultivates mutual understanding but also fosters a shared commitment to our overarching objective – enhancing the welfare of our clients.”


Relevance and resonance: avoiding death by PowerPoint 

In speaking to different audiences, Perez has discovered that it’s important to try and achieve “relevance and resonance” with the audience to the extent they leave your discussion feeling encouraged, enhanced and empowered. 


Perez applied his experience as an educator to this process, explaining that educating “not only involves knowing your material, but more importantly knowing your audience”, and trying to do so in a visually compelling manner. Perez exemplified that you couldn't teach maths in the same way to two students at different levels - and the same approach applies when talking to two different technologists within the same organisation.


His approach, he says, is about combining his passion and expertise, with relatable anecdotes and real-world situations, and driving audience engagement. He avoids “death by PowerPoint” at all costs.


“During a talk on the significance of data storytelling, I might share a personal narrative from my early years in IT. 


“I vividly recall a project where complex technical jargon had erected an insurmountable communication barrier between the IT team and senior management. It's in recounting how we overcame this challenge by translating technical metrics into visual, easily digestible reports that the audience begins to connect. 


Staying ahead of the curve 

When Perez first started out in the field, “the only thing that [he] had to worry about infecting our computers was a spilled cup of coffee.” 


Perez, therefore, feels he has witnessed firsthand how technology has evolved and transformed globally. 


Learning from this expanse of experience, Perez stressed the importance of being constantly on the lookout for “new ways to innovate, improve and stay ahead of the curve” to keep up with the fast pace of the developing digital world. 


Amidst this technological revolution, Perez offered the advice not to underestimate the significance of soft skills, such as problem solving, critical thinking and knowing how to deal with people. 


Quick-fire questions:


What was your dream job growing up? 

As far back as I can remember, my dream has always been to communicate effectively and utilise my skills to make a meaningful, positive impact on the world. 


What keeps you up at night?

My unwavering dedication to serving God and my community, ensuring that I'm consistently making that positive difference I'm so passionate about. 


What excites you about the next 12 months

The boundless opportunity to drive innovation, share transformative insights, and continue my mission of making life brighter for others.


What do you do outside of work

My passions span a diverse spectrum. They include my love for music, my drive for compiling and publishing a monthly military newsletter, my role as a global keynote speaker, and, most importantly, the joy I find in spending quality time with my beloved wife and cherished family. These pursuits collectively keep me balanced and inspired.


What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A guiding mantra that has profoundly impacted my journey is, "An expectation is something you exceed and not just meet." This philosophy propels me to consistently strive for excellence and serve to the very best of my abilities, embodying my commitment to exceeding expectations in every endeavour.

CIO interview: Check out our line-up of HotTopics Leader's Corner and Profile Interviews.

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