Interview with Silicon Slopes CMO of the Year Tarah Neujahr Bryan

On February 4, Health Catalyst Chief Marketing Officer Tarah Neujahr Bryan was named Silicon Slopes “CMO of the Year” at the annual Silicon Slopes Hall of Fame & Awards Gala. After offering our hearty congratulations and cleaning up the confetti, we asked to speak with Neujahr Bryan about her award-winning work as CMO and how she uses her leadership role to lift those around her.

When did you first become interested in healthcare marketing?

Supporting a mission is incredibly important to me. I didn’t set out to do healthcare marketing exactly. Mostly I just wanted to use my ability to pull together disparate pieces of information into a cohesive, compelling story. And I wanted to contribute to society while doing it. Healthcare is an obvious place to start. My roots are in the non-profit sector, and I like to bring that philosophy of mission-first accountability into our work at Health Catalyst.

What are the top pain points you aim to address through Health Catalyst’s marketing and communication efforts?

Healthcare is a basic human right. In my experience, most of us working in healthcare believe that on a fundamental level. However, the American healthcare system as a whole isn’t set up to sustainably deliver care to everyone who needs it. Thus, the question becomes: how do we efficiently care for as many patients as we can, producing the best outcomes possible, given our restraints and complexities? Health Catalyst answers this question in several ways: helping health systems use the data they already have to make better operational, clinical, and financial decisions that will improve patient care and reduce costs across the entire continuum of care delivery.

What is one piece of advice that you can share with other professionals in the healthcare marketing space?

Focus first on a mission. Whether you’re in a hospital setting or a vendor selling to hospitals, the ultimate goal in healthcare revolves around patients. The best marketing is about people and emotions, not products and features.

Aside from the Silicon Slopes CMO of the Year award, what is your favorite professional achievement?

I think my favorite achievements center more around enabling members of my team to grow—both in terms of professional capacity and ability to fulfill personal goals. Whenever I’m able to promote someone, expand their areas of responsibility, or see them hit a personal milestone while remaining on their career track (a baby for example!!!), it gives my work-life depth and meaning.

After that, it was when my dog, Belka, and I got awarded for our therapy work with kids and teenagers. She’s a registered therapy animal, and I’ve experienced firsthand the profound effect she has on kids struggling with various mental health disorders. Really, I was just along for the ride. It’s been an honor to enable her work. Belka is the goodest girl.

Your CMO of the Year award acceptance speech is rumored to be particularly thought-provoking, tell us more…

Once I recovered from my shock, I started the speech by thanking Silicon Slopes for the honor. I gave some props to my fellow nominees, who are true all-stars. Then, I pointed out that I wouldn’t be there without my teams, starting with my amazing Health Catalyst team. I thanked my husband and my two small children, Ainsley and Fletcher, for the great teamwork at home. I finished my speech with a challenge to all the men in the audience. I told them to look at their calendars for the next few weeks and see who they were meeting with, and who was in their professional networks. I told them that if everyone looked like them, thought like them, and talked like them, then they were doing it wrong. I told the men they needed to step up; that we needed their help. Then I said thank you and reluctantly jumped into a ball pit.

On that note, how can professionals empower their female coworkers?

First, we must demand accountability from our colleagues and our organizations as a whole for equity. This means we ask the question: how are underrepresented people showing up when it comes to decision-making? Who is at the table across the organization, from the C-suite to middle management to our intern programs? We need to measure and share what we find. Then work toward solutions to address gaps in meaningful ways. This is nitty, gritty work that causes uncomfortable feelings—and it should.
In America, the lack of access to affordable, quality childcare is an enormous barrier to professional growth for women, even as our society moves away from traditional gender roles. Same with the loss of our right to access reproductive healthcare. No federal protection for reproductive care means real, negative consequences for professional women. We no longer have control or choice over our own bodies, and we don’t have support for childcare. This is a ridiculous juxtaposition that undermines decades of progress while hurting generations of future women.  
As individuals, we need to actively seek perspectives and inputs distinctly different than our own. Then we should amplify those perspectives as often as possible and as publicly as possible. People in positions of societal privilege, namely white cisgender men, can make the biggest impact simply by inviting diverse colleagues into their professional circles.

Tell us about a female leader who has inspired you.

My mom, a teacher specializing in early childhood, owned and operated her own large preschool and daycare center for many years. She had employees, payroll, government inspections, bills to collect, and all the usual rhythms of running a business. But she did it with heart alongside an assertiveness I’m still trying to figure out how to emulate. She could find extra clothes and food for a kid whose family was clearly struggling, while still demanding on-time payment from those who were not. I don’t think I knew how rare that combination was until I started my own professional life.  

What is one thing you know now about women and work you wish you had known earlier in your career?

When I was much younger, I worked at an HVAC company where I was constantly being sexually harassed by male managers. When I finally complained (albeit meekly), I was fired. I also once had a male HR head comment on my body (no one to complain to there). These are merely two examples of the sexism and misogyny I’ve faced in my career and personally. However, each time I thought I was alone; there was something wrong with me on a fundamental level because these things kept happening to me. I suffered in silence. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized I was far from alone and this level of harassment is far too prevalent. I wish I would have shared my stories earlier and more broadly so other young women could find their voices. I’m now at a point in my career, and age-wise, that I feel more comfortable calling out this behavior and advocating for people subjected to it. We have enough progress to make—overcoming sexism (both overt and benevolent), closing pay gaps, and breaking the glass ceiling—that we must work together, open, and vulnerable.

Silicon Slopes is an organization that serves as the hub of Utah’s startup, tech, and business ecosystem. The organization’s Hall of Fame awards program launched in 1999 and recognizes technology and business leaders who have contributed to the growth and success of Utah.

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