• Ed Robertson

Our People: Q&A with Emerson Health Founder and Director, Alicia Cook

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Alicia Cook is the founder and Director of Emerson Health. We sat down with Alicia (virtually, of course!) and asked her some questions about her experiences, why she started Emerson Health, as well as some questions to get to know her a bit better.

1. Tell us a bit about your history and how it got you here - or why you think it got you here.

This is a huge question. The short version is, I’ve worked in health my entire career - communications, publishing, sales, software development, and then for state, territory and Commonwealth health departments. I do love healthcare, and I’ve seen it from so many angles… so with the benefit of hindsight it was the perfect career trajectory!

2. How would you describe your area of expertise?

I’m a health informatician, so my postgraduate training focussed on the people factors associated with technology adoption in healthcare. I’ve also trained in transformational coaching, have extensive project management expertise, and in terms of subject matter, am strong in digital health and funding.

3. What do you hope to accomplish with Emerson Health?

Looking at this objectively - the health system we have in Australia is really world-class, but there is always scope to improve the way we do things - we want to be able to make tangible improvements to the way Australians receive health care. I’m also very committed to making Emerson Health a great place to work for our staff, as this is essential for peak performance in the team.

4. When did you first start thinking about making Emerson Health?

There’s a few aspects to answering this question!

The first question really is “How did you get into consulting?”... Early in my career, I moved around a lot - as soon as I had ‘mastered’ a role I quickly looked for the next challenge. In hindsight I should have probably sought a consulting career a bit sooner but it just never occurred to me that I would be able to work in this space.… what I realise now is that I was looking for variety and pace, and challenging projects, so this domain is right up my alley!

I had worked for a few different government departments and noticed there were lots of consultants there, and I started thinking about how I would add value differently if I was doing what they were engaged to do.

In terms of starting Emerson Health, it came about after I overcame a really challenging time in my personal life and I thought to myself, “If I can survive this, then I should take the leap and see what else I can survive!”

5. What does a typical day at Emerson Health look like for you?

We all know there is no typical day! If I think about things which I do consistently, it’s a blend of habits, thinking and connecting with people. I try to follow a daily gratitude practice as soon as I sit down at my desk; when I’ve identified the priorities for the day, I like to have a quick check-in with Ed to make sure we’re on the same page, and then my main foci are engaging with our customers to support our relationships there, ensuring the financial sides of the business are running smoothly and looking out for opportunities to systematise and automate the back-end of the business.

6. Since starting Emerson Health back in 2016, what's been your proudest achievement?

I can’t pick one. I am still very proud of delivering our first program of work for Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, getting three significant Integrated Care projects in place in three months! It was a bit of a wild time, and I had a two-year old at home while I was doing that - a good lesson to not think too hard about what you’re going to do and just get on with it.

In terms of proud achievements in 2020, it has to be building the team and putting the structures in place to support us scaling - particularly in the middle of an economic downturn - be brave when others are fearful, I say! I’m also really proud of our strategic direction in terms of expanding to offer Emerson.Live and services to organisations beyond our traditional government clients.

7. What publications do you read to keep up-to-date with information?

My first thought is that I don’t really read too much printed word-in-hard-copy these days. I do keep an eye on the Australian Financial Review, and the Guardian (Australia). I also listen to a few podcasts about business, strategy and leadership, with a female lens.

Other things I do for knowledge and skills development - which are not ‘publication-reading’ per se - are that I attend a mastermind with other peer business owners, so we can share knowledge and experience with each other. I also rely on good quality legal and accounting advice. I am a strong believer in paying for expert advice and acting on it!

8. What gets you out of bed in the morning?

A little person telling me to get up and make them some rice bubbles! Occasionally I wake up very, very early to get work done in an awesome zone of silence without disruptions.

9. What advice would you give to others pursuing this path?

If you are thinking about starting a business - the sooner you start, the better, as it requires action from you to get up and going. Think carefully about your long-term vision for the business and design your model and services to fit. Gosh - there’s so much. Mistakes are how we learn and improve. Resilience is essential, and you need to really have a good sense of when to take a calculated risk and when to be conservative in your approach. If you want more advice just drop me a line on LinkedIn, as I’m sure there’s enough to fill a very long discussion….

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