When Mika Taylor first accepted a position at John Muir Health in 2005, it came with a gentle warning. “The recruiter told me that it’s a great organization, but that there wasn’t a lot of change here,” she remembers. “It seems funny now considering the past seventeen years.”
That’s because since 2005, Taylor has grown into six positions—some that didn’t exist until she built them out—the most recent being her January 2022 promotion to vice president of finance and Optum performance for the healthcare system. Change has been not only constant, but important for both Taylor and her forward-thinking financial team.
Colleagues of Taylor have taken notice and praise her adaptability. “Mika is a leader that never loses sight of the importance of personal connections in healthcare,” says Christine Nation, senior manager at WFM Analytics. “Her ability to balance the financial stewardship of the organization with the importance of optimal patient outcomes and the well-being of frontline caregivers truly sets her apart.”
While Mika Taylor got her foot in the door with an accounting position, her passion for growth drove her into new areas, such as the building of the organization’s analytics structure. She applied for a management position, got the job, and found that while the area was invigorating, it wasn’t her end goal.
What stands out most in talking with Taylor is the executive’s drive to find work that interests her. Not every promotion was a resounding success in finding that fulfillment, she says, but everyone was necessary in helping her find her way.
“I’ve never been the person who’s always trying to get that next job,” Taylor says. “I’m just grateful that I work for an organization that has recognized the need to change. As business needs have changed, sometimes that meant building a job that didn’t exist until I moved there.”
Taylor’s current VP role, for example, didn’t exist until leadership realized it was an area that needed to be built out and placed their faith in Taylor to develop it. The same is also true of her previous roles as director of financial planning and budget and as executive finance director.
Taylor is now tasked with overseeing numerous partnerships within John Muir Health, expanding her presence outside of the financial space, and better understanding critical back-end administrative areas. That perspective is also helping the finance team to be more proactive in their approach.
“Managing these partnerships offers the chance for finance to have some insight into these processes and projects before they happen,” Taylor explains. “Being able to bring information to the team as it’s happening is so much more effective and validating than seeing it after the fact.”
Personal growth is just as critical. The VP says that as her roles have changed, she’s found her own voice and improved her self-advocacy. She wasn’t sure that she was ready for this new role, but had the backing of her boss who knew the executive wanted to continue to build out her skill set. Taylor says she encourages others can take their own leaps of faith.
“I just hope people can understand that it’s important for people to let those around them know that they’re looking to grow,” Taylor says. “If people know that you’re looking for a challenge, your name is much likelier to come up in conversations, even if that job doesn’t exist yet.”
Despite Taylor’s rise at John Muir, the executive hasn’t let her life outside of her day job suffer. The mother of two has made her two sons a priority and says that being present for them is nonnegotiable. The executive credits her husband in helping achieve that balance, acting as an ideal partner in helping navigate the “new normal” that many families have grappled with since COVID-19 redefined the nature of work.
Even before the world was turned upside down by the pandemic, Mika Taylor’s husband was her rock—not just a coparent, but a consultant for issues large or small. “I could not have progressed as I have without decisions we made together to support one another and our family,” she says.
While the challenges and heartbreaks of the pandemic echo long after the lockdown of 2020, the executive says a silver lining was the new focus on workplace flexibility exhibited by many organizations. It’s especially meaningful for Taylor, as John Muir’s Northern California location is also where she grew up. She’s surrounded by family and friends in a community that has helped shape her.
“Balance means something different for every single person, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind,” Taylor says. “But, whatever your approach, I just think you need to put your best foot forward after understanding what is right for you. Take that time to understand what is important to you, and I think you can make it happen.”
Move the Rock
As her leadership responsibilities have increased, Mika Taylor has found inspiration in Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. Taylor quotes a passage that fundamentally shifted the way she thought about leadership.
“Stop kicking the rock and move it instead. If a person is not the right person for the position, there is no amount of pushing that’s going to change it. They need to be reassigned to a position, where they can make a contribution.”
“That really challenged me to step back and realize we all have different interactions with people that might frustrate us at times,” Mika Taylor says. “You have to learn to have different expectations for different people, learn to support them, and not set them up for failure.”
Advancing the mission to improve the health of the communities we serve, John Muir Health and Optum are focused on advancing delivery of high-quality, convenient and affordable health care to the Bay Area. The exceptional skills and knowledge of the John Muir Health team together with Optum’s extensive set of capabilities advance this mission.