Jeff Petet was confident in his choice of career from the start.
“I always had a love for technology and never doubted that it was what I would pursue in college,” Petet explains. Things were no different when he accepted his first role in the IT world. “It didn’t feel like work to me because I was getting paid to do what I loved. And that was helping people accomplish what was needed with technology.”
Petet may have advanced to more senior roles and to higher levels of expertise, but his mindset is the same as ever. In his present capacity as vice president of IT at outpatient physical therapy provider Upstream Rehabilitation, he focuses on the ways in which technology can help accomplish business goals—in this case, by facilitating the organization’s current growth and setting the stage for further expansion in the future.
Even before graduating from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a major in computer science and minor in mathematics, Petet began making his mark at Arcade Beauty, a global leader in scent sampling. “I was IT employee number one,” he says. “I started as systems administrator, but while there, I learned manufacturing, commercial printing, and real-time job costing analysis by interfacing technology with the manufacturing equipment.”
After spending more than a decade at Arcade, during which he built the IT team from the ground up, Petet entered the disability insurance space as a senior software developer at Unum. Seven years and two promotions later, he left Unum to become director of IT at Upstream brand BenchMark Rehabilitation Partners. Applying the experience he had picked up over the course of his previous positions, he stabilized BenchMark’s ongoing electronic medical record (EMR) system implementation and resolved an assortment of support issues at the brand’s IT service desk.
By 2018, Petet had been promoted to VP and had moved from BenchMark to Upstream proper. Since then, there has been a common theme across many of his projects. “A lot of M&A activity,” he clarifies. “One big merger, then a lot of acquisitions.”
The big merger occurred in 2018—and Petet played a critical part in its execution. “I oversaw the IT merger of Upstream and Drayer Physical Therapy Institute. It took us almost two years to merge the IT systems and processes, and then just as we were finishing that, the pandemic hit,” he elaborates.
Following an extended focus on pandemic recovery, Upstream acquired Results Physiotherapy in August 2021. This latest acquisition, which again saw Petet leading a significant IT integration effort, is emblematic of Upstream’s overall growth. “When I joined in 2014, we had about 175 locations and 1,200 associates in the company. Today, we’re at over 1,200 locations and 8,000 associates,” Petet says. “In the past year, I partnered with our EMR vendor to change the architecture of our EMR system to allow for unlimited growth.”
Beyond modifying Upstream’s EMR system for scalability, Petet introduced self-service analytics that make it possible for non-IT data analysts to handle their own analytics and reporting—which in turn enables the business to access that data more efficiently. Furthermore, he has placed increasing emphasis on automation and information security to support his broader IT vision for the growing organization.
Petet partners directly with his executive peers to maintain strategic alignment between the IT team and the business at large. “We meet with the senior executives every four weeks to update them on what we’ve accomplished, what’s coming up next, and what items are on the backlog,” he says. “That’s where we collectively prioritize with the various business units what we work on internally.”
With Upstream on a steady upward trajectory, there is certainly no shortage of projects for Petet and his team.
“In 2022, we migrated over nine hundred clinics to RingCentral’s unified communications service and created an internal mapping tool to ensure our patients get routed to the best location and clinician for them,” he says. “We’re currently working with the business on our data strategy and a digital front door strategy, and throughout 2023, we’ll continue to push for automation where possible and look to enhance our reporting and analytics to get faster and faster insights for the business.”
Petet plans to chart an equally ambitious course for himself by pursuing new technology certifications. His path forward speaks to his dedication to lifelong learning—and to the idea that personal growth, career growth, and business growth can all go hand in hand.