Go Beyond the 9 to 5 with Kenneth Bonner, VP Federal Health, STI

By Heather Seftel-Kirk, FedHealthIT Contributing Author

Earlier this year, FedHealthIT announced its Top 100. Nominated and chosen by peers, these individuals have been recognized for driving change and advancement, for their willingness to challenge conventional wisdom, and for giving back to the larger Federal Health IT and Consulting community.

Recently we spoke with Kenneth P. Bonner “Ken”, Vice President Federal Health with Standard Technology Inc. (STI) about his decades of involvement, saying yes and saying no, and understanding reasons to be engaged in industry.

Mr. Bonner is a retired Captain with the U.S. Air Force, is the Task Force Lead with HIMSS-NCA (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society), Member Services Coordinator for USAF MSC (United States Air Force Medical Service Corps) Association, sits on the City of Westminster Board of Zoning Appeals, is the Chair of the Military Health Vision Team for the Professional Services Council and was a past board member with the NCHE (National Capital Healthcare Executives).

The picture of involvement over time

Bonner says essentially, he has been working in Health IT for 30 years in a variety of roles. His volunteer involvement has been the result of a combination of his desire to fill vacuums he sees and being asked to step in. “Initially I got involved with organizations connected to the Health IT industry as a way of giving back. That goes back to being in uniform, that sense of mission and helping. Beyond that, it is the best way I know to stay informed and be connected. There is no better way to know what is going on in industry, what is going to come, and to understand the needs of my clients in an informal way.”

He says there are often clear holes to be filled, jobs to be done, and his tendency is to see these and step in. In some cases, he says, these have led to longer term roles, in other cases, short term positions with expiration dates where he could step back once a specific event or task was complete. “Sometimes, opportunities to get involved come at the request of people you meet along the way who have seen what you can do and reach out.”

Those connections and his own roles within organizations have also helped him help others along the way, particularly when it comes to new companies or people new to the industry who can benefit from guidance and mentorship.

Getting involved

Bonner says anyone who is going to be involved and successful in Federal Health IT should consider getting involved, in one way or another, because this is the way they will grow and develop personally, and expand in their career.

He suggests people start by finding out which associations or organizations their own company belongs to, and then looking at those clients belong to. “From those, identify one that aligns with an area of personal interest or focus and attend meetings and educational events, see where there might be opportunities to get involved.”

Beyond meeting people through this initial interaction, he suggests people look next for volunteer roles or opportunities to sit on committees, noting this can be a good way to start slowly and to get to know an organization better. “Once you start, you’ll see the benefit of being involved.”

The reasons why matter

Bonner says for him giving back is “part of the uniform”, part of a pay it forward mentality, and part of understanding that he wouldn’t be where he is today without his military experience. For others considering getting involved, he says understanding the motivation behind the desire is important. “Getting involved isn’t about getting ahead. If it’s all just about the job, you won’t help yourself or anyone else and you won’t achieve what you are hoping to.”

He says instead of an end goal, it is important people understand and buy into the mission of any organization they choose to get involved with. “Being engaged in this way goes beyond the 9 to 5. It is important that your heart and head are in the right place.”

He also says when, at times, the opportunities and chances to get involved are overwhelming, understanding why you are engaging, and the legacy you want to leave behind, can help with the yes or no decisions that sometimes have to be made. “Who you want to be and what you want to be remembered for personally and professionally can help balance what you decide to take on, and help you understand what you may not have time for at that moment.”

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