This interview, “Education is the Root of Change,” was conducted and written by Candice Georgiadis and published on Thrive Global. Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist. Candice is the founder and designer at CG & CO. She is also the Founder of the Social Media and Marketing Agency: Digital Agency. Candice is a Social Media influencer and contributing writer to ThriveGlobal, Authority Magazine and several others. In addition to her busy work life, Candice is a volunteer and donor to St Jude’s Children’s hospital. You can also follow her on
“Education is the root of change” With Candice Georgiadis & Lindy Benton
Thrive Global, September 10, 2020 —I [Candice Georgiadis] had the pleasure of interviewing Lindy Benton the CEO and President of Vyne, a provider of healthcare communications, electronic attachment and health information exchange solutions to the hospital, dental practice, and payer markets. Lindy’s 30-year career also includes roles at Digital Equipment Corporation, The Sage Group and Cerner Corporation. She has been recognized as one of the “Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT” by Health Data Management and as a “Woman to watch in healthcare IT” by Becker’s Hospital Review. Lindy holds a Master of Science degree from Florida State University, was named one of the university’s distinguished alumni in business and industry and serves on the university alumni association’s national board of directors.
[Candice] Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
[Lindy] I started out as a special education teacher in Pasco County, FL. I helped build a program, the first of its kind in the state of Florida, that supported more than 100 disabled children in successfully transitioning to public school. In teaching, I found a key component to the students’ success was the availability of technology to help them communicate in the classroom. I enrolled in a Ph.D. program in Statistics and Computer Science and learned how to apply desktop computers in this effort. This later transitioned to a role with Digital Equipment Corporation, where I guided engineers in developing new desktop devices to help children like those I taught.
After leading Digital Equipment Corporation’s southeast healthcare division, I continued to focus on advancing healthcare technology in roles at Cerner, The Sage Group, MEA|NEA, and now Vyne. In my 15 years serving in various leadership positions at Cerner, I hired and trained high-performing sales teams and oversaw clinical and technical teams responsible for designing and delivering IT solutions to clients worldwide. Leadership opportunities at Cerner later opened the door to an executive role with The Sage Group where I was Chief Operating Officer of their healthcare division.
Since 2011, I have been CEO of Vyne, a recognized leader in secure health information exchange and electronic healthcare communication management. We design and deliver solutions that capture and transform manual, paper-driven processes to automated workflows that improve performance, efficiencies, and outcomes for both dental and medical teams.
[Candice] Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
[Lindy] A story that shaped the way I approach my career occurred in a previous role and centered on a conversation I had with a young woman at my company. I attended a presentation she gave and later went to congratulate her on a job well done. Her response was what opened my eyes to the significance of my role and its impact. She said, “I’m watching everything you do, the good and the bad, and learning from it.” Until then, I had not considered my example as one that other women would follow. But the truth is that women need women ahead of them in leadership positions so they can observe, ask questions, and follow in their footsteps. This realization made me a better leader and put me more in tune with my actions. It taught me to think before I act, realizing others around me may be watching and learning. It was a turning point in my commitment to support and mentor other women in pursuing their unique paths to achieving their goals.
[Candice] Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
[Lindy] To me, mistakes are part of the growth process and often accompany new endeavors. One of my most memorable blunders occurred in my transition from teaching special education to my start in healthcare IT. I was attending a conference to learn how desktop computers could be used to support non-verbal children in my classroom. As I was leaving a session, I (literally) bumped into Ken Olsen, who was founder and CEO of Digital Equipment Corporation. I wasn’t familiar with his multi-billion-dollar computer company at that time, but over the course of our conversation, we discussed concepts I knew could revolutionize learning for my students and others like them. It lit a spark that would set the course for my career. A week later, I received a call and learned that Ken had recommended me for a position with his company. Being paid by the hour on a teaching salary, I didn’t know the first thing about a conducting a business interview or negotiating an offer. But I bought a new red suit, went for the interview and found myself being offered a regional sales position for the company’s new business centers. At the end of the interview, the hiring manager wrote the number “32” on a piece of paper and slid it across the desk. I sat doing the math in my head, trying to determine the annual salary at $32 an hour. Taking my silence as a negotiation tactic, the manager scratched out the number, changed it to 38 and slid it back over. Receiving the same response, he raised it to 45, stood and said it was all he could do. I accepted the offer and later went to clarify my annual salary based on what I thought was an hourly rate. I was quickly corrected that the company didn’t pay by the hour but was congratulated on my skill as a tough negotiator. My reply was that I was actually just really bad at math! This is a funny story but a good example of the lessons we learn as we take new steps in our careers, transition between industries, and travel into unchartered territory. We learn more about ourselves and about others than we ever thought possible.
[Candice] None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
[Lindy] That person is Ken Olsen, who founded Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and grew it to become the world’s second-largest computer company. Ken was down to earth, collaborative, and passionate about providing solutions to make a difference in people’s lives. Meeting Ken changed the course of my life and career. After joining DEC, I worked there for 13 years with many growth opportunities along the way. In addition to my role in the sales division, I worked directly with Ken on the design and release of a solution to help non-verbal children communicate in the classroom. He was the person who understood my vision and helped it come to fruition.
[Candice] In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
[Lindy] Whatever the activity — running, cycling or the gym — I find exercise to be essential to clearing my mind and relieving stress. Even (and especially) when things are busy, I always carve out time to get my head straight. I usually do a hard workout with both cardio and weights. If I need to make a big decision or solve a problem, I often find that by the end of the workout I have an answer and can take a clear path forward.
[Candice] As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
[Lindy] Our industry represents a blend of many backgrounds, religions, cultures, and demographics. If our leaders represented just one segment, our decisions would reflect only the priorities and perspectives of that group. This would hold us back and be a disservice to the healthcare clients we serve. To me, the best ideas come from weighing differing perspectives and coming to decisions that benefit everyone. This concept applies to every business process in our company from human resources to finance to product development.
[Candice] As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
[Lindy] Vyne’s company tagline is connecting disconnected data. When it comes to connecting the disconnected, I see it being much bigger than just data. It’s also about people. My job as a leader is to stand against any concept, idea, or initiative that would cause division and segregation in my business or community. I make sure my leadership team is reflective of the individuals and communities we serve. We make it a priority to consider our customers’ preferences and means of access to our technology and take that into account when designing our solutions. Our technology isn’t one size fits all but allows for customization based on the unique circumstances of each health system.
[Candice] Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
[Lindy] As CEO, I see it as my responsibility to generate the greatest possible value for my company’s shareholders, employees, and customers. I focus on driving the company forward while introducing the least amount of risk to these groups. That means being unafraid to make hard decisions and giving others the opportunity to do the same. Sometimes we’ll get it right and sometimes we won’t, but in either case, we move forward without fear. Failure is often the fastest way to learn; if you don’t fail you aren’t moving forward. We have wonderful clients who provide valuable feedback about our technology and how it supports their processes. This input helps us make better decisions and guides our strategic direction.
[Candice] What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
[Lindy] One myth is the idea that CEOs have all the answers. CEOs don’t always have the answers, but they do have to be good listeners and make good decisions. We all take different paths to getting here and face unique challenges along the way. But once you are at this level, your job is to ask the right questions, weigh the facts available to you, make smart decisions, and lead.
[Candice] In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
[Lindy] That question is difficult to answer because I haven’t had the experience of coming up through the ranks as a man. But I would say one challenge for me was not having many women ahead of me in my career to look up to and emulate. In many ways, I carved my own path without much opportunity for guidance from women who held the positions I hoped to obtain. I’m optimistic about this changing for women now, and I’ve made it my mission to be part of that change.
[Candice] What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
[Lindy] It is the challenge of striking a balance between achieving a return for shareholders, investors, and customers on the one hand, and making decisions that impact the lives and families of my employees on the other. Decisions impact one group or the other and can sometimes have hard consequences for those involved. It is a weighty responsibility that I take very seriously.
[Candice] Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
[Lindy] Flexibility is key. Executives need flexibility with their schedules and the ability to pivot quickly in response to changing scenarios. Other traits important to success are being decisive, being a good listener, and having a strong support network.
[Candice] What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
[Lindy] Don’t try to be someone else. Be your own person and stand up for yourself and your actions. Step up to the challenge, not away from it. Have your team’s back and allow them to forge their own path. Take responsibility for the decisions you make and own the outcome, successful or not. Find ways to explore your failures and use them to teach others. This support builds trust. earns respect, and makes you a better leader.
[Candice] How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
[Lindy] I do this by making sure that anyone I know with a desire to advance professionally gains access to opportunities to progress in their careers. I’m proactive in mentoring and connecting growing professionals to the networking, education, and professional development opportunities they need to succeed. I have built these relationships throughout my career — at my company, at Florida State University where I serve on the alumni board, on various committees, and in my community. Many of the professionals I have mentored have gone on to launch and run successful companies of their own.
[Candice] What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- You can be yourself and don’t have to imitate anyone else to succeed.
- People want the truth and honesty, even when it’s not what they want to hear.
- Your actions should always match your words if you’re going to be the kind of leader people trust.
- A diverse executive team is critical to making good business decisions.
- The recipe for success when forming a new executive team is finding the right mix of current leadership, internal promotions, and outside talent.
[Candice] You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
[Lindy] Education is the root of change. I would inspire a movement around investing more in education, giving children opportunities to see the potential for what they can achieve and providing a clear path to getting there. Through initiatives like corporate education, companies can sponsor schools and executives have opportunities to teach so students can observe for themselves the professionals who are paving the way for their future success.
[Candice] Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
[Lindy] Jim Collins wrote, “Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends more on what you do to yourself than what the world does to you.” So much of our success in business and in life depends on how we choose to respond to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. A leader finds a way. If there is a brick wall in your path, find a way to get past it. You can tear it down or climb over it, but don’t let it stop you. In my 30 years in business, I have used the “impossibilities” of my career as drivers for my efforts and success and have had the privilege of uplifting and guiding others on the same journey. Together, we take what could be seen as weaknesses and turn them into opportunities to grow in strength.
[Candice] We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
[Lindy] Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Jane Goodall, and Dolly Parton are all on my list. The common thread among these individuals is the will to overcome significant obstacles in pursuit of one’s dream. Their circumstances and challenges are unique, as are the arenas in which they have achieved success. Politics, science, and music are very different industries; the similarity is the endurance these leaders have displayed through it all. Instead of using circumstances as an excuse, or quitting in the face of criticism or failure, they have prevailed and endured.
— Published on September 10, 2020, Candice Georgiadis
Read the article on Thrive Global, here.
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