Shireen Thomas

Title: Staff Associate, Office of the CIO

Company: UPMC

Education: Bachelor's degree in health information management from the University of Pittsburgh


  • Technology Business Management (TBM) Executive Certification, TBM Council

  • Business Relationship Management Professional Certification, APMG

  • Lean IT Foundation Certification, APMG

  • ITIL Service Management Foundation Certification, Axelos

  • Registered Health Information Management Administrator (RHIA), American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

Organizational Affiliations:

  • Western Pennsylvania Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Former Board Secretary

  • RedChair Pittsburgh, Volunteer

  • University of Pittsburgh Department of Health Information Management, advisory council member

  • 3 Cups of Coffee Women's Mentorship Program, Mentor

  • UPMC Women in IT Initiative, co-founding leader


  • Inspiring Success in IT Award, Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania, 2018

  • Emerging Female IT Leader Award & Executive Coach Scholarship Recipient, RedChair Pittsburgh, 2017

  • Student Scholarship Award, Pennsylvania Health Information Management Association, 2012


What made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in technology?
Growing up, I never planned to work in IT. Initially, I wanted to pursue a career in nursing because I wanted to be in a profession that would directly help people. Once I realized that I am too squeamish to be a nurse, I decided to pursue a career in health information management because it still allowed me to work in health care without having direct patient contact. During my studies, I feared that working directly in technology would not be the right fit for me because I did not consider myself to be "technical" enough. Once I actually began my career with UPMC's IT Rotation Program, I realized that my stereotypical view of IT was flawed, and there are many facets to having a thriving career in this field. I learned that career opportunities can range from heavily technical engineering roles to nontechnical roles in areas such as project management. My current role of leading the operations for the office of our CIO allows me to use my communication, organizational, and project management skills to enable our IT strategy and operations. This demonstrates that you do not have to be highly technical to have a successful career in technology. Now, almost a decade into my career, I can't imagine doing anything else!

What three adjectives would you use to describe your journey in the industry so far?
Transformative, persevering, and rewarding.

What is your personal mantra?
On my first day working with my boss Ed McCallister (UPMC's senior vice president and CIO) in January 2015, he shared a quote from Ernest Hemingway: "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end." This quote has stuck with me all these years. Whenever I find myself feeling apprehensive about the future, I remind myself of this quote. I try to find joy in the journey and to trust that I am on the right path. This has empowered me to be more present, seek additional growth opportunities, and find peace in the rollercoaster that is life.

Describe the highest point in your career so far and how you got there, including all the hurdles you had to jump (and the ones you tripped over and too).
2020 has been an unprecedented and challenging year for everyone. When I started 2020, my intention for the year was to "rise" — to challenge myself to be more confident, take on new learning opportunities, and keep growing my leadership skills. Despite the pandemic, I am pleased to say that I lived up to my intention. In fact, the pandemic pushed me further than I ever imagined I could go. It stretched me outside of my comfort zone in many ways and, most importantly, the pandemic validated for me that I am exactly where I need to be working in health care IT. I have never felt more pride and gratitude to work in health care. Whether it was developing technology documentation for our staff working remotely or creating a chatbot to help assess COVID-19 exposures, I know that my work made an impact. I also was able to adapt swiftly and calmly to the changing remote work environment and came up with new ways to engage our employees and our IT leadership team. 2020 has been the highest point in my career yet — I worked hard to make an impact, took on and succeeded at many challenging new opportunities, and increased my confidence — all while working remotely during a pandemic. I am grateful for all of the extraordinary development opportunities that 2020 has brought to me.

What is your most admirable quality?
I am responsible. If you trust me to do something, I will do whatever it takes to see it through to the very end. I genuinely care so much about helping others. You can always count on me to be there to support you and to get things done!


What aspect of the industry do you think has the most potential for growth, and, on the other hand, which aspect do you think needs the most improvement?
An area that has the most potential for growth is the use of technology to improve people's lives. This has always been very apparent for those who work in the health care IT industry. I have always been inspired by the impact technology can have on enabling safe, effective, and transformative patient care. Technology is an essential and enabling service that is critical for delivering patient care — we have proven that more than ever at UPMC during the COVID-19 pandemic. I envision that the use of technology to improve people's lives will continue to grow in health care and every other industry.

Making the technology industry an inclusive place for all is an opportunity area. Diversity is what yields innovation, and we know that representation matters. This is one of the reasons why UPMC launched our Women in Technology (WIT) initiative in 2017 with support from Ed McCallister. Through our WIT efforts, we are making great strides to promote female technology career paths at UPMC and in the community. We are reaching groups, such as middle schools, high schools, colleges, post-grad, and women reentering the workforce. We also recognize the importance of having engagement and support from men. Our initiative is all about bringing together men and women to focus on this important work for the future.

When you imagine the future of the technology industry, what does it look like?
Technology will continue to be integrated into all we do. In the future, I imagine technology will continue to be seamlessly embedded into our lives. My hope is that we can find a balance that will allow for this integration without it being so all-encompassing that we lose our sense of connection with each other.

What is the most valuable life lesson you have learned so far and how has it helped you in your career?
The most valuable life lesson I have learned is the importance of believing in myself. When I began my career working in the IT industry, I struggled with self-imposed “imposter syndrome." Despite having an incredibly supportive and amazing team, I had this self-limiting belief that I did not deserve to have a seat at the table because I was young, inexperienced, and, oftentimes, the only woman in the room. With the help of my mentors, I realized that I needed to improve my confidence. To do this, I worked harder than ever before to learn, grow, and develop into the role. I started to take small steps to speak up at meetings and to go outside of my comfort zone by "raising my hand" for challenging new projects. In addition to bolstering my professional growth, I also pushed myself to remain positive and to believe in myself. I had to truly examine myself and my goals so I could get into a mindset where I could position myself for continued growth, happiness, and success. This made me recognize how important it is to believe in myself, to have courage and confidence, and to be grateful for everything around me. It was not always easy to do this, but I found that the more I believed in myself, the easier it became to be courageous and to ultimately project poise and confidence to those around me. I finally recognize how powerful it is to have this confidence. This has led me to my passion for giving back through mentorship opportunities to help other women who may struggle with what I did . This is also why I am so passionate about our WIT initiative.

What three adjectives come to mind when you think about your future path?
Impactful, inspiring, and happy.