In 2012, Aetna began a business transformation in response to changes related to the Affordable Care Act. As part of that initiative, the insurer had to implement individualized platforms to support health exchanges, simplify its products by reducing the degree to which they can be customized, and shift to a low-cost model with a self-service app store.
"That's a big change for a company with a national-account focus and large-scale products and service offerings. Now you're moving to the consumer level," says Alan C. Pawlak, 46, head of client services at Hartford-based Aetna.
Pawlak had to break the mold of large enterprise-scale license agreements and big systems that the IT department developed in-house -- and change the way his staff thought about technology's role.
He says the IT shop is "moving from telling business units what they need to buy for technology and prescribing what the technology can do" and is "becoming [an integrator] of technology for the business."
Senior engineering manager Dan Okun credits Pawlak with helping IT staffers get beyond the "noise" of change and uncertainty so they could focus on making progress. "He empowers us to deliver and holds us accountable, and he doesn't micromanage," Okun says. "He's just incredible as a leader when it comes to showing great presence in tough situations."
Pawlak is known for telling his staff, "You need to come to work 70% of the time a little afraid and very excited. Being in technology means that you love change: That's what it's all about."