Introducing Julia Zhou, Chief Information Officer, Community Behavioral Health
- Tell us something about your childhood. What values had been instilled in you that helped you excel in multiple fields later in your life?
I grew up in the northeastern part of China, an ocean town called Dalian. During my teenager years, I spent most of my spare time outdoors. I lived very close to ocean, so it’ll be swimming in summer and playing with snow in the winter. I had a blast with adventurous activities for most part of my younger adulthood.
Those years China was still in the Cultural Revolution era, we didn’t have much luxury. But our life was enriched by our experiences of growing up with community kids running wild outside, which help me form a strong bond with nature in later life.
My parents were both professors and since there were no internet or TV, my parents were my source of most information. They were traditional Chinese with a very open mind. They always taught me to be humble, listen to others and especially to those who disagree with you because they might have a smarter alternative. They also taught me to be independent, have strong self-discipline and never give up when things get difficult.
These values have shaped me in my later life to be persistent, laser-focused and resilient, and for anything I pursue I’m determined to succeed.
- What have been some of the biggest challenges in your life and how that has shaped you?
Due to my fearless personality that I developed during my younger years; I don’t have many things I see as a challenge. However, moving to America was not easy at the beginning. I miss home, miss my friends and family, I even miss Chinese food! Everything is different, I did feel alone in this country. Not only do I have to be independent to survive, but I also need to finish what I came here for – my graduate study.
I lived in New York at the time and it is very expensive. So, I worked three part time jobs and studied at night. I remember running from my restaurant waitress work to school in a blizzard many times but in the end, I got my degree and that’s how determined I was. 30 years later I came back to the East Coast, now as the CIO for Community Behavioral Health! My life story so far proves that determination and resiliency will conquer all the difficulties.
- When did you discover your passion for technology?
Both my parents are professors and that ignited within me, a desire to be an engineer. I was surrounded by books, people with great minds and ideas. I liked to fix things, resolve problems ever since I was little. I am very good with numbers. I competed math for my school, later my district, then my region and eventually my country. I also like innovation and make things on my own. Sometimes I like to spend less effort getting more things done and technology allows me to do that effortlessly.
- Tell us something about the social causes that you support.
Community Behavioral Health is the single MCO in the city of Philadelphia to serve behavioral health members. Philadelphia is the poorest among all big cities in the US. The social and economical status of the people living here cause over 30% of population to need BH program and support. Not only do I have the compassion of serving these members well, but also since BH is the biggest problem in modern society I would like to contribute my expertise and experience to make it more accessible and affordable. Currently with technology, I can do just that.
- How would you define success?
I think success comes in many forms. Ultimately success for me is the justification of my time spend in this life and impact I had for greater goods. Trying to be better each day, making hard but right decisions instead of easy ones, dare to live your dream, and not be afraid to fail. Because during the pursuit for your dream, you will transform and become a different person.
- Looking back on your journey and knowing what you know now, what is one piece of advice you would have given yourself along the way?
Follow your heart and be patient, things will work out just right. Sometimes we have many choices, and we try to overthink the pros and cons. After so many years, I found out whatever the choice you made, the one that your heart desires (which is also the one you’ll give all your effort), regardless of the outcome, you will not regret.
- This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BreakTheBias. What steps can corporates take to break the bias at various levels internally?
We have DEI office, for diversity, equity and inclusiveness. We (CBH) as an organization want to give everyone a chance to succeed and promote fairness in everything we do. Being a minority woman in technology field, I have been experiencing lot of bias along the years. I hope in the next decades with Break the Bias effort, everyone will have a chance to succeed, to get their voice heard and ultimately, make this world a better place to live.