Gracelyn McDermott from Kaiser Permanente on The Marketing Minute #5

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Gracelyn McDermott
Vice President of Marketing, Sales & Business Development at Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic States

Senior health care executive with proven experience in implementing process improvement and building teams. Over 15 years of operational and project management experience in leading teams, managing key client relationships and overseeing programs.


Karl Boehm:

Grace, what story would you like to share for marketing communicators?

Gracelyn McDermott:

Well, it’s funny when, you know, we first connected.

Literally, that day, a childhood memory had popped in my mind,

and this is a situation when I was about seven or eight,

I have the opportunity to take a free swimming lesson and I think the overall goal was to get parents to sign up for a package of lessons but my parents didn’t do that and we got to take that one free lesson.

So that day I learned how to blow bubbles and swim under water.

About six months to a year after that I got invited to a birthday party at a swim club.

And everything was going well.

I’m in the shallow end of the water, we’re splashing it up, we’re having fun.

And then one of my friends decided that they wanted to go jump off the diving board.

And for whatever reason, I decided to follow them and decided that “Yes, I too, could jump off the diving board”.

So I go right up, I line up alongside everybody else, I climb up the ladder

and I jumped.

And, I have to tell you that I had no idea how deep that water was because I froze when I realized that my feet weren’t touching the bottom.

I was terrified. I had no idea how long I could hold my breath for and just completely my whole body frozen and I’m sinking and sinking and sinking.

And finally I hear this voice, whether it’s my own voice or it was my friend’s voice,

I hear ”swim!”

So I started kicking my legs and

moving my arms and I eventually got to the side of the pool and I pulled myself out.

And shaking myself and tell my friends “oh I meant to do that

I wanted to see how long I could hold my breath”.

And I walked right back into the ladder, climbed up again and I jumped again and I probably jumped off that diving board at least twelve times that day.

But I still to this day I remember how terrified I was when I hit the water and realized “uh oh, you’re not in Kansas anymore” kind of situation.

Karl Boehm:

Wow, yes, that sounds impactful.

Sounds like the kind of thing both dreams and nightmares are made of.

Gracelyn McDermott:


Karl Boehm

Well, that’s really cool.

What insights do you derive for marketing communications professionals?

Gracelyn McDermott:

I don’t know what prompted me to just let me have that memory pop into my mind.

One of the things that I was contemplating about is these days before we take action, before we act, we want to know everything.

We want to know the ins and outs of an experience before we move forward.

We want to look at the data, we want to analyze the data, capture more data, analyze the new data and then once we have all the data together, we wanna hold together a focus group and we want to see what they think about the data, and then we’re gonna go back and collect more.

Trust me that’s good, that’s best practice.

We live in an era where we’re a data rich society and we absolutely should take advantage of the data that we have.

But sometimes, we just need to jump.

And, it can be terrifying because we don’t know what the expected outcome is,

we don’t know what the future is but it’s better than not acting and at that time you just have to trust your instincts and trust that you have the appropriate skill sets
to do what you need to do and by jumping, you realize that you can open up possibilities that you never thought existed before.

That day when I was at that swimming pool I had so much fun

So yeah, you know, I have this memory of being terrified, this memory of fear but I also remember the joy I had every time I jumped in that water and I ended up you know being faster and better every time I jumped in.

Karl Boehm:

Love it!

One of my favorite things about that story is I keep hearing you say “swim!”

Gracelyn McDermott:

You can imagine what Finding Nemo you know there’s a part in there when Ellen just says ”just keep swimming” and I realized that I say that all the time in my head and again when I get that memory.

And, I go, ”Oh, I went for that? no wonder I like that soo much”.

Karl Boehm:


Gracelyn McDermott:

When things get hard just swim!

Karl Boehm:

Why do you do what you do?

Gracelyn McDermott:

Talking specifically about my current role at Kaiser Permanente, this is one example of the many jobs that I’ve taken and I didn’t necessarily have a long list of experience particularly in healthcare but I knew account management, I knew business development and I knew how to lead a team.

What’s exciting about being able to do all that I do at a company like Kaiser Permanente is

it’s a company that lives its mission and we don’t just hang it on the wall, and you know, use it there just just to have words out laying out in that page.

We actually focus everything that we do, all of our decision-making is tied around our objective of providing affordable high quality care to our members and improving the health of our members and the communities that we serve and every decision is predicated on that, you know, healthcare in general can be a little slow too so I’d like to think that the reason why I’m here is to help Kaiser Permanente leap forward.

My name is Gracelyn McDermott, the Executive Director for Account Management at Kaiser Permanente, and this is The Marketing Minute.

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