Ask Me Anything
On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of J P Systems, we invited the employees to ask Jackie anything about which they were curious.
Q. Where do you see J P Systems in the next 5 and 10 years?
A. Healthcare IT is a very lively ecosystem right now. There is a lot of work ahead of us before we can achieve our goal of safely ‘moving data at the speed of care’. We have always produced interoperability roadmaps for our clients. High on the list is helping our clients transition to using standards-based data exchange with FHIR v4 instead of HL7 Ver 2 or faxing documents. Many people do not realize that faxes are not secure for HIPAA data. Then, increasing the quality of the data our clients need to share and move is of paramount importance.
Everyone wants to make use of AI for faster data processing, but first we need:
- Standardized data
- Cleaner data for exchanges between providers
- Cleaner data for training Machine Learning models
- Definition of scales for measuring Data Usability with our C-DQUS methods
We help clients move from legacy systems with locally invented codes to internationally standardized code sets. As always, standardized clinical terminologies will play a major part in reliable and usable data exchanges. We are bringing on more Medical Terminologists and Data Scientists to manage the volumes of data.
Q. Forty years ago, entrepreneurs had no access to the internet or other global repositories of expertise for starting their business. How did you learn everything you needed to learn to start your own technology firm prior to the world wide web or even PCs let alone laptops or cell phones?
A. Jackie and Galen both owned marketing companies in the 1980s which taught them how to find clients and manage a business. They both constantly studied books on success which inspired the current JPSYS reading list. They also attended weekly in-person seminars on success with a master mind group. Jackie studied public speaking at a Toastmaster’s group. The person you will become is a result of the books you read and the people you associate with. If you want to be successful, you’ve got to find a mentor and associate with successful people. Networking in person was key before the internet. Jackie was on the Board of Directors of the Washington, DC Independent Computer Consultants Association. Then she served as president of the WICCA. There she was able to network with other IT consultants on success.
Q. What have been JP Systems’ biggest challenges? What skills or resources were most useful in dealing with them?
A. Besides managing cashflow, the number one challenge of any business is getting new clients and marketing. The marketing skills Jackie and Galen learned were very useful in dealing with that challenge. Despite the size of the DC Metro area with about 5 M people, word of mouth helped. After the first 10 years, JPSYS gained contacts from local networks and referrals.
Q. How did you end up basing your headquarters in the DC area?
A. Jackie moved to the Washington, DC area in 1979 from New York state after graduating from Colgate University. She took a job with a small software contracting company and did work all around the Washington DC beltway. Her first job was with the PBS and the Corporation for Public Television. Then she spent a year consulting to DoD at the Pentagon. She also spent time on assignments for the Allied Chemical, AirForce, Navy, and US Post Office designing and implementing databases. In 1983 she went out on her own and founded J P Systems.
Q. What has been the biggest obstacle in your journey and how did you overcome it?
A. Jackie’s biggest obstacle was getting credibility as a young woman in the 1980s. She worked for men that were in their 50s, and to them, she looked like a non-player. To overcome this, she worked three times harder than everyone else. Her productivity and quality of work got her noticed and appreciated by managers who have to meet deadlines and stay in budget.
Q. Knowing what you do now, what business advice would you give yourself 40 years ago?
A. Stay out of debt, think long term, know your business both technically and contractually.
Q. To what do you attribute to the success of J P Systems?
Jackie kept up with changing technologies and kept an eye on the future to stay ahead of the game. I was always able to develop a vision of where the software systems needed to go both short term and long term. I had to live under my means as the next assignment was never certain. I had to have enough money in the bank to pay the rent between assignments. Once I had to move as my client was behind on paying my invoices and I couldn’t pay my rent. It was very stressful. I sublet my beautiful apartment as a furnished rental in McLean, VA and moved to a cheaper furnished room to make ends meet.
Q. Where did you get the name “J P Systems”?
A. “J P” was Jackie’s nickname in college given to me by my college roommates.
Q. First off, congratulations on 40 years! What would you highlight as your most rewarding accomplishment in the last 40 years in business?
A. Launching the terminology standards IDIQ in 2015. JPSYS only had 4 employees at the time. One of the hardest things is to be aware of and compliant with all the state and Federal regulations for hiring. Cash flow management is also a concern.
Q. What was your influence to start your own company? What were the most challenging hurdles and how did you ‘get over’ them?
- Basically, it was a lifestyle decision. I did not like getting up early and having a long commute in the Washington, DC traffic. I wanted to control over where I worked and how long I worked. My technical job skills were in high demand. With the Federal government providing so many opportunities for work, I thought I would have my choice of assignments. Sometimes I did but other times I was out of work for a month or more. It was tough, as for the first 15 years, I never had a paid vacation. Fortunately, in addition to already having marketing skills, I already had accounting skills.
Q. What was the most memorable event that means the most to you that occurred in the past 40 years?
A. The most memorable event was the phone call one Friday afternoon in September 2015 from the Federal government asking me if we bid on a terminology contract. Well, we had just bid on two Terminology IDIQ contracts – one for a million dollars and one for a hundred million. They had already told us we lost the bid for the 1M contract. I thought they were calling us to say that we did not zip up the files correctly on the 1M proposal. We did not think we had a chance at the 100M contract. I replied we had bid on two contracts. Then they said “It looks like we won the contract. It is a lot of money.” I am not often speechless. All I could come up with was “OK.”
I thought, how am I going to break the news to Donna Freedman who had helped us put together the proposal? I thought the funniest thing to do would be to pretend that nothing unusual had happened. So, I contacted her and casually mentioned that the Federal government had called, and oh by the way, could she please get a contract signed and returned to them? “What? What contract?” she said.
“Oh, we got the Terminology IDIQ” I replied, totally unfazed. After that, all I heard was a loud scream.
Donna later framed a copy and sent it to me.
Q. What were your growing pains like in the early years and how did you overcome them?
A. In 2015, growing pains came from having more than 15 employees for the first time and learning the laws governing that. JPSYS had a need to hire difficult to find technical people and was rapidly expanding our hiring into other states besides Virginia which all have their own laws around paid time off and payrolls. We needed to hire HR and Accounting staff for the first time.