Women Worth Watching 2015

Susan Sun

The Determination to Be Better Every Day Is the Secret of this CIO’s Success


web MetroPlus_SunAs chief information officer (CIO) for MetroPlus Health Plan, Susan Sun is part of the MetroPlus leadership team and oversees the information technology and computer systems that support MetroPlus’s goals and align with the MetroPlus Core System. She also prepared the Plan for the technological side of the Affordable Care Act, which included working with New York State of Health, the state’s health insurance exchange, and our transition to offering commercial insurance products.

Susan has 20 years of managed care IT experience—18 years in IT management—and has spent almost 15 of years at MetroPlus Health Plan. Prior to joining MetroPlus, Susan was the director of MIS at Ryan Community Health Network, where she designed, tested, and implemented a new enrollment system for their Child Health Plus program, improving efficiency by 75 percent. She reorganized the MIS department to ensure smooth operations.

“Be true and be yourself.”

Born and raised in Shanghai, China, Susan immigrated to the US in 1988. She is a true reflection of the American ideal that every US citizen should have the opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative. She demonstrates this every day as a leader, a wife, a mother, and her experiences as an immigrant.

“I came to America 26 years ago,” said Susan, “and started my career and with a distinct Chinese accent. I remember encouraging myself, thinking, ‘I should do this not only for me, but for other people too.’ Race is a sensitive subject in this country—sometimes overly so. I believe that you should be transparent. You can’t hide your color or your accent, so why should you?”

Much of her success can be linked to her determination to better herself and others. She has a master’s degree in computer science, and makes it her practice to stay up-to-date on industry standards and innovations that can best serve the strategic needs of MetroPlus.

Despite her busy work schedule, Susan is actively involved in community service. She has been a volunteer with the Livingston Huaxia Chinese School, where she has helped with student registration and administrative duties. Currently, she volunteers at local events, such as the Livingston Chinese Cultural Day, Lunar Year Celebration, and Memorial Day Parade.

The most important quality a rising businesswoman should have is…

…patience and persistence. Especially for women in IT, because IT itself is pretty male dominated, you have to look past the challenges because work still needs to get done. Also, love what you do. If you’re in a field for 20 – 30 years, do what you love.

The career advice I’d give my former self:

Try different things and be more outspoken. One thing I tell my son, who recently graduated, is to try different things. Do consulting, find out what you don’t like and then you’ll find out your passion.

Words I live by:

“Be true and be yourself.” I came to America 26 years ago, and started my career and with a distinct Chinese accent. I remember encouraging myself, thinking “I should do this not only for me, but for other people too.” Race is a sensitive subject in this country—sometimes overly so. I believe that you should be transparent. You can’t hide your color or your accent, so why should you?

The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…

…early on, I would have continued my education. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Electronic Engineering from Zhejiang University and a Master’s in Computer Science from Brooklyn College CUNY. I wanted to get my MBA and still do.

When I really need to focus on a project, I…

…remain persistent because I think persistence is key. If I want to focus on a project, I bring people on board to work with me, because I don’t think any project can be done by one person. To get projects completed, teamwork is important, because without the team support, we wouldn’t be able to get goals accomplished here at MetroPlus.

My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…

…when I took on the Chief Information Officer (CIO) role 3 years ago. I had already been with MetroPlus for 15 years, but accepting this role and its demands challenged me in a different light. Life gave me a different platform. This professional role as CIO allowed me to grow personally and professionally.

Being a woman in my profession has been…

…challenging. I’m a mother first, a wife and of course a career woman. I think the hardest challenge was finding a balance between work and life. I think, as a working woman, I take on more because I know myself as the boss of the house. Along with the challenges, it has been rewarding. I look back two decades and I see all of the accomplishments, projects completed, and lessons learned from failures. I see those accomplishments side by side with raising my son and know I’ve had the best of both worlds.

I’ve learned that failure is:            

My son asked me many years ago “What’s the pinnacle of your life?” And I couldn’t answer his question. I thought that once you reach the pinnacle you go down. I realized actually life is up and down. Every failure is a valley and it gets you ready for your next hill.

I maintain a healthy personal life by…

…going to the gym regularly. I also like to read or go shopping, if that could be considered a hobby. I love traveling because it’s a great way to explore other cultures, rather than just saying “I’ve been there, done that”. I look forward to going to new places because when I come back, I get a chance to look at things differently.

I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…

…I looked back at the path I’ve taken. After my undergrad and getting my Master’s, I had a choice between going into finance or healthcare. It was by chance that I got into healthcare. After years of work and becoming a manager of a team, I learned that people are the hardest part of the job. Along the way, I’ve grown to realize what I can do and what I can instill in people. These moments are what keep me going.