April 10, 2014

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Tried and Tested

Leadership Lessons from Four Top Utah Execs

By Tom Haraldsen | Photography by Matt Barr

April 10, 2014

They may have taken separate journeys on their way to executive leadership, but some of the mileposts passed along the way are the same for four Utah leaders profiled here.

David Entwistle at the University of Utah Healthcare system. Jill Taylor at Key Bank. Josh Coates at Instructure. Jorge Fierro at Rico Brand Foods. All distinctly different in their experiences and responsibilities and all serving different segments of the marketplace. All with a wealth of knowledge to share.

Rethinking the Possibilities

Josh Coates has built his career the way he’s always built things, or even rebuilt them: He re-imagines the way something can be done. It started with his first car.

“One of my earliest memories of rethinking was an old car I found, a British roadster,” he recalls. “I saved up my money all summer and bought it for $600. Within five months, the engine blew up. I thought about trashing it, but I liked the way it looked, and I knew Japanese cars were very reliable. So I thought, ‘Why not put a Japanese engine in a British car?’”

He went to a local library, studied diagrams of both vehicles, and transplanted the drive train from a Toyota Supra into his British auto. He took it to Sears Point raceway in Northern California, where he was raised, and tested what would eventually become his high school car.

“Whatever the challenges are, you can make it work—if you have enough time and energy and aren’t breaking the laws of physics,” he says. “Shortly after I mixed the Japanese engine with a British car design, Mazda came out with the Miata.”

Coates studied distributed systems at Cal Berkeley and at Microsoft’s Bay Area Research Center. He then founded Scale Eight, which developed a new approach to scalable storage software and attracted customers such as Microsoft and Viacom. After selling that company’s intellectual property to Intel in 2003, he founded Mozy.com, eventually selling it to EMC Corp. When Instructure was in its early stages of developing its educational programming and classroom experience, he became an investor, joined the company’s board of directors and was named CEO in 2010.

“The pathway to executive leadership and success is one of nonstop roadblocks,” he says. “You can either go over them, under them, around them or through them. Some make better sense than others, so you have to make a short list of what you can do to get through problems. I found it’s easier for me to hire people who are smarter than I am and better than me to help me get over those roadblocks. I have limitations, and even though we do learn and become better at things, finding other people to address some of those challenges is what I’ve found that works for me.”

And another caution for executive leaders—don’t fear sharing the spotlight.

“Some love being the final decision maker, but it can impede our ability to bring the right team together,” Coates says. “You have to be willing to sacrifice a little bit of your ego to hire better people and achieve a goal. At the same time, you have to have a healthy sense of self. Good self esteem is crucial.”

Falling—and Getting Back Up

Before he arrived at the University of Utah Healthcare System, David Entwistle was well versed in the healthcare environment. He had served as senior VP and COO of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinic in Madison. He was a vice president with the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif. He’d earned degrees from BYU, Arizona State and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and was named Wisconsin’s Young Administrator of the Year by the American College of Health Care Executives.

But nothing helped him understand and relate more to his clientele than the events of May 23, 2009.

“I was riding in the Stansbury Park triathlon, at about mile 23 of the 24.4 mile bicycle course,” he recalls. “It’s at that point that my memory ends.” For a reason still unknown, his bike came to a complete stop and he was flipped over the handlebars. Though no bones were broken and he’d suffered just a slight road rash, his brain injury was significant. At that point, Entwistle went from practitioner to patient at the U’s Medical Center.

He was in the ICU for two weeks, then moved to a rehabilitation unit, where he first began to regain consciousness. Though his recovery took some time, he’d suffered no permanent damage to speech, memory or physical ability.

“It’s always good to have a perspective, but I never thought I’d get one as a CEO in a hospital bed,” he says. “[It’s] one of the greatest learning opportunities I’ve ever had, to experience what our patients go through. It’s tough realizing that as patients, we aren’t many times empowered with the ability to do what we want to do. It’s given me a greater appreciation for our staff, and what they do day in and day out to help our patients.”

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