NJII Employee Spotlight: Carly Cricco, Director of Operations & Special Projects 

For this month’s employee spotlight, we’re highlighting Carly Cricco, Healthcare Division’s Director of Operations and Special Projects! During our interview, Carly highlights her experience with various different projects at NJII and looks back on how far the organization has come over the years.

Q. You’ve been at NJII for over 8 years? What was this organization like when you first started? 
A. When I first joined NJII (in the Healthcare Division), they were in the process of transitioning from the New Jersey Health Information Technology Extension Center (NJ-HITEC) to New Jersey Innovation Institute (NJII). They were increasing staffing and improving operations and processes to ramp up for their newest awarded $50M grant, a Medicare Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative (TCPI) to create a Practice Transformation Network in the state of NJ. It was a fun and interesting time to join NJII. Operations, programs, and resources were expanding rapidly in this early stage of growth and the culture was a typical startup environment: fast-paced, informal, flexible, and valuing creativity, communication, and collaboration. There was a lot of risk-taking, with an emphasis on agility and innovation. NJII’s mission and vision now still follows a lot of those same principles, but with quite a bit more structure! 

Q. Initially, how was working at NJII different from your previous roles? 
A. While my roles previous to working at NJII were not necessarily Project Management positions, I always utilized Project Management principles in my prior positions. Additionally, in all my previous roles, I have always been passionate about Operations, Process Improvement Initiatives, and Technology which made me naturally gravitate toward these kinds of projects in all my past roles. I’ve always enjoyed “wearing many hats”, being a “jack of all trades”, and being a high-functioning and productive member of the team often going above and beyond my existing role to additionally support operations and special initiatives which makes Special Projects a great fit for me. 

Q. What was your initial role here at NJII? How did your role change/develop over the years? 
A. My initial role at NJII was as a Project Manager for the Healthcare Division. I served in that role for a few months, working mostly on Healthcare IT-related projects. I was quickly moved into a Manager of Administration role where I supported Executive Leadership and Healthcare Operations. After that appointment, I was promoted to Senior Manager and then moved to the Operations Department, managing mostly IT-related projects organization-wide. Recently, I transitioned once again partially back into the Healthcare Division, supporting both Operations and Special Projects for the IT and Operations Departments and the Healthcare Division. 

Q. What exactly determines a ‘Special Project’? What sorts of projects are you the most hands-on with? 
A. Special Projects, in general, mostly consist of unexpected initiatives not included in regular operations. Specifically, for Special Projects at NJII, I do work on many Operations projects, IT projects, Healthcare projects, and projects and programs for other divisions and departments. But, often, the projects I am assigned are something new to the organization that we are trying to implement and get off the ground, or a project to innovate, change, or improve an existing process or system. 

Q. Which division of NJII do you end up working with the most? Is there a division or group within NJII that you would like to interact with more? 
A. Because of my existing allocation to the Healthcare division and my reporting structure, I spend a decent amount of time with the Healthcare Division. However, I also spend time working on projects for almost all of the other divisions and the support departments as well. One of the largest projects that I have been working on over the past ~2 years is Salesforce. This includes managing all requests for development within the environment, from the creation of design documentation to the QA process in Sandbox and Production. I also facilitate process mapping sessions, support teams with their reporting needs, manage campaigns, guide cleanup efforts, make recommendations on builds, provide training, and create documentation such as data dictionaries and guidelines for use. This specific project has taught me a lot about the software development life cycle and project management skills specific to that area. 

Q. What is your favorite part of the project development and execution process? What difficulties often come about? 
A. The project lifecycle consists of multiple phases including Initiation, Planning, Execution, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closure. Personally, I love the Planning and Execution phases. There is nothing quite as rewarding as putting a plan together, executing on that plan, and seeing your project or program come to fruition. Scope creep is a common issue in project management. Due to the agile nature of our business, it’s an issue that often arises. Scope creep is when a project’s scope increases beyond the original description in the project charter. As a project progresses, sometimes additional requirements are deemed necessary by project managers or other stakeholders causing scope creep. 

Q. How is the relationship between NJIT and NJII leveraged in your role? 
A. Sometimes, there are projects I manage that require collaboration with different departments at NJIT. I maintain a great professional working relationship and rapport with various individuals in many departments at NJIT. One specific project I worked on with NJIT during the height of the COVID Pandemic was the M2CU (Mobile Medical Care Unit) Project. For this project, NJII worked with the Martin Tuchman School of Management and the Research Department to research, develop, and build mobile medical care units fabricated from shipping containers that could be deployed in times of emergency to communities and organizations that were in need. This was a fun and interesting project to work on and I learned a lot specifically about construction project management during the 2 years I worked on it. 

Q. What is your favorite thing about working at NJII? 
A. My favorite thing about working at NJII, especially in my role, is that no two days ever look the same. This keeps my career here interesting and ever evolving. I am also learning new skills, using my existing abilities in different ways, and gaining vast new experience through my work with special projects. 

Q. If you could describe your experience at NJII in one word, what word would you choose? 
A. Collaborative. It’s great to be part of a team that is so supportive and cares equally as much as I do about the important initiatives on which NJII is working. As a manager of special projects, my success depends greatly on my ability to motivate, engage, and collaborate with project resources, and doing that at an organization where most employees are eager contributors makes meeting and exceeding project goals that much more attainable. 

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