UMGC Alum Utilized Four Degrees To Fuel Her Passion
When Jennifer Stone '00, ‘06, ‘09, ‘10 became a mom at age 18, she never imagined she would one day have five college degrees under her belt and decades of success working at the intersection of health care and technology.
Instead, she was a young mother just trying to care for her child while earning her associate degree overseas where her then-husband was stationed in the military. From this challenging start, she forged a career that would evolve beyond her imagination.
“I will say that college has been a lifeline to my success,” she notes.
A fresh start
When Stone later divorced, she joined the U.S. Navy, herself, where she worked as a military medic. This piqued her interest in healthcare, and after she separated from the military, she went to work for TRICARE Management Activity, the organization that operates the business support functions of TRICARE, which is the health care program of the United States Department of Defense Military Health System.
In her executive assistant role, she got a close look at the inner workings of the organization and insight into an industry that was quickly changing thanks to technology.
“This gave me the opportunity to see what was available in the healthcare field that wasn’t patient care-related,” she says.
She leaned into education to help jump-start a career so she would be prepared to advance into roles that were intriguing to her. She did just that, eventually working on the requirements, development and implementation of new IT systems and earning a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees from UMGC along the way.
IBM took note, and the company recruited her to work for them as a military system account manager where she thrived. Inspired to continue to grow her career, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health to stack on top of what she had already achieved.
“My daughter was in college, so I looked at my life and thought, what can I do now?” recalls Stone. “With no daughter at home, it was easier for me to manage another degree.”
That led to new opportunities, and when she finally left IBM, Stone was head of the global sales team for a new care management software project.
A time to reset
She briefly worked for healthcare technology consulting firms before hitting pause.
“In 2021, I decided to step back,” she explains. “I had reached the top of my career and had accomplished everything I had wanted.”
Upon reflection, she decided to start her own consulting firm where she could do the work she was passionate about on her own terms.
“I command a nice salary and work fewer hours, and I get to help other companies find success” she says.
In her work, she helps clients identify opportunities for federal government contracts in the healthcare IT arena. Then she helps them prepare their bids, set pricing and meet with government officials to bolster support.
“When companies are looking to expand their market share within that space, it can be difficult to know how to navigate it,” she says of the government’s rigid acquisition process. “I help shine a light on that so they can navigate it successfully.”
Her advice for would-be entrepreneurs
When she reflects on how her career has unfolded, Stone recognizes that much of it was by chance, helped along the way by her fearless attitude.
“It happened by accident. I didn’t have a thought-out plan to go from where I started to where I am today,” she admits. “I think it comes down to being open to opportunities when they present themselves and taking action.”
Stone credits mentors and connections for helping her realize her potential and putting her in a place where she could excel.
“I owe a lot to the woman who recruited me to IBM,” she notes.
Beyond that, Stone has been able to succeed because of her can-do mindset as she pursues new challenges. For her fellow alumni who might be considering big changes, such as venturing out on their own, she advocates for going all-in.
“If you have the inclination and desire, just do it,” she says.
Before that moment, though, she advises creating a solid plan—and a backup plan. For her that included stockpiling eight months of savings to fall back on if her work dried up. She also relied on the skills she learned in her MBA program as she structured her business. Most importantly, she wasn’t afraid to ask for help along the way to ensure she was on the right track.
Once all of that is in place, “Take the steps to move forward, close your eyes and take the leap of faith,” she says.
She’s glad she did, and she’s ready for what the future holds.
“At this point, I really just want to step back and have more balance so I can enjoy the second half of my life while staying engaged with the career I have built,” she concludes.
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