By Glenda McCarthy
A college education can bring you a long way. Gary Healey’s journey is a testament to that.
Born and raised in the small community of North Arm in Holyrood, on the province’s east coast, Gary graduated from CNA’s Computer Systems Engineering Technology program in 1990.
With just the college program in his educational repertoire, Gary has worked his way up through the ranks to the position of Vice-President of Employment Operations of Barclaycard, a 327-year-old global payment business that operates in 20 countries, and employs over 140,000 people worldwide.
Based out of Addison, Texas, Gary is a long way from Healey’s Lane in North Arm, but he has put his training from CNA to good use in the health care, electrical, aviation and banking fields during his career.
“I always had an interest in electronics. I did take a couple of things apart and destroy them when I was kid,” he recalls with a chuckle. “I always had that tinkering way about me, but I think it was more than an interest in the hardware. What I was interested in was the problem solving. I was always pretty good at solving problems and analytical type work and I enjoy complex thinking.”
He knew he wanted to take a program that included business, software, engineering and design, which led him to College of the North Atlantic.
“CNA offered a program which was just very diverse,” Gary recalls of his decision to enroll in the program more than two decades ago. “It covered all aspects – you’re doing programming language, mainframe distributed systems, you’re learning business, accounting economics, so it was a real good course that was jammed packed in two years.”
Entering the workforce Gary felt, and still feels to this day, that he had obtained a vital dose of software design education in just two years.
“It is a very focused program; on software, computers, business and business analytics, so you were really doing a bit of everything – the business course, a bit of accounting, a bit of statistics and economics, you’re doing infrastructure and you’re doing software. They took a good mix of that and if I had to get that in university, I would have had to do three separate degrees.”
His first job after graduation was with a company called Business Software Limited in Mount Pearl. He stayed with the company for four years and did a lot of software development for companies in St. John’s.
“I was well positioned to go to work the first day,” he says. “Those four years gave me a lot of experience. I did a lot of work in a lot of different areas; cabling software, installing, writing the software, everything really from end-to-end.”
His next five years were spent at Canadian Helicopters in St. John’s, where he was part of a team responsible for the design, development and operations of the Airsoft Fleet maintenance system used to manage over 300 aircraft.
“I did a lot of interesting work there including writing a lot of warehousing systems. I wrote a system where instead of walking around picking a product up, a guy could sit in a chair and the whole warehouse was a huge carousel system. The whole warehouse could spin and drop off the parts to him. I was still pretty much a developer, an analyst and an architect at that point.”
In 1998, Airsoft was sold to a company in Addison, Texas. “They sold the software to Omniflight and me along with it,” Gary kids. As director of IT for the company, he led the Telecom, Software Applications and Infrastructure group for all IT operations.
“There was no hesitation moving so far from home. They doubled my salary. They made me an offer of $100,000 a year and an apartment with a maid. At 27-years-old I was like, ‘hell yeah! When does the plane leave?’ I did that for a couple of years and I enjoyed that a lot.”
The company built air ambulances across the United States, which brought him into the healthcare field.
“I did have an interest in healthcare and there was a lot going on in IT with healthcare. And you were doing something you felt good about. I worked at a place called BearCom for a year before I found what I really wanted to do, which was at Caremark.”
It was in 2000 that Gary joined the team of what is now CVS Health. During his first year with the company he met his current wife. Twelve years after starting at the company, Gary was the Senior Director of IT. He was responsible for a project and department budget of over $30 million and had hundreds of employees in seven departments.
“By the time I left in 2012, I had over 200 people reporting to me and staff from all over the world. Twelve years was a long time at one company and that’s when I decided to make the move to a different company. My wife was moving through the ranks and it was only a matter of time before she would report to me. I report to her, there’s no doubt about it!” he says with a laugh.
The career change allowed him a nine month stint with a company called MedAssets.
“It was Christmas 2013 when Barclay’s found me. I went through an interview process of five or six interviews over a month and finally I got picked. I was one of the first Barclaycard-based employees to work out of Dallas.”
Since that time he has been steadily increasing his staff and expects to have over 40 people working for him by the end of the year.
“I have been hiring people ever since, building up the Barclaycard side of it along with my colleagues, and now we have our own building.”
The department does a lot of research, innovation and design and deals with a lot of new technology.
“I haven’t had my hands on a keyboard to write a software program in seven or eight years. I’d like to but they don’t let me do that anymore. Now I provide guidance and strategic direction.”
Gary’s role heavily involves environment management, as well as support to all application development life cycles for delivering software to production.
“I do that through automation of environments and physically building out the environments. I’m responsible for data de-personalization. The data we test for application changes is for Barclaycard services we offer for issuing cards, acquiring cards, payments, all of those different business uses. I’m responsible for that stakeholder relationship and management,” he says.
“We are heavily involved in deploying new ways of doing IT. It is cutting edge stuff. Basically it’s called continuous integration and continuous delivery automation. I can speed up environments so what took 20-weeks before we’re now looking at doing it in 20 minutes.”
He says they are doing a lot of interesting things to improve the way the company handles IT, but his favourite aspect will always be problem solving.
“Every day we have stuff that comes, where we have challenges that we have to solve. I like using data and analytics to solve issues. I like to break issues down to workable pieces. I call it ‘bringing order out of chaos’.”
His goal at Barclaycard is to make it run as smoothly as CVS Caremark did before he left it.
“If I had to go away for three weeks, they wouldn’t even miss me because it ran so smoothly. I’m hoping to get this place in the same direction. This place is a 327-year-old bank. They have a lot of things very set in their ways as you would expect. It is going to take a little longer, probably, but that’s what I’m looking to do here and that’s what I enjoy the most – solving problems. The bigger the better. The more complex the better,” he says.
“For people who are looking to go to CNA, if they decided they are interested in software design and a career in IT, I think there are two paths in IT. One is the managerial path and the other is the technical path. I think that program well positions you to get started in your career to go on either path. It gives students the opportunity to go into the business side or technical side of infrastructure. It’s really laid out well.”
Learn more about Gary’s journey at cnastories.ca/gary.