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Power Moves: b.well taps former Vrbo CTO in tech leadership boost

Plus, we've got word of a pair of new leadership approaches that are aimed at advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.

John J. Ostlund is the CTO of b.well Connected Health. (Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, new gig or promotion? Tell us:

1. b.well Connected Health is tapping a technical leader with experience at household tech names as its new chief technology officer.

John J. Ostlund is joining the Baltimore-based digital health company as CTO in the last month, bringing experience most recently as CTO of vacation rental platform Vrbo and SVP at Expedia, which acquired Vrbo’s parent company in 2015, as well as technical leadership roles at companies including Amazon and Microsoft.

Ostlund, who goes by JJ, said he recently decided he wanted to return to an earlier stage company, and was keen to join a company applying technology in healthcare and education. On meeting CEO Kristen Valdes, Ostlund said he was struck by b.well’s purpose and vision for bringing the kind of digital tools that consumers are accustomed to in other realms to healthcare, as well as its traction.

“It’s the real deal. They’ve got real execution going on,” Ostlund said. “It’s not just an idea.”

For b.well, Ostlund brings experience scaling as the company has been moving from startup to growth mode this year. It raised a $16 million Series B round, doubled the size of its team and saw an uptick in new clients as the pandemic underlined a need for digital health tools to reach folks.

“As we were scaling and growing it has always been part of our roadmap to bring on some new features from a scaling perspective that can really help us move into serving the size of the population that we’re now contracted to handle,” Valdes said.

He also brings experience with building out two-sided marketplaces that he sees as applicable with b.well. The company’s app offers a way for folks to keep healthcare info in one place, and it is also looking to connect users and services. By applying data science, b.well is looking to grow its offerings that connect users with healthcare services based on their conditions and preferences. In seeking to provide a central point for finding info and personalizing the experience, it’s similar to marketplaces offered by Amazon and Expedia, he said.

The CTO said he considers himself a “player-coach kind of guy,” so has been focused on digging in with the technical team so far and championing a process of deploying solutions, learning from customers and moving quickly.

“Where complexity lurks technology shows up and great ideas start to surface, I think the spirit of the company with their consumer focus and data science at their fingertips and learning, that’s going to be a competitive advantage for the group,” said Ostlund, who is based in Seattle — itself a reflection of the company now having employees in 17 states even as it still has the majority of employees in Baltimore and Austin.

With Ostlund joining, previous CTO Philips Johnson is moving into a new role as chief innovation and strategy officer. Johnson played a key role for b.well and healthcare more widely as the federal government adopted new data interoperability standards this year, and will look to keep the company at the forefront. “We are working to continue to advance the industry that we are operating in,” Valdes said.

Along with a new CTO, b.well also has a new chief information officer. Imran Qureshi has a dozen years of experience in health technology, and last served as chief data science officer at machine learning care optimization company Clarify Health Solutions.

2. Maryland Tech Council has a new group focused on DEI.

Kicking off a digital transformation conference on Wednesday, the Maryland Tech Council said it is forming a new group to address diversity, equity and inclusion in tech. Leaders include:

  • Linda Singh, who served as interim CEO of TEDCO and CEO of Bowie-based strategy advisory company Kaleidoscope Affect
  • David Tohn, CEO of Columbia-based BTS Software Solutions
  • Vennard Wright, CIO and VP of operations at Iron Bow Technologies, which has an office in Largo

Women and people of color remain underrepresented in the overall tech industry, and efforts to support Black technologists have been brought particularly into focus following this summer’s rekindling of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“This is a time unlike any other,” said MTC CEO Marty Rosendale. “We need to work and collaborate together to ensure that we come out even better on the other side — especially as it pertains to harnessing the power of technology for the good of mankind.”

3. Sid Wilson is joining SBLC as executive director.

Wilson steps into the lead day-to-day role at the 30-year-old South Baltimore adult learning and career prep nonprofit, where he’ll direct operations and build relationships with funders and partners.

He previously served as director of strategic partnerships and career placements at tech skills training org NPower Maryland, where he got introduced to the Baltimore tech community, as well as director of business services with the Anne Arundel Workforce Development Corporation.

The Morgan State alum is also a volunteer with iMentor Baltimore.

Sid Wilson. (Courtesy photo)

4. The Peale appointed Krista Green as chief administrative officer, and she will co-direct the organization.

The downtown museum, which is Baltimore’s oldest, is restructuring leadership in order to move away from a “top-down” hierarchy with a single director, according to a news release.

Green, who brings professional experience in arts, culture and heritage, will lead alongside the museum’s founding executive director Nancy Proctor, who is now chief strategy officer.

Green will facilitate a larger leadership restructuring at the board and management levels that puts a priority on greater diversity, equity and inclusion.

“With Nancy and the rest of the Peale team, we have the chance to establish a dynamic new organizational structure to support its relevance and commitment to social equity in Baltimore and beyond,” Green said in a statement. “We hope it will become a model for cultural institutions in the future.”

BTW, the Peale is open for viewing during the pandemic via Second Life, as the museum has been recreated in the virtual world. Stay tuned in the coming days for a story.

Krista Green. (Courtesy photo)

5. Dr. Bruce Jarrell is the president of University of Maryland, Baltimore, going forward.

Jarrell served in the interim role leading UMB since January, following former president Dr. Jay Perman’s appointment to lead the University System of Maryland, which oversees a dozen universities and other centers. Last week, he was selected for the permanent role by the USM Board of Regents.

Jarrell has been with the university since 1997, rising from head of the surgery department to provost.

Many leaders talk about diving in on their first week, but Jarrell had the opportunity to demonstrate that he was willing to roll up his sleeves. At the university’s medical school, he participated in a Phase 3 trial for the COVID-19 vaccine candidate from Moderna Inc. and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The reality of the times further set in Monday, when Jarrell released a letter to the university community regarding budget reductions caused by the pandemic’s downturn in state appropriations and revenue. Jarrell wrote that he is taking a 10% pay cut, while provost, deans, and VPs will take a 5% pay cut. The School of Medicine is also reducing pay for some faculty. No other staff or faculty are affected by reductions at this time, he wrote. UMB is one of a number of schools in the system that are implementing such cuts.

Companies: b.well / Maryland Tech Council / University of Maryland, Baltimore
Series: Power Moves

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