“I never even considered running a company until I interviewed for this job,” says Dan Michelson (MBA ’94), who celebrates his ninth year as CEO of Chicago-based Strata Decision Technology this June. Growing up in the Chicago area, Michelson “was an introverted kid, very insecure,” he explains, “and when I got to DePaul, I was still very much that person.”
Michelson credits Marketing Associate Professor Joel Whalen and his class “Effective Business Communication” for helping him discover his voice and confidence as a leader. “It completely changed how I thought about communication and connecting with people.”
Those skills have served Michelson well in his career. For more than a decade, he was chief marketing officer at Allscripts and helped the health care IT company grow revenue from $50 million to more than $1 billion. When Strata offered Michelson the CEO position, he set his sights on transforming it into one of the top health care data analytics software companies in the world. Named among the city’s top workplaces by the Chicago Tribune in 2020, Strata has more than 2,000 hospitals as customers and has grown from 50 to 500 employees during Michelson’s tenure.
“The biggest problem in health care is the cost of it,” Michelson says. “Right now, Strata is one of the central players in our country in terms of helping hospitals and health care delivery systems bend the cost curve. We have a cloud-based solution that’s used for financial planning, analytics and driving performance. We take something that’s very opaque—the cost of care—and we make it available to people who can do something about it.”
When COVID-19 hit last spring, Strata launched a new data report, the National Patient and Procedure Volume Tracker, to help hospitals allocate resources more effectively. The tracker has become the health care industry’s go-to tool for analyzing patient volume trends.
Michelson strongly believes business leaders should give back to the community and says his experience managing Chicago-area charity initiatives helped prepare him to run Strata. With his wife, Kim, he co-founded projectMUSIC, a benefit concert that sends underprivileged children to overnight camp. He also co-chairs Hack Hunger, a Chicago tech company collaborative that seeks to alleviate hunger.
“Tech companies often talk about saving the world, but they’re not really good about translating that inspiration into action,” he says. “For the past five years we have hosted a hackathon where we invite technologists from across the city, including high school students, to work on a set of problems with the Greater Chicago Food Depository.”
While seeking to address business or societal challenges, Michelson says he is driven by one question: “Are you doing meaningful work?”
“I give everyone the same advice, which is to find something you care about and work with people you care about,” he says. “If you do that, you’ll be happy and have an amazing career.”
By Robin Florzak