Armed with a law degree, Tanja Oquendo fell into the human resources field quite by accident. She loved it so much that she made it her career. In 2012, she accepted a job with KentuckyOne Health as the Chief Administrative Officer/Chief Human Resources Officer and moved here with her family. She oversees 13,000 employees, caring for people who “care for people” in the health care world. She is highly motivated to make connections with her employees and with the people they serve. When she is not working, she loves discovering all that Louisville has to offer, including all the great local restaurants, with her two teenage children and husband.
What do you do for KentuckyOne, and how long have you been working in this field?
I am the Chief Administrative Officer/Chief Human Resources Officer for KentuckyOne Health, where I have been since 2012. I am responsible for development of an optimal workplace strategy and innovative human capital management solutions that ensures all of KentuckyOne employees can thrive. We seek to become the employer of choice in each of the health care markets and communities we serve. In addition, I am responsible for the oversight of the Marketing and Communications Department to provide information regarding the many leading services we provide to all the communities we serve across the Commonwealth. I have a huge job, and it doesn’t seem that huge here.
You have your law degree. How much do you use this background in your field of work?
Using my law degree is an integral part of what I do every day, from state and federal laws in hiring and employee relations, to employing physicians, to working with our KentuckyOne Health board of directors.
How did you accidentally get into the human resources field?
I had moved to West Virginia and applied for several jobs. I was offered a role at a community college as Director of Personnel, solely based on my law degree. I knew nothing about “personnel,” so I researched it and learned it on the job. I fell in love with it, and off I went.
Your job is to care for people who “care for people.” What are some things you look for when hiring people who work in the health care field?
I look for those who have the correct skills to fit the position and the passion and commitment to be part of a great team. Someone who will live our mission of wellness, health and hope for all, even the underserved. Creating a culture that is mission-driven and high-performing is paramount to excellent care. Hiring employees who are energized by that kind of culture is who we want and need.
What is the hardest part of your job? And what is the easiest?
There is no easy part of my job, really. It is constantly changing, with different challenges and a rapidly changing health care landscape. The hardest part of this role has been the massive integration efforts with three unique health care systems across the state, while firming up the organizational infrastructure and aligning with our national services. I definitely eat my Wheaties every day!
What is your best advice on creating a positive work culture for your employees?
It is essential to make connections with your staff and to emulate servant leadership. Nothing will get done without the hearts and minds of staff engaged and committed to what they do every day.
After being surrounded by people in the medical profession all day long, do you think you could ever do their job? Why or why not?
I am cut out to do my job, not that of a clinician. They have extremely tough work, and what they do is a true calling. What our roles do have in common though is that we all put the patient first and, at the same time, provide the most compassionate care, never compromising the care of the patient. What I do is work diligently to support the caregivers with programs, communications and excellent governance.
What advice do you treasure?
Feel the fear and do it anyway. I have taken on positions in my career and have approached obstacles in my life with this in mind. It may not always feel comfortable, but I did not let the discomfort prevent me from taking calculated risks.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my __________.
Wedding ring from my husband and cross ring given to me by my son when he was 6 years old.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Louisville Athletic Club. I finally resigned myself to the notion that I won’t get fit by hoping for it!
What’s your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Go to a new restaurant with the family each weekend.
Are you a night owl or early bird, and what do you do during that quiet time?
Night owl, and I listen to music or watch “Inspector Lewis Mysteries.”
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
The Left Behind series, by Tim LaHaye
Lightning Round! Give us your:
- Candy or junk food splurge: potato chips
- Guilty pleasure song: “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber
- Tearjerker movie pick: I don’t watch tearjerkers. But one of my favorite movies is Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise
- Standby nail polish color: Black Satin by Chanel
- Favorite cocktail: Red sangria
- Cartoon alter ego: Scooby Doo
What are three of your favorite things, not including God, family and friends?
Music, getting to know someone better, hanging with my kiddos and husband for movie/pizza night
Thank you to Adele Reding for her beautiful photography of our FACES of Louisville.
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