March 13, 2019

Lead(H)er: Ann Toomey, Vice President of Brand and Marketing at Wellist

Ann Toomey wasn’t looking to make a major career change when she discovered Wellist. At the time, she was working at a large advertising agency and running marketing accounts for Blue Cross Blue & Shield of Rhode Island and SelectHealth and enjoying the challenge of marketing both of those plans to consumers during the Affordable Care Act rollout. Then she happened upon Wellist, which connects hospital patients and families to support services, on LinkedIn.

“I read the short description of what Wellist did and instantly thought, ‘Well, that makes a ton of sense,’” said Toomey, the company’s Vice President of Brand and Marketing.

On the brand side of her title, Toomey promotes the company to clients and investors through organizing thought leadership, blog posts, social media campaigns, SEO, speaking events, and various other methods of getting Wellist’s name out into the world. Within patient marketing, meanwhile, Toomey focuses on creating customized patient activation programs based on assessments of each client’s diverse patient population and their needs.

Before her work in health care, Toomey managed large accounts - such as Olay, Best Western, Ocean Spray, and Visine - for Arnold Worldwide, ISM, and PARTNERS+simons.

“One would think that after working on a lot of consumer goods that health insurance might not seem as exciting to work on, but I found it fascinating,” Toomey said.

The fascination began during the announcement of the Affordable Care Act, which threw insurance companies that had marketed solely B2B into the B2C arena. Marketing agencies, too, now had to figure out how to reposition these healthcare plans to attract a completely new audience, and Toomey saw the opportunity as just another marketing problem for her to tackle.

“That’s what we do,” Toomey said. “We understand what motivates people and how to appeal to them.”

Toomey needed a new challenge, and her newfound interest in healthcare marketing brought her to Wellist. There, her biggest challenge is helping the company understand patient populations at hospitals across the country. Their assessment plans dig deep into what resources patients need to access, in what languages information needs to be written, and how to best let patients know about the support available to them.

Each day brings the opportunity to create new things, solve new problems, or otherwise innovate, all without the playbook that comes with a traditional corporation. That atmosphere of constant change at Wellist recaptures some of the creativity and fun that Toomey found at ad agencies earlier in her career.

“We certainly have an idea of what we want the outcome to be, but by definition, a startup has no precedent,” Toomey said. “Every day, there are 20 things that come up that we haven’t encountered before, but we solve them.”

Toomey isn’t sure where the rest of her career may lead her. Jumping into Wellist certainly wasn’t a planned move, but as she works to increase the company’s reach, she’s happy to welcome each new day -- and its assorted novelties -- with the same enthusiasm.

“It’s really been an awesomely fun career, and while you certainly never master something like advertising, jumping into something where there are parts of it that you know nothing about is both terrifying and exhilarating,” Toomey said.

Rapid Fire Questions

What do you like to do in your free time?

Right now, what I like most is going to my daughter’s field hockey games.

How do you manage stress?

I don’t want to imply that I don’t feel stress, but having survived 30 years of advertising agency intensity, I think I benefit from the wisdom of knowing that no matter how bad the situation seems, it always works out. I think that luckily, I have enough experience to be a little more measured about the volatility of day-to-day work.

How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?

Three cups of coffee and one Diet Coke, every day.

What’s one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

One great place that’s right near here is the Boston Public Market -- the Noodle Bar there is awesome.

What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?

One is that I’m still in touch with and socialize with a number of people who I’ve worked with over the years, some going as far back as 30 years. Related to that, I’ve had at least three people who have worked with me tell me that I was their best boss and really influenced my career. It’s unreal.

Is this where you saw yourself 10 years ago?

This is absolutely not where I thought I’d be! It wasn’t even on the radar. Ten years ago, I expected that I would continue to run large accounts. That’s what I had done my whole career, so I thought I would continue to do so. This is a real detour for me, and I never would have anticipated it.

What’s your advice for recent college graduates?

My advice would be to chill out. You will get a job, so it’s not about whether you’ll get a job or not. It’s about whether you’re going to get something that holds interest for you. It doesn’t have to be the perfect job, but something about it has to ignite something in you. Don’t rush to take the first thing that’s offered to you -- think it through. I know you have to make money, but try to be thoughtful about that decision. You have a lot to offer, so find the right match.

Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a Contributor to VentureFizz. You can follow her on Twitter @smcstnz.
Images courtesy of Ann Toomey and Wellist

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