Episode 24: Juggy Sihota of TELUS on the Importance of Creating a Contribution Culture

Episode 24: Juggy Sihota of TELUS on the Importance of Creating a Contribution Culture

As she reflects on her career motivations, Juggy Sihota continues to be inspired by meaningful work, being part of strong teams, and her drive – instilled by family – to mentor others and give back to the community. 

Show Summary

Today, Ellen Gardner and Philip De Souza, Director of Communications and Marketing at HIROC, speak with Juggy Sihota who leads the national strategy, execution and operation of the Consumer Health Business for TELUS.  

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, Juggy Sihota is amazed and encouraged by the rapid adoption of virtual healthcare, made possible in part by solutions like Babylon by TELUS Health which are designed to improve access to healthcare in Canada. She’s heard all the reasons why things can’t be done, but encourages her teams to always reframe the question – what is it going to take to do it? 

Mentors are a big part of Juggy’s leadership story and she makes a point of advising the young people around her, especially women, to never underestimate themselves and their power to drive positive change.

Key Takeaways

  • (1:29) How TELUS got into healthcare
  • (3:04) What makes Juggy proud of her work
  • (5:18) The headline Juggy would like to see that sums up the team’s accomplishments
  • (6:15) Why TELUS got into virtual care
  • (7:43) How a crisis has eliminated the challenges around adoption of virtual care
  • (8:35) What healthcare organizations need to consider as they move to virtual health
  • (9:21) Challenging her teams to reframe the question
  • (11:04) Why video is the most impactful way of delivering virtual healthcare services
  • (12:30) Juggy’s core value
  • (15:22) The roots of Juggy’s need to give back
  • (18:48) The possibility of public service in Juggy’s future
  • (19:33) How a mentor influenced her life
  • (21:49) The advice Juggy gives to young people and especially women
  • (22:29) Mentors are always there when you need them
  • (23:53) How Juggy helps her team get to the next level of leadership
  • (25:48) The qualities of the leaders who are doing the most for society
  • (27:43) The impact of a reprimand from her mother
  • (31:09) The one problem that Juggy is committed to solving

Mentioned in this Episode


Imagine, you could step inside the minds of Canada's healthcare leaders, glimpse their greatest fears, strongest drivers, and what makes them tick. Welcome to Healthcare Change Makers, a podcast where we talk to those leaders about the joys and challenges of driving change in our complex and demanding healthcare organizations.

Ellen Gardner: Hey listeners, welcome back to Healthcare Change Makers. I'm your host, Ellen Gardner. Our producer, Philip De Souza and I were excited to recently sit down with one of the key people behind the move to virtual healthcare in Canada. Juggy Sihota has held various roles in her 25-year career at TELUS and openly shares her advice that people, especially young people and women, should never underestimate themselves and their power to drive positive outcomes.

We spoke with Juggy during the coronavirus lockdown in May, and like most of us, she was pondering how the world has been transformed. Juggy is optimistic that we'll soon get to the other side of this, but in the meantime, we need to take care of each other and ourselves. You'll hear how a reprimand from her mother reminded Juggy of the importance of self-care. So, let's get into it.

I want to get started by just asking you that, many of us think of TELUS as a telecom organization. Can you just talk a little bit about how and why TELUS first got into healthcare?

Juggy Sihota: We made a decision over a decade ago to take a look at some of the challenges that we're seeing at a social level and where the private sector can help the public sector. Healthcare was a natural one. What we saw was that there are challenges with access to healthcare. We felt that given that we are in the business of moving information securely around quickly, and getting it into the right hands at the right time, that who better than TELUS to help make sure that healthcare information is moving quickly, securely and getting into the right hands, so the right health outcomes can be achieved. And we knew that our infrastructure could help with that public sector challenge. We felt that it was a social responsibility for our organization to get into this space. And that's exactly what we did.

Ellen Gardner: Juggy, you've been with TELUS in various roles for over 24 years, that's a very impressive career. When you reflect on it, what is it about this work that makes you proud?

Juggy Sihota: Yes, I've been here a long time. I've actually grown up in this organization. I've been here for longer than half my life. And I've had a number of different roles throughout that tenure, working with all sorts of emerging technologies. But I think what I'm most inspired by is working with people and understanding how people and teams work together to achieve magnificent outcomes. The work that makes me proud is, again I think about when I leave this organization at some point, I'll reflect back on my impact, I will. And what I'll hope that impact was is that people enjoyed working with me, enjoyed having me on their team and enjoyed working for me. And really that's it. So it's so much about the human connection. I think about the particular work part that makes me proud is probably the efforts that are underway right now on the healthcare side.

I don't think that there's ever been more meaningful work for me. I think it's very purposeful work. It's very personal to me, in order to help Canadians get better access to health care. We've got lots to be proud of in Canada when it comes to our healthcare system, but there's still work to be done. And especially as it relates to access to healthcare, if you need to see your family doctor, or see a specialist, or get some tests done, usually those things take time. Surgeries as well, those things take time and I think longer than they should in this great nation. So there's still work to be done on that front. Spending every day of my time, effort, energy, and focus and leveraging everything that I've learned over this last quarter of a century, and putting that to work now to make healthcare better. I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity.

Philip De Souza: Hey Juggy, it's Philip here. I have a quick question for you. I loved what you said there about, you just have so much passion in your voice talking about your team, and how together you guys are making a huge difference. So I know you mentioned, whenever that day comes when you leave. So my question to you is a play on that – whenever that day does come, that you leave, or you're done, you've finished working and you're retired, whatever. What's one headline you'd love to see in the newspaper or magazine or something really cool cutting edge about what the team has accomplished?

Juggy Sihota: What an incredible question Philip. I think what I would like to see is, if my ego would let me say that, okay. What I would love to see... It just seems like such a big thing to say "a headline on a newspaper". Who am I? Who are we? I think, what I would say though, is if you could put it in that way, what I would love to see is this is the team that revolutionized access to healthcare in Canada.

Philip De Souza: That's amazing.

Ellen Gardner: Wow.

Juggy Sihota: That's what I would like to see. That's the goal.

Ellen Gardner: You've had a very interesting perspective looking at the healthcare environment and seeing what's happening in Canada. Along comes this pandemic, everything changes and organizations are moving really fast into virtual. So are you surprised that this is happening now? And do you feel that yes, this was expected? That this kind of rapid transformation was something we were bound to see anyway?

Juggy Sihota: The approach that I take with any new opportunity that I'm given career-wise, even personally, is what are the unmet needs? What are the unmet needs? And what can we do to meet those needs? And when I look back a couple of years ago, when we started looking at virtual care and virtual healthcare specifically, there were a lot of unmet needs. And the reason why we went to virtual health care is because we saw that access to healthcare was a challenge. What do you do after 5 p.m. and you need access to a doctor? What do you do when it's on the weekend? And you're sick or your loved ones are sick. Where do you go? And there's an unmet need there. So what we said was, let's meet that need with technology solutions, with incredible local doctors, and let's put the two together and that's what we started.

We launched our service, Babylon by TELUS health service last March, and we saw an incredible take to that service by patients throughout Canada. When you look at what's happening now, it's an amplification of that unmet need. My mom always would say to me, I'm sure lots of moms and dads have said this to people, is necessity is the mother of invention. And we're in a situation now where the need is far greater than it ever has been for access to everything, including healthcare. What we're seeing now is the need is surpassing a lot of the bureaucracy that was impeding adoption. It's not because people didn't want to get access to it. Not because doctors didn't want an alternate way of providing service and care.

A lot of these adoption challenges are marred in bureaucracy, policies, budgets, the way that we used to do things needs to be the way that we continue to do things. Those were, I think the barriers that were in our way. Then when you get to a crisis situation, a lot of those barriers go away immediately. And they do because they have to. When you look at what's happening now, there's no turning back. People at scale are now seeing the value of this because they have to get access to this. Not just because they want to get access to it. And now they're thinking, why would we ever have done it any differently before? I think that's the reality that's setting in, I don't think there's any turning back.

Ellen Gardner: What are three things that you would say healthcare organizations should consider as they move towards virtual health?

Juggy Sihota: As healthcare organizations are thinking about virtual care, I think they should think about how does it work within what they've got right now and how does it make it better? I think that's first. Second is how can they scale their solutions safely. For the patient, for the doctor, for continuity of care. I think they should be looking at it from that perspective. And then thirdly, this is in no particular order, but thirdly, I would say is what would you do if you could design something to address the greatest challenges that you have today? What would you do if you were unshackled? What would you do if you were blue-skying the solutions today, what would you do?

That part for me is really important. I know all the reasons why we can't do something, all the reasons why it won't work, et cetera. But I'm always reframing my own teams and people that I work with to say, what is it going to take to do it? Don't tell me all the reasons why we can't in the current construct, reframe yourself and think about what would it take to actually do it? What would you need in resources? What would you need in policy decisions? What would you need in terms of finances? What would you need in terms of patient connectivity and feedback from patients? What would you need in order to make this great, as opposed to all the reasons why we can't do what we're talking about doing?

Philip De Souza: I love that Juggy how you mentioned about the reframe. Because I think that right now in healthcare or in this exactly what you said, we see the reframing happening. I remember I was telling your colleague, Jill earlier that in the tech sphere, people thought, oh virtual care, it's moving so slow, but because of the pandemic, it's moving really rapidly now. Is there something that the healthcare community can do today to make it the new norm? Because it's technically the norm right now, right?

Juggy Sihota: It is. I think what the most important thing that can happen right now in terms of people understanding the value of this method of connecting with patients is use it. Use the service, encourage the use. And encourage the use. I would say, we've got so many different versions of virtual care happening out there, everything from a phone call to a text message, to a video consultation... There are so many different versions of it. 

I would say that the most impactful way of delivering virtual care service is through a video consultation where a doctor can see patient, patient can see doctor, and you can interact with one another. I think that seeing the patient is really important. I've heard that from a lot of doctors. The way patients answer things is important in terms of the tone, but, if you've ever been in a specialist’s office or in the doctor's office, they're looking at you, they're studying how you're answering what you're answering, and they're seeing what your facial expressions are, et cetera.

So I think that that's really important. I think using the service is the most important thing that healthcare organizations can do and encourage the use of the service and then listen, and hear what people are saying about what they like about it, what they don't like about it and use that feedback to continue to scale it and to make it better.

Ellen Gardner: We know that you're very active in your community. You're active on boards. That's a big part of your professional life. And I'm sure part of it is a personal interest in just contributing to your community. Why is that involvement important to you?

Juggy Sihota: I worry about the world a lot. I've come across some people that don't and it stymies me. I don't understand them. I just think, a core value of mine is, we're all in this together. In this life, in this world together. And I think we should want to take care of each other. If we can take care of each other, I think we should try and take care of each other. Not everybody can. But if you can, you should. And you can help with your time. You can help with your money. You can help with your voice. You can help with platforms you've got access to. And I just fundamentally believe that if I'm here in this world, I have to do that.

Even in my role in healthcare, it's very purpose-driven. I benefited from the healthcare system and through people I knew et cetera and not everybody can. I made a commitment to myself to say that, I'm going to spend this next stage of my working life anyway, doing more and helping more. And so, as it relates to my community involvement, I care about the community that I live in and that I work in and I care about my neighbours and I care about what's happening to our community. And so, the way that I can help is I can contribute and I can learn so many things in different ways. And so, obviously I have my job and I can learn on my job. I have my personal life and I can learn from people that are around me. And I certainly do. But, I can be more effective if I can learn from my community.

So a lot of the things that I do from a board perspective, they're not for profit boards, all of them. And I learn from the community in that way. It helps me add more meaning and purpose to my existence, and that matters to me. And so when I say worry about the world, I want to make it better. One of the newer boards that I've joined is a racial, ethnic equality board for the City of Vancouver. And one of the reasons why I initially joined that board is because I felt in our city, which is a fantastic city, we've got silos as it relates to different ethnic groups.

I think again, we're stronger together. We're stronger if we know each other better and we're closer to one another. And I saw some polarization happening there, especially with our Asian communities. I want us to be more integrated and I want us to be closer together. Now with COVID and what's happening on that front, it couldn't be important. My voice at the table will be to help build bridges and to make sure that we are taking care of one another at that level.

Philip De Souza: I liked our conversation about, you're talking about a contribution culture and giving back to community, and I can just hear it in your voice. Did you pick that up from somewhere? Where did you get that motivation to fulfill that need, to fill that void?

Juggy Sihota: I think that comes from my ancestry actually. It comes from my parents. It comes from my grandfather in particular who always instilled the value of connecting with each other and giving back. It comes from my heritage. My parents are from India and we're a pretty big country there. And there's a great sense of community there too. I think that's where it comes from Philip. And I just think it's beautiful. It comes from religion too, to some degree. I connect a lot with Sikhism and my family and ancestry is connected to Sikhism. There's a really important tenant in that, which is called Seva. Seva means service, and giving back, and taking care of one another. And I think it's beautiful.

So I think it comes from a variety of different places and it feels good, doesn't it? When you think about life and you think about being here and what we're here to do, and what the value of our contribution is. Doesn't it feel better to know that you're making it better? Look, let me tell you this, let me be really clear. I have lots of work to do on this front. I go to bed at night thinking about all the things that I didn't do, and thinking about all the things that I needed to do, and all the things that I could have done better. That’s a heavy weight sometimes. And when I'm watching what's happening around the world, you know the weight of that can be really heavy sometimes, when the things that aren't necessarily going the right direction and that's influenced by my perceptions, it's influenced by which media I'm subscribing to and listening to, et cetera.

I just think there's so much more that we need to do. I think it's exciting though, to have that purpose underscore our existence. I think that it makes everything that we do mean a little more. And I think that helps me get through every single day. One of my favourite quotes is from Friedrich Nietzsche, where he talks about, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how". And I think of what we're going through right now in particular, we've got lots around the why to live for. 

We will get through this together if we take care of each other, if we're smart about it, if we're not divisive about it, if we leverage what's the best of us to get through it globally, we will. And we're not going to get it right, right away. But I think ultimately we will get it right and we'll be on the other side of this pandemic. Hopefully we'll be a stronger, more unified society afterwards. That's my hope. And that's what I'm working towards. I know that there's lots of other people, stronger, more powerful people than I am that have that same goal as well who potentially have the ability to help us get there even faster. And I'm counting on it.

Philip De Souza: I love that. And I love how you were so open with what drives you. That candor and vulnerability that I think people are drawn to your vision. And even while you were talking, I was like, oh I wonder if Juggy will ever run for Prime Minister? Ha-ha!

Juggy Sihota: You know, public service... I honestly think when I was early on in university, I planned to go into the United Nations at that time. I remember my prof was writing for my internship at Vienna and potentially going there. I think public service is something that is noble. I think that if we get the right people in public service, we'll be an even greater society. I think that at some level, I personally do think that public service is in my future, at some point. I don't know how and why and what, but let's see. I don't know about your vision Philip, but that's certainly my perspective.

Philip De Souza: I can just hear it in your voice. I was like, she should run for something, you are really good!

Ellen Gardner: I wanted to ask you, what is an important piece of advice that you have received from a mentor that's really affected your work life and your personal life?

Juggy Sihota: I have two pieces I think on that. One is one that I've held so near to me for at least 20 years, that was a pretty humbling experience for me at the time. It was this fellow I worked with who said – I was struggling with something at work, and I was often struggling. Someone was doing something that I didn't think was right. And I was calling them out on it and it wasn't working. And the fellow said to me, "You know Juggy, often there's a difference between being right and being successful. And you're certainly right." And I just paused. I'm like, yeah, I am right.

And then I reflected on what he had just said. And I thought, okay, you're telling me to pick my battles. You're telling me to understand that this is a long game, not a short game. Let some things go and focus on relationships, and where we need to get to, instead of just being right. I wrestled with that because everything in school teaches you really to be right. You want to get the right answer. You don't want to get the wrong answer. And the more right you are, the better you are as a student. You get accolades, honour rolls, recognition and awards for being the most, right. But then you get into work life and it's about relationships more than anything else.

That’s true for life in general, not just work life. So I go back to my schooling and I think we were getting it wrong in terms of celebrating people for always getting the right answer and getting that A. I spent most of my life trying to get that A+ and can I even get that last thing that I got wrong, can I get that right? I think that that wasn't helpful. So for me at the time where I got that advice, which is, sometimes there's a difference between being right and being successful. That's really important learning. And I give that advice, and I share that example with a lot of people. I think it was very humbling. And I was happy to see that at an early part of my career, because if I didn't have that, I probably would have run into even more brick walls along the way.

So the one thing that I make sure that I highlight now for people, especially young people and especially women is, never underestimate yourself. Don’t underestimate how much power you have to drive the positive outcomes that you're trying to drive. You can change the situation. You can change the circumstances that you've been dealt up. And if you can't, then you can change yourself to go somewhere else where you can be your best self.

Ellen Gardner: When you were moving through your own career Juggy, and you've had such an interesting career path, did you always find the mentors were there when you needed them?

Juggy Sihota: I think mentors are always there when you need them, if you look for them. And again, another really important learning that I've had along my career, that has worked for me, which is tell people what you want to do in your career and why you want to do it.

I think generally speaking human instinct is that we want to help each other if we can. And we'll do it even more if it's easy, okay? That's speaking a little bit to the human dynamic, I think. If you're clear with people about what you want to do and why you want to do it, and people can help you, they'll want to help you. I think mentors emerge along that journey. I also feel that you'll always find what you're looking for. So if you're looking for mentors and you're looking for advice and you're looking for help, you'll find it. And for me in my career, and in my life, yeah, they're everywhere.

As I mentioned there, I can think of this one person that's worked for me for a long time. He's one of my most important mentors. And he offers me honest and transparent advice. I give him a really safe environment to do it, and I take his advice, not all of it, but I take his advice. And I think it makes me a better leader. It makes me a better person.

Philip De Souza: How do you get your team members to that next level of leadership?

Juggy Sihota: You know, it's helping them see that there's a path for them to be successful, leveraging the support that you're going to give them. And making them feel that, and demonstrating that you are going to champion their success, and you are going to set up the parameters so that they can be successful, and walking them through it is getting them ready for the next level.

Philip De Souza: Excellent.

Juggy Sihota: I can tell you, as a leader, when I'm put in a position where I've got the authority to make the decisions that I think that are right for our team and for our people, you make them quickly, you do them. Don't let yourself get talked out of it by other people that might have ulterior motives. When you're in a position of authority, you make it happen. If you think someone on your team needs to be promoted and you have the authority to do that, you should do that. If you think that your team member on your team has hit a wall working underneath you, and they'll be better working for somebody else, and it will be better for their growth, let them go and let them grow and help them do that.

So I think, you commented on lifting people up. I think helping people see their strengths is a great spot to start a conversation with people. And as a leader, amplifying those strengths and helping them understand, where they're strong. There's always some things that people are strong at right and that’s a good place to have that conversation around where you need to develop them, to take them to the next level. And putting them into a position of safety, psychological safety, so that you can help them with the development side of things that need to happen to get them to the next level.

I think that the leaders that have probably got the best out of me are the ones where I knew they cared about me. They cared about my success, and they cared about my development. I gave those leaders everything I had. What I don't know is, can you create that? Or is it just there in people, whether or not they have a caring nature. I don't know. I think now we're in a time and place where the leaders I think, that are doing the most for society are the ones that are matching their intellect with their compassion. I think those are the ones that are doing the most for society right now.

Ellen Gardner: Leaders are going to have a lot to struggle with as they manage this crisis and manage their teams, just coming out of it, and just getting back on track again. Is that going to be your philosophy as you help your team and help other leaders as well?

Juggy Sihota: Absolutely. What I tell my team is look, there's going to be days where you're going to feel like I just need a break. I have to stop doing this for a few minutes. I've got to just go and focus on X, Y, or Z in my personal life. And I need you to go and do that. I'm not going to know when that time is for you, but you will. And so I need you to know that I know that you can't be at a hundred per cent right now.

We're all still getting our bearings around this and it'll get better and we'll start to normalize. But, high productivity is an unrealistic expectation during a time where we're going through a public pandemic. And I think that realization is really important and not just for me supporting my teams Ellen, but for me, even looking at myself. 

One funny little aside, if I could just share with you is, we don't see each other anymore. Right? I know everybody talks about video and zoom and this, that, and the other, but we're not seeing each other really as much anymore. And for the first, probably eight weeks of this pandemic, I was probably like a lot of other people, but I was taking my shower really late at day, in my pyjamas for most of the day. But working around the clock, hardly eating, not doing the things that I think that I should have done properly.

At one point I was quarantined with my parents at the beginning of this thing. And they were witnessing me in action at work. My mom wrote this note on a piece of paper, and she's really angry with me. She was like, you are not taking care of yourself. You're not letting us take care of you either. She wrote, I'm really angry with you because you're not taking care of yourself. And she goes, every day I watch the Prime Minister and I watched the Premiers and they've had their breakfast and they've had their lunch and they're fully dressed and why do you think that you can't do it? You should be able to do it too.

I took a picture of this note and I'll have it for the rest of my life! I've shared it with my people and she wasn't being funny, Ellen. She was really mad. Then I thought to myself, I'm letting my mom down and my mom, you do not want to let your mom down. She's the most motivational person in my life. And I'm looking at this note and I'm like, wow, I'm really not taking care of myself. And so it was a bit of a shakeup for me.

For weeks and weeks, when other people were on video, I was never going on video. I was always that little black box with my name on it. And so one night, my husband and I went out for a walk and I took a picture of us both on our walk, amongst some beautiful trees. This is after I left my parents and I was back with my husband in our home. I took a picture on Instagram and I started to get some messages. Some of my team members follow me on Instagram. I started to get some messages like, “It's so good to see you, Juggy, good to see you going for a walk. Good to see you smiling. Good to see your face.”

And I thought, wow. I didn't understand the impact of me never being on a video screen beforehand, for obvious reasons. But I didn't understand how it was impacting my team. They needed to see me. They needed to see my face. They needed to see that. They don't just want to hear my voice. They needed to see my face. And so after that, I decided we are going to do more video calls. I'm going to take a shower, put on my clothes and be on video. And I'm going to take Instagram posts where they can see me and know that I'm okay. Because I think it's important for them to see that I'm okay, so that they also can be okay.

Ellen Gardner: Okay. So we've reached that part of the podcast, Juggy. We are going into the lightning round, going to ask you a few questions and I want your top of mind answers. First thing you do in the morning?

Juggy Sihota: I think about the day ahead. And I already know what the day is going to look like generally speaking. And I think about what am I going to do to make it better.

Ellen Gardner: What's the last thing you do before going to bed?

Juggy Sihota: I spend alone time reflecting on what I did during the day. And I think about what's going to happen tomorrow.

Ellen Gardner: What's one book on your nightstand?

Juggy Sihota: I have a stack of books and I call it my stack of shame because I haven't finished reading them all. But one book on my nightstand that's really meaningful for me is Viktor Frankl's, Man's Search For Meaning. That's really important. It's probably the shortest, most impactful book I've ever read in my life.

Ellen Gardner: What's your go-to mobile app?

Juggy Sihota: It's still Twitter. It's a very divisive place, but it's still Twitter. I think that there's lots that can still be learned and shared through that medium.

Ellen Gardner: And what's one problem you'd solve, if you were going to launch a digital health initiative tomorrow?

Juggy Sihota: It's the same problem I'm trying to solve right now, access to healthcare for everyone, whenever they need it wherever they are. And not just for us humans, but also for pets. There's no reason why we can't get access to healthcare, using our technology to help our beloved pets. And I think pets right now are playing an even more important role along those mental health lines that we talked about, around keeping people happy as they go through this in social isolation.

Ellen Gardner: Thank you so much Juggy, it's been such a pleasure talking to you. You have a wonderful outlook on life and just everything you talked about around your philosophy and getting through this difficult time. It's really inspiring for all of us.

Juggy Sihota: Oh my gosh. Thank you guys. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. And I loved talking to you guys last time where we chatted. I thought it was so much fun. And today too, I hope that you got what is going to help for your listeners. Keep going, I think that what you're doing is really important and we need to be connected to each other and we need to hear from each other. We need to see each other probably more than we ever have. And I love the fact that you guys are resurrecting all of this right now.

Thank you for listening. You can hear more of our interview on our website, HIROC.com. Follow us on Twitter at @hirocgroup or email us at communications@hiroc.com. Healthcare Change Makers is recorded by Ellen Gardner and Philip De Souza and produced by Podfly Productions for hiroc.com. Please rate us on iTunes.