Data Driven Leadership

More Than Numbers: Empathy and Data in Public Health

Guest: Peter Krombach, Director of Data Operations, Government and Engagement, Indiana Department of Health

In this conversation, Peter and host Jess Carter dissect the priorities and action steps of data-driven leaders in the public sector. Peter shares how building a community with your team that values camaraderie, mutual understanding, and the blending of diverse skills can markedly retain talent and drive success.

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The heart of data-driven decision-making lies in understanding the purpose behind the numbers—why we collect specific data and how it can drive our missions forward.

No one understands this more than Peter Krombach, Director of Data Operations, Governance and Engagement at the Indiana Department of Health. His journey in the public health sector has taught him that collaboration and the strategic use of data save time and lead to truly impactful outcomes.

In this conversation, Peter and host Jess Carter dissect the priorities and action steps of data-driven leaders in the public sector. Peter shares how building a community with your team that values camaraderie, mutual understanding, and the blending of diverse skills can markedly retain talent and drive success.

If you're an executive leader looking to transform your organization's data culture, press play to hear insights on creating shared understanding in projects, blending public health and data skills, and nurturing a data-centric culture that thrives on collaboration and innovation.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How to confront fear and embrace feedback to drive data-centric innovation
  • How to take a human-centered approach to data-driven leadership
  • How to effectively initiate a shift toward becoming a data-driven organization

In this podcast:

  • [09:46-16:11] Building trust and confidence around a shared mission
  • [16:11-21:31] Trusting your gut and navigating imposter syndrome
  • [21:31-23:45] Handling challenges with organizational data literacy
  • [23:45-31:00] Balancing policy and best practices in data governance
  • [31:00-40:38] Managing data requests with effective communication and understanding
  • [40:38-47:03] Balancing a personal touch with professionalism in data leadership

Our Guest

 Peter Krombach

Peter Krombach

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Peter Krombach has been drawn to helping others since early childhood, but when he discovered that the public sector allowed him to use data as a valuable, strategic asset that could solve public health problems, he was hooked. Peter holds a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology and has spent over seven years in the public sector working in a variety of data-focused areas including epidemiology, informatics, data management, data science, and data engineering.

Peter currently serves as the director of data operations for the Indiana Department of Health and manages cross-cutting teams that oversee the agency’s critical data systems and develop products to support the agency’s key strategic initiatives. He served as a data scientist supporting Indiana during their COVID-19 response.

His professional passion is uniting teams around a common goal to build trust and more efficiently tackle the tasks at hand, all while injecting empathy and humor into daily work life.


Jess Carter [00:00:01]:

The power of data is undeniable and unharnessed. It's nothing but chaos.

Speaker 1[00:00:06]:

The amount of data, it was crazy.

Speaker 2 [00:00:08]:

Can I trust it?

Speaker 3 [00:00:09]:

You will waste money.

Speaker 4 [00:00:11]:

Held together with duct tape.

Speaker 5 [00:00:12]

Doomed to failure.

Jess Carter [00:00:13]:

This season, we're solving problems in real-time to reveal the art of the possible. Making data your ally, using it to lead with confidence and clarity, helping communities and people thrive. This is Data Driven Leadership, a show by Resultant.

Jess Carter [00:00:31]:

Hey, guys. Welcome back to Data Driven Leadership. On today's episode, you're going to hear from Peter Krombach. He's the director of data operations at the Indiana State Department of Health. Peter's a really incredible leader, and what I appreciate about him is that he doesn't just dive into things like his data governance experience or how to change culture in an organization, which he can speak to eloquently. He actually unpacks what it looks like and how he approaches it, how he handles these tasks, why he does what he does, the way he does. And I think often in society, on podcasts and LinkedIn, people are talking about the what and the actual magic is in the how their approach, their style is what makes it different. And while we shouldn't aim to replicate someone else's style, I've come a long way by just trying other people's style on the first ten years of my career and then having to figure out what pieces do I want to keep and what pieces do I want to shed to make it my own. Peter is definitely someone that is impressive when it comes to observing his style.

Jess Carter [00:01:37]:

I think one of the things that stood out the most to me is his emphasis on understanding who is everyone that needs to participate in a change in your culture around data and how to make sure they're getting in the boat with you and you're not leaving anyone behind. What I mean is, there's often that you're working on an initiative and you think about your core team or your core end user, and you miss people that are adjacent and really important actually for adoption or leverage in the initiative you're taking on. He's very good at thinking about how do I cast the widest net for the best outcomes. He's naturally team oriented, extremely self aware, and really passionate about data. I am excited about this episode, and I hope you like it.

Jess Carter [00:02:23]:

Welcome back to Data Driven Leadership. I'm your host, Jess Carter, and with me today is Peter Krombach, the director of data operations at the Indiana Department of Health. Hey, Peter.

Peter Krombach [00:02:32]:


Jess Carter [00:02:33]:

Thank you for being here.

Peter Krombach [00:02:34]:

Yeah, thanks for having me.

Jess Carter [00:02:35]:

I am so excited to have you here. This is long overdue.

Peter Krombach [00:02:37]:


Jess Carter [00:02:38]:

We discussed this in March? May? But…

Peter Krombach [00:02:41]:

I've been secretly pleading to be on this for years.

Jess Carter [00:02:44]:

We've been secretly pleading for you to be on it for a year. And for you to even say that is sort of a, I don't know, compliment, because we've barely been here for a year. But you're passionate about data. That's why you're excited, right?

Peter Krombach [00:02:56]:

Okay, definitely.

Jess Carter [00:02:57]:

So, I'm going to get into this right away. Were you always interested in data?

Peter Krombach [00:03:02]:


Jess Carter [00:03:03]:


Peter Krombach [00:03:03]:

I feel like it always came naturally, but as any data thing evolves, I feel like, as I continued to get older, I was noticing patterns and behaviors in different aspects of life. I always used to think I was going to go into the medical field as, like, a primary care physician.

Jess Carter [00:03:20]:

Oh, interesting.

Peter Krombach [00:03:21]:

First dream was always pediatric oncologist, which is, wow, beyond what this scope is. But it's kind of being in the right place at the right time has been my professional journey into data, and it just makes sense. Data is always something that unfortunately sometimes makes sense to people and other times doesn't. And you can train that up, but my data journey has always just been taking the opportunities as they come and just diving straight in.

Jess Carter [00:03:46]:

That's amazing. Can you tell me more about that? Because you have this interesting career where you've sort of, following it is this fun map into where you are today. So can you walk us through that?

Peter Krombach [00:03:54]:

I use different analogies depending on who I talk to and how much time I always have to talk about it, but it's always been very nontraditional. Like, I don't claim to be a data scientist, don't claim to be a data architect, even though they've been in my job. That's my job title—credit to people who've just hired me because of my skill set, and I'm proud of that. But a lot of it is just right place, right time, and evolving with the context that I make and just my interests as they grow. Since traditionally I had background in education as an epidemiologist, getting my master of public health. But after that it was, hey, we want to introduce you to health informatics. Kind of figure out what that was, what SQL and certain data processing was, just ran with it.

Jess Carter [00:04:38]:

That's so cool.

Peter Krombach [00:04:40]:

So everywhere that I've gone, I've gained new skills, and that's kind of something that I've liked. In roles where you can learn a new tool, you're not trying to only focus on one methodology and gaining a lot more tools in your tool belt to be able to consult on that and just help creatively solve solutions.

Jess Carter [00:04:56]:

Well, and you've been in health, so we're going to have to unpack. Most people may not know what an epidemiologist is. How would you explain that to my grandma?

Peter Krombach [00:05:06]:

That's a great question. So the first thing I always say is, we are not dermatologists. You get that? Well, because epidemiology it's similar to epidermis in a way. And so we used to have these little wanted to make stickers being like, we are not skin doctors. We cannot consult on your mole. But I just like to say we are individuals who are passionate about monitoring diseases and identifying areas where there may be populations that are disproportionately affected. So, I mean, you go back to the initial cholera outbreak with the evolution of Jon Snow and the actual Jon Snow, who actually was a person, and the broad street water pump, just surveying outbreaks and saying, hey, we're good at counting things. Can we turn that into instead of counting individual groups, the entire population? And so that's kind of evolved into the population health aspect.

Peter Krombach [00:06:01]:

It's a little bit similar to the medical field because, yes, we do consult with physicians, and our commissioner is a physician herself. So there is that play in between utilizing these broad population view at the same time.

Jess Carter [00:06:13]:

You can't look at a mole and evaluate it, but you can help public health better understand what diseases, new or continuing diseases. We can track them, trend them, and understand how they're impacting public health more generally and specific people groups.

Peter Krombach [00:06:30]:

Exactly. And a lot of it is we're just a resource to use to consult, because some of these physicians, unless you're, like, an infectious disease doctor, may not see this in their career. So, oh, I have a case of a GI illness that I never have seen before. What am I responsible for reporting? So we can do, whether it's from reporting or disease prevention mechanisms or just saying, hey, this is a problem. Let's try to figure out a way to address it.

Jess Carter [00:06:55]:

Do you feel like the entire world finally knew what you did during the pandemic?

Peter Krombach [00:07:00]:

In a way, it also felt like validating. I was like, oh, is this by just chance that I was always secretly dreaming of a pandemic and never wanting it to happen? Because when I used to have to explain what an epidemiologist was, it was kind of trying to convince myself that I knew what it was. Because some epidemiologists don't really deal with data all the time. They're just a very consultant and deal with the prevention aspects. But then others do have those skills. Wow.

Jess Carter [00:07:26]:

Suddenly it mattered.

Peter Krombach [00:07:27]:

Yeah. To everyone, and everyone had an opinion on what it should be and how we should present data. And, of course, that was always waters that you have to navigate as a leader. Just trying to understand, okay, how can we mitigate any potential negative feedback that we would get? But it's kind of embracing that at the same time.

Jess Carter [00:07:46]:

Yeah. I mean, that's how you iterate through maturity.

Peter Krombach [00:07:49]:


Jess Carter [00:07:50]:

Is we actually collect that feedback and figure out how to make better visuals or better explanations of what we're doing. Right. Right. Well, and that seems like, so one of the questions I have is in your role. So you've kind of had multiple roles. We were going back to your whole story. So you've had these multiple roles in public sector health mostly.

Jess Carter [00:08:08]:

Right. But around data. So. But not all at the same agency. You weren't always at Department of Health. Where were you before?

Peter Krombach [00:08:15]:

So I started out at the Department of Health, and that was like, I've had three instances there in different roles. This is my fourth one total. But I've also had experience at Indiana University doing clinical research, helping be a data manager over there. And then I was also doing a similar capacity for the school of nursing at IU in Indianapolis. And always just my go-to bread and butters is like, I like helping people find solutions to problems in a way where they never thought was possible. Because whether they've always had that mantra, I've always done it this way. This is what works.

Jess Carter [00:08:49]:


Peter Krombach [00:08:50]:

And just trying to show that value of, hey, I can potentially automate this process for you so you don't have to spend 40 hours a week, and I can just run this report for you in an hour.

Jess Carter [00:08:58]:


Peter Krombach [00:08:59]:

And that's kind of where I fit in. But the thing that's been the common theme is just being able to look ahead and not wanting to settle with the minimum and just be like, hey, I know there's, even if I don't know the way myself.

Jess Carter [00:09:10]:


Peter Krombach [00:09:11]:

Let's try to figure it out together and move forward and try to embrace the fear of failure.

Jess Carter [00:09:17]:

Well, tell me more about that. So I've been in public sector consulting for almost a decade, and there is certainly, I mean, there's real elements that are different than private. There are elections that come up. There's more fear of what if something gets in the paper. We want to take care of public citizens. We want to make sure that we're responsibly managing dollars. So I think there's a lot of reasons to be afraid. Right.

Jess Carter [00:09:39]:

So how do you navigate that in an environment that is kind of full of fear?

Peter Krombach [00:09:46]:

It's all about the opposite of fear, is like trying to build trust and confidence that we're all working on that shared mission. Whether we don't have the understanding of what this individual does to contribute to that task holistically, we are all responsible for the same deliverable. I find it fantastic that everyone likes to take ownership of the products that we release, and that's something that I encourage everyone to focus on, is like, hey, there may be potential snags or roadblocks that we hit, but we're trying to focus on that core goal. The fear part is just not wanting to have any negative feedback directly on you, because from a liability perspective, it never feels good as a professional to have that negative feedback. It's like, oh, is my job going to be at risk? Is someone going to say something that we'll get in trouble for?

Jess Carter [00:10:32]:


Peter Krombach [00:10:32]:

And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, it does happen, but it's trying to frame it in a way where you can move on from it. Because, yes, we are in the public sector, so every mistakes that are made are made very public and can potentially have consequences. But hopefully you just need to lean into that and try to move on and craft that narrative about, yes, we understand and own that mistake and understand that that happened and say, these are the steps that we're doing to mitigate that.

Jess Carter [00:11:04]:

It's a big deal. The healthy risks an agency can take to transform are just significantly different. If you have that mindset. Exactly. If anytime you're in the paper, anytime there's a negative outcome that's in the public eye, we failed.

Peter Krombach [00:11:25]:


Jess Carter [00:11:25]:

You will actually hamper innovation in your agency. I don't know that everybody realizes that.

Peter Krombach [00:11:30]:

And that's something that the pandemic taught us, and we're trying to continue to sustain that model of, yes, we know that these roadblocks exist. Let's not try to go back to our old ways just because we're not in an emergency anymore.

Jess Carter [00:11:43]:


Peter Krombach [00:11:43]:

So let's try to work together. And a lot of it for us is like, top-down leadership, just trying to lead by example, because I always just, like, I need to own my mistakes if I make one, right? And so hopefully those who, whether it's reporting to me or just work with me, can feel that same way. But, yeah, it's always depending on the person. It's very person centric and not procedure centric because the procedures can come and go, but it's really trying to build that collaborative trust between everyone in your agency.

Jess Carter [00:12:13]:

It surprises me that you would say that Covid helped bring that to bear because I feel like in Covid, the opposite could also be true, where you're so terrified to make a mistake that nothing. So unpack how. I don't know. I'm intrigued about how Covid allowed for more of this vulnerability of an agency. How did that happen, do you think?

Peter Krombach [00:12:35]:

I think it was a blessing and a curse in terms of, I came at it from a different perspective. Like, I wasn't there at the beginning, but I came in in May as kind of like the support staff for the CDC foundation as a data scientist. So I have a different view on that. But I think it just caused us to actually stop and say, okay, we literally have to drop everything that we're doing and everyone in the agency is supporting one common task.

Jess Carter [00:12:57]:

I see.

Peter Krombach [00:12:58]:

And so we had so many barriers that, because we weren't just doing our day-to-day work that were just highlighted. And so, of course, having the governor's public health commission and doing these broad scale assessments, that helped, of course, but I think it was just the, oh, crap, we have to do something brand new.

Jess Carter [00:13:17]:


Peter Krombach [00:13:18]:

We can't really use old processes because we tried to surf that over, not necessarily, not worked for that solution. So it forced us to innovate. And I think that was a good thing.

Jess Carter [00:13:28]:

So you've said this twice, but to emphasize it, because I think it's significant, you found a way to align everyone to a common goal or mission. I remember even the concept of most data people are not in the business where they're going to get a chance to actually reduce outcomes for people that might be deceased based on a pandemic. And so there's this sense of you can actually make a significant difference that you never knew you were going to be able to make in your career. I think that that can be super unifying.

Peter Krombach [00:13:58]:


Jess Carter [00:13:59]:

So the sense of, we're not worried about these reports over here right now, we're actually in the business of saving lives in a pandemic. We're normally in the business of saving lives, but, like, seriously, in an emergency situation, to me, that has the power to really unite people. Do you feel like you sensed that as an agency?

Peter Krombach [00:14:19]:

We did. I think it took a little bit because everyone just, with burnout and just how professional nature was, you're working around the clock. It's hard to celebrate those wins because of everything that's happening around you. From what I've seen, just aftermath, I think that we're just continuing to try to sustain that, really encourage people, of course, trying to mitigate burnout and do what we can with workforce development. But I think it's been positive, at least from the data perspective.

Jess Carter [00:14:44]:

Good. I think about your career, and you've done a lot in a small number of hour or years. And so when I look at your career, do you have any thoughts about, I think it'd be easy to be sort of at the right place at the right time, but not have the right mindset be in your head about, do I have the right to say something? I don't know if you would normally call yourself a risk taker, but it seems like you've kind of leaned in.

Peter Krombach [00:15:11]:

So I'm very risk averse in my personal life, but professionally, I think it's just learning to trust your gut instinct because everyone has one. But the fear internally that we've talked about, and just like the imposter syndrome, like, am I qualified enough to do this that everyone goes through because I've talked to my siblings or talked to other professionals, and they're just like, yeah, I do feel that same way.

Jess Carter [00:15:33]:


Peter Krombach [00:15:34]:

But everyone just has a different way of addressing that. And for me, it is the understanding of, if I don't know something, be that first, be your own advocate and ask those questions and admit, hey, I'm not going to be able to do this. I need some additional training.

Jess Carter [00:15:49]:

Right. Okay.

Peter Krombach [00:15:51]:

So that's kind of been my mindset. It's just trying to, like I was saying, lean into it all and just address that fear and try to move through it, because, of course, there's days where I'm still stressed out about something that's going on, and it takes that second to step back and say, okay, clear your mind and just focus on that end goal.

Jess Carter [00:16:11]:

Do you know how enjoyable it is to hear someone on a data podcast say, trust your gut? Because it's easy to get into the spiral of, I need data to be a data-driven leader, and that means I have to have just the right reports. And there was a reality in some of these instances where you didn't have all the data you needed and you had to make a decision. And so this is where it's still data to call to your experience or to call to borrow someone else's lens or experience. It's not just that everything has to be in a dashboard perfectly, right? And so that's where my imposter syndrome can show up for me. When I think everyone else is more technical than me, everyone else probably has more data than me. And the point is, you're in the room, like, you're the person assigned to lead the data organization, and you understand what decisions need to be made.

Peter Krombach [00:16:52]:


Jess Carter [00:16:52]:

It's your job.

Peter Krombach [00:16:53]:

Be confident that people who are in leadership positions are looking to you and are actually, even if they're not directly telling you all the time that they trust in you to do a good job and you wouldn't be there unless you were meant to be there.

Jess Carter [00:17:05]:

Yeah, for real. It's easy to look back and say that. Do you remember a specific instance or two where you were going into a meeting and it was, whether it was the pandemic or something else, and you kind of had to walk yourself through this. You do?

Peter Krombach [00:17:21]:

So I was thrown into the deep end a little bit right away because as we were noticing, yes, the elderly population and those in long term care facilities were really advert or at risk of additional negative consequences, whether that's hospitalization or unfortunately, death.

Jess Carter [00:17:40]:


Peter Krombach [00:17:40]:

And we needed a better way to track that. And so I was voluntold, or just took that position of, okay, we need to collect data from all of our healthcare facilities that focus on long term care or nursing homes, and then we need to have a mechanism for reporting that moving forward to be able to have a surveillance dashboard around. And so not an hour later, I was already on a call with a couple of execs, whether both from Resultant and the state government, and she's like, okay, how are we going to do this? And I didn't have that idea. I'm just going to own it. This is a way that we have that I know may work. Let me investigate a little bit more and just kind of drive forward. And of course, I would want it to be a team approach. In that case, it was individual just taking the initiative to go.

Peter Krombach [00:18:25]:

But the support that I felt from everyone else that was participating, whether that's individuals on the engineering team that actually used the data that I was collecting and cleaning, or just from the executive perspective that were trusting in the decisions that I made, helped make that a little bit easier.

Jess Carter [00:18:42]:

Yeah, it's interesting to me to hear you even replay that and think at some point. The two words that created me were you were open and you were willing, and it was like you were willing to get on the call, you were open about ideas you had, and you weren't going to be easily offended if someone else had a better one. It was just about the outcome. So you were tied to the mission, you were trying to accomplish things. You were open and willing, not defensive, not my idea has to be right. Definitely right. It wasn't about, this is Peter's time to shine. It was like, let's just help everybody..

Jess Carter [00:19:10]:

I mean, that is an interesting way to overcome imposter syndrome, that it's not about believing you are amazing. The antidote to imposter syndrome might be being willing and open to participating in the solution, not necessarily being just suddenly so egotistical that you know you're great, right?

Peter Krombach [00:19:27]:

Because I used to think, oh, you know, you've made it. If you're going to be that big leader, who can be willing to speak in front of a group and own it and say, yes, this is what my agency did, but it's finding those ways. And if you're not in that role, just knowing how you contribute and still looking for those opportunities, of course, where you can show your skill set, but at different times, leadership and data-specific leadership means different things to different people.

Jess Carter [00:19:52]:


Peter Krombach [00:19:53]:

And you find successful, actual good leaders in positions where they will never see the spotlight. And that's something that they're okay with, but they're still excellent leaders.

Jess Carter [00:20:02]:

Right. I like that. You just made the concept, too, of a data-driven leader is accessible by anyone. You can be a data-driven leader by having a sense for the highest and best use of yourself today and leveraging yourself in that way. I think there's some self management there, too. Right? And to your point, it's not about the limelight, it's about impact.

Peter Krombach [00:20:21]:

And just because I have the director in my title, or someone would have a chief in their title, they just play a different role in our entire data landscape, that they may be able to go back and develop a model as a data scientist or run some analytics, but that's not the role that they're playing at that point. So it's all just, again, trying to focus on that team-based approach.

Jess Carter [00:20:46]:

I like that. The team emphasis, too, I think takes some of the ego out. It's all about what are we trying to accomplish?

Peter Krombach [00:20:53]:


Jess Carter [00:20:53]:

That's cool. So when you look at the last half decade, though the last three years probably feel like an eternity. I kind of feel like you've seen these moments where you've managed and harnessed data for specific use cases, but there's now this pretty large change. It's like a wave coming over state government, where data is really being seen as an asset.

Peter Krombach [00:21:16]:


Jess Carter [00:21:17]:

It's not just a data project with this one set of data and this one research, it's how do we manage the asset that is our data. I guess I would ask you, in that journey, what has surprised you along that journey?

Peter Krombach [00:21:31]:

I think it's just the continued commonalities that everyone has that mutual understanding of, hey, we know something about data. They might not be exclusively data literate, that they can be able to explain the complex processes, but they still are wanting to be willing to understand it. Sure. And I think it's just instances where you see kind of both sides of the spectrum where historically, in just any data system, there's specific data silos that always exist. And you have some projects where people are willing to say, let's just completely break down the walls, blow it all up and create this new model. But then you try to leverage that against individuals like, oh, this process has always been the way it does. It works well, but trying to do that forward thinking, to use it as an asset, to say, hey, I understand that you collect that data in one system, but look at all these other possibilities that we can do with the data that will then positively impact your program. So it's just trying to balance both sides to say, yes, we will set up the governance that's necessary for everyone to use this as a shared asset, to build that trust and to mitigate their fears of it being misused or inappropriately used with.

Peter Krombach [00:22:45]:

Let's build that trust enough for you to guys to be okay with us assessing because it's pretty critical information. Like, we're talking about an individual's health record at times.

Jess Carter [00:22:53]:


Peter Krombach [00:22:54]:

And so, of course, everyone is on the same page as we just need to align back at that is, we are committed to protecting and promoting the health of all Hoosiers. And that includes keeping the information confidential and making sure that we have the right checks in place for the metrics that we deliver.

Jess Carter [00:23:12]:

That is eloquently said. We want to access it, but we also want to protect it and leverage it for the right outcomes. Okay, so you mentioned governance, which I've sort of been enjoying having a conversation about governance with a few people on the podcast, because I think that it is a little bit of, I don't know, my observation is it seems like governance is more and more of like it depends on who you're talking to, what do you mean? So when it comes to leveraging data and putting together a governance structure, what's been the hardest part, in your opinion?

Peter Krombach [00:23:45]:

That's a great question, because when I was recruited back to IDOH for the fourth stint from FSSA, my original title was just director of engagement and governance. And so I was tasked with helping to build out our executive data governance board that we have. Like you said, governance means a lot of different things depending on who you ask. A lot of the struggles that I've worked through is just balancing the necessary policies and procedures and security that you're required, of course, to, say, federally compliant in these systems that were made for a reason, because for me, they were just hard to interpret like a security policy with a bunch of additional acronyms to understand. But it's also trying to incorporate, governance also can mean developing best practices, whether it's being a center of excellence for business intelligence or data and analytics, but it's giving individuals the tools to say, hey, we're not telling you what to do. It's just here are all the options to expand that scope and pushing them in the right direction. Because governance to me can be those metal bars that you can't move out of, whether it's a guardrail or what analogy you want to use. But I also think it's just building your boat a little bit bigger to be able to say, oh, you might not have known that this tool is accessible or this analytical method is there, but built in within our governance, whether it's a better focus on data quality or a better focus on, let's make sure our analytics are automated, it just means absolutely making it all encompassing.

Jess Carter [00:25:20]:

Yeah, there's this pivot I saw from, I would say, like, data projects to data products in the sense of what's repeatable.

Peter Krombach [00:25:30]:


Jess Carter [00:25:30]:

And let's govern the things that are repeatably useful. But to your point, I really appreciate the emphasis, too, on that data was created for a reason, in a source system, and making sure we understand the intents and purposes of that system, that we're honoring what that data was supposed to be used for. Also, that's hard to govern. It's hard to make sure that there's traceability between the data that exists, definitely the metadata around it and its original intent, and whether we can use it for these other things. And then also figuring out how do you paint that picture for people who want to leverage data? How do you help them see… I picture almost like a Whole Foods or something. You're walking down a shopping aisle and you're looking to solve a big, complex problem. How do you just understand that there's a few more aisles when it comes to. I still know people who think that every time they need new data, they have to update their source system with a new field.

Jess Carter [00:26:14]:

And I'm like, well, hang on, you might have that data somewhere else, and there's just interoperability opportunities. But then they're asking what interoperability means. So there's just this challenge of, it's maturing quickly, there's amazing potential outcomes and value, and the literacy piece is so critical that I think that's a lot to juggle.

Peter Krombach [00:26:32]:

Yeah. And I think it's like trying to have conversations as early as you can, because given the nature of public health, we can sometimes be reactionary in nature. Like with COVID we had to be reactionary because we didn't know what it was, and so we were just reacting to the new thing.

Jess Carter [00:26:48]:


Peter Krombach [00:26:48]:

But in principle, public health is supposed to be proactive population health. And so that's something that I think translates well into any data product that you develop, because one solution is always not one size fits all, right, but it can be repeatable. So it's just like, as long as you try to engage the data professionals or whatever name you want to give them, as early as you can in your process, not to try to dictate what goes on, but just say, here is the art of the possible, and then talk through it and have all the stakeholders at the table to say, hey, we will try to translate as best we can and help you understand some of the engineering that is too complex, really, to write out or communicate in a one line email. But we do have that shared vision, again, to deliver the most useful product to your team.

Jess Carter [00:27:37]:

Yeah, well, in that combo, too. I'm curious what you think about this. So your energy is spent on data. Data. It's usefulness, effectiveness, governance, engagement, literacy. You really can't do that without IT. So it's really interesting, too, to realize those two have to marry.

Peter Krombach [00:27:54]:


Jess Carter [00:27:55]:

And there are times where the biggest challenge in a data solution isn't the data, it's how it's interoperable or it's the IT side where it's like we actually have to support each other to reach these amazing outcomes. Is that something you've experienced, too?

Peter Krombach [00:28:06]:

Yeah, and I think it was a good test because our ops of data analytics was invented, well rebranded, I guess you could say, during the pandemic itself.

Jess Carter [00:28:14]:


Peter Krombach [00:28:14]:

But we do have an intimate working relationship with our IT organization, whether it's internally in our office of technology and cybersecurity, or even with just the state Indiana Office of Technology.

Jess Carter [00:28:25]:


Peter Krombach [00:28:26]:

And a lot of it is just what they bring to the table is that really technical privacy security lens that we have to follow and give us those good guardrails, but they also give us the knowledge of, hey, this is the current state of this information system because they are the subject matter experts. And I think the things that I thought have been amazing partnership ideas is when you talk about data quality, they know, oh, we can't change this yet because we might have to go through an extra step to reach out to a vendor to get the source system changed. And so that's not necessarily like that. It's not a solution. It just brings that extra lens to show, because sometimes people think that, I always like to say we're not magicians, we're data professionals. And so using that literacy component is saying, hey, this is everything that goes into this process, so it can't just be like a light switch.

Jess Carter [00:29:23]:

Yeah, I think that that's really important because I think a lot of people will just try and run with their data and they end up with a whole bunch of technical debt because they either left their IT department in a wake behind them and built a bunch of stuff that they didn't know they'd have to support one day, and the IT department didn't know how. And so there's this piece, too, of how can you be the highest high that raises all boats? And that really is this combo. And you've done, I think, again, a great job sort of speaking in harmony about the business objectives, mission outcomes, and the data. Like the data should be driven by the mission. But then there's this IT department, too, that is this core foundation of how it's all done.

Peter Krombach [00:30:01]:


Jess Carter [00:30:01]:

And I think those three are in some kind of acute triangle on somebody's documentation about how critical they are.

Peter Krombach [00:30:06]:

And too, it also focuses on, because our success as an agency, of course, is to improve the population's health and try to make people live as long as possible and as fruitful as they can be. But at the same time, there's just challenges that you go into because the products that you build may be requested by an individual and then go away. So you try to mitigate that as much as you can. Because especially now in this modernization era and trying to talk about interoperability, you really need to just have purpose-driven data products and not just, oh, I need this analysis complete now. Because ad hoc requests will never go away. But it's building in those components of collaboration that will continue to sustain that product, whether it is a dashboard or some other procedure to be used holistically, long term.

Jess Carter [00:31:00]:

Yeah, you've probably been in this situation, too, where I think about people who are drowning in data requests and they don't even understand why people are asking half the ones they're asking. And in a private sector, it would be like our board, like, if they came and they're asking us a bunch of questions and we're wrestling to get the data together. One of the first things I want to know is, should we already know the answer to that question? Should we be operating and managing our business in a way where we can rattle off the answer to that question? Or are they asking because it's a one-time thing? And so I'm sure you guys have some of that, too, where it's, hey, what data does someone need? Why do they think they need it? Is there a better way to get it to them or to help them with their outcome? But that's back to good data-driven leadership isn't just the request process, it's also communication. It's just making sure we actually understand each other and what we're trying to do.

Peter Krombach [00:31:44]:

And we've talked about it in terms of change management. It's just like you always have to talk about the why. And for me, that has always driven my professional career because I've stayed in public service, because I have that shared why.

Jess Carter [00:31:56]:


Peter Krombach [00:31:56]:

And yeah, data is the extra bonus that helps me stay because it's an awesome thing that lets us do innovative, just projects in general. So being able to start with why, I think there's a book that I.

Jess Carter [00:32:11]:

Have on my, it starts with why.

Peter Krombach [00:32:14]:

Maybe that's been imprinted on my brain for a while, but that is something that I pride myself on doing.

Jess Carter [00:32:20]:

That's awesome. Also, it made me laugh the two times that you said, this is your fourth stint. Yeah, you reminded me, very few people know this, but I may or may not have been a Cracker Barrel waitress. Does that shock you? No, probably not. And I would always joke that I had three stars. If I had four, I was there for too long. And so that was like my go to joke when people would say, like, I'm going to get you a fourth star. And I was like, you can't really get me a fourth star.

Jess Carter [00:32:41]:

It has to do with training I haven't gone through. But it made me laugh to think about even some of the, like when we talk about imposter syndrome and some of the things about how do you handle your career when it's growing this quickly, too, and the ability to just say, I love that I'm open, I'm willing, we're going to try to help. I'm tied to the mission, and it seems like the team piece. You're very thoughtful. So, Peter, I might ask you about this. You're very thoughtful. Like, when you talk about team, you're good about thinking about who's everyone that needs to win.

Jess Carter [00:33:10]:

You've. Did you learn that through stepping in it someday, or have you always sort of been oriented towards making sure you really appreciate who's everyone on the team?

Peter Krombach [00:33:18]:

That's a great question, because I think that is one of the correlations that does transfer into my personal life, is I used to tie my happiness to others’ opinions of me, of course, as every individual does, who is an empathetic, driven person. But it morphed into just knowing that you care about the success of others. And yes, at times I used to say I prioritize my happiness with others happiness. But in the professional sphere, it's flipping that mindset and saying, I am not successful unless the people around me are successful, because I'm not being a good leader if we're not delivering good products. I love that I can get more promotion and promotion and focus on, oh, here are the wins. But it's actually saying, am I building up my team to take over for me if I go away?

Jess Carter [00:34:10]:

And I think that that is something that I wish you were a magician and you could help everybody, because I think that is 90% of problems I see around data and tech are not data. They're not tech. They're people problems.

Peter Krombach [00:34:23]:


Jess Carter [00:34:24]:

And if people understood that you were inherently on their team when we first started the project, I just think a lot of those problems go away. It's just really interesting, and it's how.

Peter Krombach [00:34:32]:

We communicate it, too, because trying to loop in literacy as a theme, some people are just very afraid because they don't feel confident in their skills. So just, like, what can you do to make sure that everyone is on the same shared understanding? And I think that helps projects, because people learn and communicate in much different ways. And so you have to always be thinking of the multiple different approaches that you have, even if it is on the same project, to have everyone have that shared understanding. And I think, to me, that is what I pin success on at times, is because if our data and analytics team would get pulled in a different priority, a program area may have to support this technology or vice versa.

Jess Carter [00:35:16]:


Peter Krombach [00:35:16]:

So if there's not that shared understanding, then we're not successful again.

Jess Carter [00:35:21]:

Yeah. Do you have one piece of advice on how somebody could quite pragmatically, take a step toward creating that kind of a culture if they self realize we're not there.

Peter Krombach [00:35:32]:


Jess Carter [00:35:33]:

How do I take one practical step toward that kind of culture dynamic?

Peter Krombach [00:35:37]:

That's a great question. For me, it's just trying to find innovative ways to have business be exposed to technology and data and analytics and vice versa. So, a project that I thought was very successful, that I'll credit one of my old coworkers, Courtney Lambert, with, is, we called it our pie in the sky project. So we worked with our infectious disease team, paired individuals who were interested on the epidemiology side with someone on our office of data analytics team. And so they worked on a shared project, and so they collaborated not only on the presentation that they gave, but then also all the coding and development of their research outcome at the same time. And so we were just trying to think of methods of how, since we don't have enough hours in the day, some weeks, to be able to do that, how can we just allow individuals to shadow someone? So say, oh, business unit, just come with me on my regular day and sit there as I code and just try to explain what a day looks like.

Jess Carter [00:36:35]:

That's so neat.

Peter Krombach [00:36:36]:

And I wish I could do that. I would love to just be like, can I shadow each of our 42 different division directors and see what they do on a daily basis? So, it's trying to break that down into, what projects could you do that gives you a little bit of a window into that lens?

Jess Carter [00:36:50]:

That's super neat. It's like a bit of programmatic, cognitive empathy.

Peter Krombach [00:36:55]:

Because it's always that balance sometimes. In my aspect. I was a public health professional that just leaned in and learned these data skills on the fly. Like, yes, of course. I was blessed to have the ability to take that on very quickly. And then you have individuals who are on the data side that you're trying to learn public health, and maybe a hard concept for them to grasp.

Jess Carter [00:37:16]:


Peter Krombach [00:37:17]:

And I think just trying to find opportunities to blend those two together and empower not only the subject matter experts to just have some proficiency with these concepts, and vice versa. Because ideally, these unicorn candidates, as you call them, or we at least term them, I don't necessarily label myself as a unicorn. I'm just like, I'm here for the ride, sure. But trying to find people that have the blend of those skills, not only are they hard to identify, they sometimes can be hard to retain, because they're like liquid gold to any agency. So it's trying to say, how can we train and sustain these individuals across the board to have that programmatic competency and the data competency.

Jess Carter [00:37:58]:

That is such a good idea. I mean, that's basically a master class in how do you help break down silos, period. So I think it's so cool. Okay, maybe my last question. I reserve the right to look at these. If you had one wish, if there was a magician we both had met and they could grant, or I guess it would be a genie, one wish for you. In the state and public sector and health and data, but they only granted one. What wish would you ask for?

Peter Krombach [00:38:25]:

I would say, like a friend's answer and just be, I'd have a million grant me unlimited wishes after that, so then I could solve all the problems. Because I feel like I forget what it was like, oh, if I was omnipotent for a day, I'd be omnipotent forever. But for me, I don't know because I don't think that there is that magic potion to solve it, because it's a person thing and people have these different opinions. That's a great question. I think for me, it comes down to the people. So it was just like, how can we unite together in that common cause? And so maybe it is just that moment that it has of, instead of wanting one solution, because you can have unlimited funding and still make mistakes or have a measly budget, but still figure out how to work it, just continue to be blessed with a team that sticks around forever and has that good camaraderie. Maybe I'll just say my wish would be to have that good data-driven culture that makes everyone want to stay and make each other better.

Jess Carter [00:39:29]:

Yeah. What I just heard was, you want peace on earth.

Peter Krombach [00:39:32]:

Probably because I like drama more than anyone else. And of course there's always going to be conflicts, but I don't know. At the heart of it, we all have a shared mission, and that is to make everyone else better. And so trying to. I'm always an advocate of this. Like, yes, I can get in ruts where I'm very pessimistic and don't think things are very optimistic. But at the end of the day, inherently, you want to see the good in others. And even from a professional standpoint, I think with data, it's just like, we want to get the best outcomes we can, and that starts with using data as a strategic asset, and then the rest will hopefully come later, but then continuing to build that culture of trust between everyone else.

Jess Carter [00:40:09]:

Yeah. Somehow you've avoided saying human centric when this entire conversation, your leadership style is obviously very human centric. And I just think it's genius because it's hard to convince people that that matters, but once they do, it's like a superpower.

Peter Krombach [00:40:28]:


Jess Carter [00:40:28]:

And so it's just interesting to me to have a conversation with someone who's so data savvy, and it still comes back to, it's about the people.

Peter Krombach [00:40:36]:


Jess Carter [00:40:36]:

Every time, it's actually about the people.

Peter Krombach [00:40:38]:

And I think that's just something that luckily I've had an innate knack for, that I've tried to continue to sustain because I will admit to anyone I am a data professional, but I'm dangerous enough to potentially make a mistake. And I think certain individuals who are in the data sphere struggle with potential leadership positions because they get away from what they want to do right. And I want to code every day. I want to build a dashboard. And that still is being a data leader. It's because they're knowing their place and their limitations. And for me, I think I had to learn to feel confident with not doing that regular basis or doing data work. If you can say that on a regular basis and creating that new data work, where it is trying to be that people organizer that relates to someone on a personal level, because I don't know, for me, maybe it's just the generation that we grew up in, but I try to bring as much personality as I can to the professional sphere to try to not necessarily be the one, be like, oh, you can wear jeans and sandals all day and you don't have to wear a suit, but trying to bring as much personal life as you can, but still have that balance where you can find those levels of separation when it comes to reporting structure, at least.

Peter Krombach [00:41:49]:

But I don't know. I like to mitigate awkward cringey moments even though we like to talk about them. I love that because, I don't know, we used to say in conversations with people, you don't want those minutes of silence. And sometimes it's okay if you ask a hard question. People are thinking about it, right, especially now in our hybrid work environment. But I just try to inject a little bit of me into everyday life, even meetings where asking, hey, what song is stuck in your head today? Or our question that we had today in one of our meetings is, raise your hand if you are someone who dances in the elevator when you're by yourself. And then do you get paranoid that the elevator camera is watching you? And my answer is always, yes, I am the one that does that. So it's just those little things that I think help make data less intimidating.

Jess Carter [00:42:39]:

Yes, because you're right. I think it's easy to forget that it is really intimidating for some people. I don't think I remember that often. And so to make sure that we're constantly approachable, it seems like you're generating this approachability, which I think is really neat. But there's also just this. I remember before I grew up a bit that I was the one that was like, at work early, and I had meetings scheduled at 08:00 a.m. On the dot and all these things, right? And I will admit then I had kids that had to go to daycare. And I just wish I could go back five years and buy everyone a quiet cup of coffee and just set it on their desk about a kid, it was like, hey, this is actually hard juggling.

Jess Carter [00:43:23]:

Suddenly you don't just have work. You have to get kids over somewhere and drop. And I had this man, I did not have any empathy for parents who were working with me. I mean, they deserved 15 to 20 minutes at least of just a quiet let me sit because it hasn't been quiet for them. And so what are all the different stages of life the team around me is going through? What are the things? I don't know, even, that they might be going through? And how do we just make things human? How do we make it easier for them to work? Because you'll get the right outcomes out of people if they actually feel and are truly cared for. But I think if you ever had somebody who sort of checked that box, like, I've cared for you now today, Peter, can we get on?

Peter Krombach [00:44:03]:

It's so inauthentic, right?

Jess Carter [00:44:04]:

And people can tell. Everyone can tell. The people who are not great at people can tell that it was inauthentic. And so that's hard, too, right?

Peter Krombach [00:44:11]:

Well, because I think. Not to knock anyone in the IT space, because I'm in the IT space. You can be a little bit more introverted, but introversion necessarily doesn't mean that you're not a people person. And so, like, flipping that label. But, yeah, it's moving away from. Okay, we had an icebreaker table. That's good. Okay, everyone, let's have it in the introduction.

Peter Krombach [00:44:30]:

I love them. I will try to come up with icebreakers myself, but that's not the only thing that can make a meeting personable.

Jess Carter [00:44:36]:

Right. I'm sorry to put you on the spot. I'm just curious, do you have, like, one more? Like, if it's not an icebreaker, what's something else someone can do to make their meeting more personal?

Peter Krombach [00:44:44]:

The things that I do is always around music. Just because…

Jess Carter:
You're super into music?

Peter Krombach:
Well, I am in terms of. I just have a knack of always having a song ahead. And so something that I thought was super successful that I'm trying to do. It just takes a lot of legwork to organize, is when you have these breakout groups, whether you're in a collaborative meeting, you have everyone go away while you're waiting to be assigned to a group. Then you have a song that plays and then you have to vote on what the song title and artist is. So just like having like, oh, so one of the themes that I did, I think I did like female artists from each decade from the just had people vote.

Peter Krombach [00:45:21]:

They got like candy at the end if they won.

Jess Carter [00:45:23]:

So creative.

Peter Krombach [00:45:23]:

But it's just something that's small because it injects a little bit of me and what my passions are to try to share those with others.

Jess Carter [00:45:28]:

I am so excited and thankful you're here today because I think that this is a very different, unique take on the podcast where we've talked about some of the concrete stuff people are used to, governance and strategy and team unitedness. But there's so much more of an emphasis on this human-centered leadership of data that I think is actually the special sauce. You can build a zillion technical solutions, but no one, one of the things I say is Peter, you've been the person that no matter what Resultant has built, you're the person in the agency that's so passionate about putting it to use. And I'm like, otherwise that could sit on shelves, and it wouldn't be valuable. It would be potentially valuable.

Jess Carter [00:46:08]:

I just. I get excited that you walked us through a whole bunch of special sauce today. So thank you.

Peter Krombach [00:46:13]:

And the work never goes away. The people change, and I think that's why the biggest change is people. So if we can get that good camaraderie, even if you have a lot of turnover or whatnot.

Jess Carter [00:46:23]:

Then you have a culture that people jump in, and they kind of get it.

Peter Krombach [00:46:25]:

And you'll want to recruit new talent and be like, yes, I want to work for the Department of Health. I want to be in public service longer.

Jess Carter [00:46:31]:

It is truly a genius move. I love it. Well played, both because it's sincere but also because it is a smart strategy. It's both of those things.

Peter Krombach [00:46:39]:

I hope so.

Jess Carter [00:46:44]:

Thank you for listening. I'm your host, Jess Carter. And don't forget to follow Data Driven Leadership wherever you get your podcasts, rate and review, letting us know how these data topics are transforming your business. We can't wait for you to join us on the next episode.

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