Three questions with Kimberlee Aiello: Hiring our heroes and leaving a legacy

Jan. 10, 2024 / By Kim Aiello, Angela Haile-Selassie

I sat down with Kimberlee Aiello, director of federal market solutions and grouper applications and medical necessity at 3M Health Information Systems (HIS), to talk about her experience transitioning out of the U.S. Army and how she continues to support the military community in her corporate role.

A couple of years ago, you joined 3M HIS to lead the federal market solutions team after serving in the Army Medical Department for 29 years. What was that transition like, and what do you enjoy most about your role?

I am blessed because my transition was fairly easy, partly because of the nature of my role as director of federal markets. Our team works specifically with federal entities and organizations supporting a federal entity, including the Department of Defense and the Defense Health Agency, Veterans Affairs (VA), National Institutes of Health and Indian Health Service.

We specialize in the very specific needs, regulations and contracting processes that come with serving the federal government – and we understand federal clients so well because many of us on the team have served in the military and still receive our health care through the VA and Defense Health Agency. We’re familiar with the terminology, and we understand our federal clients’ strategy and passion for taking care of the health of military members, from those on active duty to family members to veterans like me. We also understand what’s important to our federal clients regarding readiness and quality care or value-based care models. The close alignment of federal clients’ needs and my experience have helped ease the transition.

The more challenging piece was learning my way around a civilian organization when I joined 3M. I think it would’ve been more difficult if I hadn’t participated in the Hiring Our Heroes program, which connects the military community with business internship opportunities. It allows you and the company to try each other on for size.

I was picked to go to a couple of other companies when my first boss in the Army – who was working at 3M at the time – reached out and asked what I was doing as I transitioned. I told him about Hiring Our Heroes, and he said, “Well, why don’t you come to 3M?” So, I did an 11-week program through Hiring Our Heroes at 3M HIS to learn the business, structure, solutions and culture. It allowed me to see if 3M HIS was where I wanted to be – and I’m still here today! Since then, I’ve also brought someone I served with in the Army to 3M HIS through Hiring Our Heroes – and she’s been absolutely phenomenal. I can’t say enough about the program and 3M’s sponsorship of it.

One of the things I love most about my role is making a meaningful impact on our military veterans and family members who receive care in military treatment facilities. When talking with a client, I understand the problems they’re trying to solve because my family and I receive care through those systems and facilities. For my team, it’s not about selling something; it’s about working collaboratively to solve a problem. We have direct and transparent conversations about the best ways to approach those issues. Whether or not the client ends up going with 3M, we build strong relationships with federal entities along the way. Continuing to serve the military community in this way is a real honor.

As director of federal market solutions and grouper applications and medical necessity, your leadership role crosses federal and commercial markets. These worlds don’t often overlap much – how are you balancing that? Do you like it?

I absolutely love it. Spanning the commercial and the federal has afforded me the opportunity to work with two phenomenal teams, the federal markets team – which we’ve talked about – and the grouper applications and medical necessity team. I had a lot more to learn on the grouper applications side, and they’ve been great at enabling my learning while being very open to the approaches and ideas I bring.

Despite the differences in doing business with federal and commercial markets, there is an important crossover where 3M solutions come into play. Our grouper applications are about content, health care data, benchmarks and measuring outcomes. Some of that content is around quality methodologies and potentially preventable adverse health care events. These solutions can benefit not only commercial clients, but also our federal clients as they work to define readiness and quality in their move to a value-based care model. Understanding how the military defines readiness – ensuring a service member is deployable – in the context of our grouper applications goes hand in hand.

When it comes to leading an organization, some skills are valuable regardless of what the team does. Candor, problem solving, understanding risk and risk adjudication, empathy and collaboration are universal attributes that we can work toward no matter what client we serve.

What words of advice or encouragement might you share with others who are retiring from the military and entering the corporate world? 

Being nervous about leaving the military is completely normal because you’re leaving a very closed and safe environment that provides so much stability. Going into the unknown is a scary endeavor.

Change can be difficult, but I also believe change is good. As I meet with people going through this process, I always talk about the skills they developed in the military that they can bring into the commercial environment – collaboration, problem solving, risk adjudication, empathy, transparency and accountability. I’ve found corporate America values those soft skills.  

So, my advice is to understand your skills and participate in programs like Hiring Our Heroes. It can pave the way for you as it did for me.  

I also believe that those of us who have gone through the transition need to support those who are coming behind us. The military is all about leaving a legacy, and I work with those in the process of retiring or leaving the military because that’s what I want my legacy to be.  

Kimberlee Aiello is the director of federal market solutions and grouper applications and medical necessity at 3M HIS. 

Angela Haile-Selassie is a marketing communications specialist at 3M HIS.