Jack Baker began his 20-plus-year career as an anthropologist, spending time with hunters and gatherers, before working as a University of New Mexico professor and research scientist and ultimately joining HealthFitness as a Senior Research Analyst. Today, Baker, a member of the Integrated Analytics team, hunts and gathers data on HealthFitness people, programs and services and matches the data with the best method to analyze it—a process he refers to as “flex solution architecture.”
“My colleagues and I match what we’re observing at a population level with all the available research and then that provides the evidentiary basis—validates our approach, our claims and the actions we recommend our clients take,” explains Baker.
A native Californian, Baker, upon graduating from the University of North Dakota with an undergraduate degree in Anthropology, literally began his career in a rainforest with everything he owned getting wet. Seeking a more stable (and drier) career path for him and his young family, Baker moved to New Mexico and spent the next several years in academia, regularly publishing and building up his expertise in demography—the study of how populations are shaped.
Baker regularly worked with data in the aggregate but, realizing that, “once an anthropologist, always an anthropologist,” constantly found himself thinking of the individuals and the individual choices behind the numbers. This desire to satisfy what Baker refers to as his “geek side”—coupled with wanting to feel as though he was helping make a difference—led him to HealthFitness.
“I love knowing that what my Integrated Analytics colleagues and I are doing provides actionable insights—that we can make a positive impact on our company, the industry as a whole and our clients and their employees. That intersection of ‘I’m doing something cool that I really like and it has an application and it can make a difference.’ It’s the intersection of everything in the world that makes me happy,” says Baker.
A grizzled veteran who meets colleagues in the middle
Baker partners with colleagues from other HealthFitness departments to provide a strong evidentiary basis for participant actions. He places an importance on being able to use research that not only demonstrates the value of the HealthFitness people, programs and services but how this unique combination can be improved upon.
Given his varied experience, Baker has performed every kind of analysis imaginable, jokingly referring to himself as a “grizzled veteran,” and possesses a repository of solutions that he is able to leverage for colleagues. It’s this breadth of experience that enables Baker to develop new solutions. “Often times a particular analytics need will come to me and it’s not something we face every day,” Baker explains. “And, even if I don’t know the solution right off the bat, I’ll know the place to start. This has enabled us to do a lot of things today that we weren’t able to do yesterday.”
Baker takes a “meet me in the middle” attitude when partnering with colleagues. “I try to understand the best I can what they do in in their day-to-day practice and then determine how I can best help them take a step forward in terms of the research and analysis. I ultimately want to provide more informed answers to the things they want to know about,” he says.
Baker considers himself a coach as well as an executor and views questions and feedback as key success barometers—when he knows that the work he and his Integrated Analytics team colleagues are doing is resonating. “I love it when, after I get a sense of what someone wants to know, I share research and people come back to me and say, ‘Hey, that was awesome but it got me thinking about X,’ which ultimately leads to a new idea to how they can move the wellness program forward. That’s when the light bulb goes off—when I know my colleagues and I are on the same page, the client is getting what they want, and we can deliver on it.”
Pull when pushed and push when pulled
Working remotely in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Baker embraces his own wellbeing by ensuring he gets a good night’s sleep, meditating to stay focused and eating healthy. He almost always cooks from scratch, using fresh ingredients, and refers to himself as a “sauce master.” One of his two sons, a vegetarian, particularly likes Baker’s pesto cream sauce and a mushroom-based sauce also gets rave reviews.
Baker is a lifelong practitioner of martial arts, taking breaks throughout the workday to perform exercises at home. In addition to practicing several of the Southeast Asian martial arts, for the past year Baker has been taking lessons in German longsword—a lost Medieval approach to sword fighting. He embraces martial arts not as self-defense, but self-development, and applies its learnings to his work at HealthFitness.
“There’s a saying in Judo—‘Pull when pushed and push when pulled,’” explains Baker. “Don’t waste energy fighting against the current. When things go a certain way, don’t resist, fight or create friction. Work with the situation as it exists to try to improve the outcome you’re after.”
How can our people help your people be better? Connect with us to learn more.