Laura Tomaino: Charting New Horizons in People Organizations (formerly known as Human Resources)

The Most Admired Women Leaders in Business, 2024

In the dynamic world of People Organizations (HR), Laura Tomaino stands as a true trailblazer. While the Senior Vice President of People & Culture at HealthEdge, she orchestrated a remarkable transformation, building out a Strategic People function over the last decade and left an indelible mark on the organization.

A defining aspect of Laura’s personal mission is her unwavering commitment to continuous improvement while delivering innovative solutions for recruiting, engaging, developing, and retaining top talent. She recognizes that employees are at the heart of any organization’s success, and her passion revolves around creating environments that foster positive employee experiences. Her vision is deeply rooted in building cultures that prioritize belonging, learning, connection, and career fulfillment, empowering every team member to give their best and continuously improve.

Laura is not just an early adopter of new People (HR) practices she actively pushes to be at the forefront of building environments and cultures that fit what talent is seeking; to do this she maintains a curious focus on internal and external data and research-driven approaches, understanding that data is the compass that guides strategic decision-making. She firmly believes that culture powers everything and is a key driver of an organization’s success and while macro trends give context the most important data set is listening to your current employee’s voice.

One of Laura’s exceptional strengths lies in her ability to forge strong partnerships across the organization, ensuring that high-performing teams are not just enabled but thrive. This skill allows her the opportunity to learn the business in great depth enabling her to weigh in, support, and partner on business issues far beyond HR matters. This is thanks to her invaluable ability to communicate, build trust, bring people together, problem solve, and imagine a better future while being undaunted by obstacles that arise, particularly in times of change.

Journey of Knowledge and Application

Laura began her career in academia, working at prestigious institutions like Dartmouth College and Harvard University in Human Resources. The academic environment provided her with ample opportunities to learn, and she embraced these opportunities wholeheartedly. She was particularly captivated by the thoughtfulness and rigor with which decisions were made and adopted in academic communities. Six years into this path she realized her desire to apply her knowledge and contribute more significantly to an organization, and explore larger ideas.

It was at this point that Laura joined HealthEdge. She vividly remembers her first interview, when the CFO handed her a blank sheet of paper and said this is what is happening in HR today. Then asking if she was ready to build the entire HR department from scratch. Despite the enormity of the task ahead, she was excited about the prospect of applying her knowledge and testing new strategies and concepts. Laura’s enthusiasm and determination were undaunted. This marked the beginning of a new chapter in her career.

About HealthEdge 

Founded in 2004, HealthEdge is delivering a next-generation Core Administrative Processing System that enhances accuracy and efficiency but also empowers health plans to foster innovation. HealthEdge solutions help payers accelerate their digital transformation and position them for continuous success. These solutions can be deployed as standalone next-generation SaaS or together as an integrated platform payment integrity. HealthEdge’s flagship product, HealthRules, is an advanced Core Administrative Processing System (CAPS) that provides the efficiency, flexibility, insights and agility necessary to control costs, embrace change and move quickly to take advantage of new opportunities. Over the last three years HealthEdge expanded their product suite through acquisitions, encompassing prospective payment integrity, care management workflow solutions, and member experience, which comprehensively address the integrated product requirements of their customers.

Early Career Lessons 

Early in Laura’s career, she confronted challenges that taught her to trust her instincts, maintain high integrity, and use her voice to provide valuable feedback, even if it meant standing alone in a point of view. One significant lesson stemmed from an experience with a prominent professor who disapproved of Laura’s interviewing style. Despite the criticism and public critique, Laura valued the importance of integrity and authentic communication in the interaction. Reflecting on the situation, Laura is grateful for this interaction because of the lessons learned – specifically the significance of seeking greater context early and often and communicating back each other’s understanding and expectation. This experience shaped her approach to collaboration and relationship-building. As her career unfolded and she took on larger roles with more responsibility, staying on the same page with teams and colleagues would be one of the greatest lessons she learned.

Approach to Success

Laura is a big-picture thinker and dreamer. Her favorite part of any endeavor is the art of dreaming up “what could be”. Her self-motivating philosophy centers on finding the good and empowering it and the belief that everyone seeks to make a difference. Laura loves taking on new challenges, driven by her passion for the journey rather than the destination.

Personal success to her is about GRIT (Angela Duckworth’s Work) which means perseverance and persistence over the long term. Laura sets goals using OKRs (Objectives and Key Result)

because she believes in big audacious goals, and not limiting aspirations to what’s known today. For years, the solitary OKR was “be a great place to work” this meant every decision was made with an eye on that vision – what would a great place to work do? “I like north star goals like this because they are an active guide on what is most important”. A drawback of OKR’s is people often like to “achieve” the goal but Laura reminds us “there are many ways to celebrate progress along the way – you just have to find the milestones that show progress towards the vision- employee engagement surveys are a great indicator”. Success” is not a finite end but a continuous improvement journey. Laura wants her team to think and be empowered to improve, to her striving like this (both herself and the team) make them better and smarter each day.

Her persistent focus on the horizon drives her. As a leader, Laura is dedicated to engaging and motivating her team around the vision. To accomplish great things together Laura knows it takes more than just a great vision and plan- you have to take care of your people. To do this she regularly checks-in with individuals about work and life offering help and support when needed. “Making people laugh is my favorite part of any day, I am no standup comedian but telling a silly story or sending a funny or enthusiastic gif are my favorite ways to bring on the smiles.” Laura believes you need to enjoy not only the work but the people you work with to make your work experience fulfilling.  Laura highly values teamwork because no one achieves anything alone. It’s about the journey, achieving great things with great people.

Scaling with Compassion and Integrity

Laura’s most significant achievement as a leader to date has been her success in building a winning and resilient culture characterized by trust, transparency, continuous improvement, and a sense of enjoyment. Laura’s remarkable journey involves scaling a company tenfold over a decade, driven by compassion, diligence, hard work, and integrity. She approaches any challenges to the business as holistic, because she sees the business as an interconnected system. She applies logic, experience, and considers each stakeholder’s perspective. Laura tirelessly seeks win-win-win solutions, focusing on the long game rather than short-term gains.

Listening is a cornerstone of Laura’s leadership. She maintains curiosity, not only listening for what’s said but what remains unsaid. She believes attentive listening like this is what sets her apart and highlights her dedication to building trust and working together. Accountability is paramount in her style, as well as ensuring alignment with values. Laura encourages continuous improvement, helping individuals become better than yesterday. She appreciates the importance of accountability, authenticity, vulnerability, and integrity in nurturing a thriving business, guiding her through challenges and inspiring excellence.

Fostering Positive Qualities

Laura’s leadership journey involved being one of the few women in the room and working alongside colleagues who were often older and more experienced than she was. She says her story, however, isn’t about being a young female leader. Instead, it’s a tale of leadership under the pressures of rapid company growth. It’s about finding where you can be useful and speaking up, it’s about leading with influence and good ideas before having authority, it’s about persistence, continuous improvement, and maintaining an optimistic outlook. Laura’s journey involved taking on big audacious challenges, day by day and year by year.

She acknowledges others may have had different experiences or challenges related to their gender, and she doesn’t intend to dismiss those experiences. However, through her experience she learned that great leaders seek to collaborate with intelligent, kind, hardworking, considerate, and easy-going individuals. These were the qualities that made her the standout and what she now looks for when hiring and promoting team members.

Redefining Balance

The work life balance question… Laura’s perspective on work life balance has evolved over time. During her early career she aspired to find an ideal steady-state balance. As such, she was always in search of the perfect planner or daily routine aimed to discover the recipe for achieving this idealized balance. Like many others she now realizes that is unrealistic. As both an employee and as a leader she values flexibility over balance. Life gets complicated sometimes and so can work demands. Flexibility is needed in both directions and as the head of People (HR) Laura faced repeated situations which led to an understanding that one size doesn’t fit all – there is no perfect work life balance policy to add into a handbook because needs shift over time. The best advice she gives to managers is to be flexible and get to know the employees and their needs in order to make a plan. This plan should include check in dates (monthly is best) to confirm things are working for all involved

Laura now views true balance as a dynamic continuum, much like a see- saw. For her one end is work, and on the other is family and life. The key for her is not to focus on achieving perfect balance but to shift and adapt to the day-to-day demands. She uses this analogy to assess whether adjustments are needed to shift her focus. As a mother of three children, all under the age of 12, Laura appreciates the importance of adaptability and managing the ebb and flow of daily life using flexibility and open communication for herself and with her team to navigate the demands of both her career and family together.

Fueling Creativity through Eclectic Hobbies

Laura is an enthusiastic learner with a deep-seated curiosity about how things work. She’s a firm believer in the positive impact of hobbies on her creativity and motivation, which, in turn, enhances her performance at work. She finds particular enjoyment in hobbies that require repetition and patience, such as sourdough bread baking and knitting/crocheting. Engaging in activities with methodical processes allows her to enter a meditative state, clearing her mind for creative thinking. The calming nature of these hobbies helps her free up mental space and think more innovatively. Laura is an eclectic hobbyist, always eager to try new things. While not every hobby becomes a long-term commitment, she values the knowledge gained from exploring a diverse array of interests. She recognizes that hobbies kindle passion in people, and she loves to hear about others’ sources of enjoyment and inspiration.

Pursuing Versatility

Laura aspires to be a great mother, a supportive wife, a role model for kind and empowering leadership, a source of humor, and immensely helpful to those around her. She’s guided by Erma Bombeck’s quote, “When I stand before my creator at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.” This deeply resonates with her desire to be useful and her insatiable curiosity to try new things.

Laura’s commitment to making the most of her talents, combined with her diverse range of interests, explains her pursuit of being a jack of all trades. While the saying typically goes “jack of all trades, but a master of none,” she recently discovered the full version: “Jack of all trades, but master of none. Oftentimes better than a master of one.” This extended version spoke to Laura because it beautifully shifts the connotation, emphasizing the value in exploring various skills.

Laura is an unapologetic generalist, both in her personal life and at work. Fueled by her boundless curiosity and an unwavering belief that nothing is too challenging, she eagerly takes on new endeavors. She values the virtuous cycle inherent in trying new things: specifically, that when things are new you have everything to learn and thus most people will struggle or “fail” in the process of learning. The beauty, she shares, is the more you face failure the less scary it becomes. The sun will still rise tomorrow and you have another opportunity to improve. Reducing fear of failure when learning new things builds resilience and persistence. This not only enhances her focus, but also provides valuable insights into her capabilities.

Empowering Women in Leadership

Laura’s message to aspiring women in leadership is a call to try new things, be persistent, and maintain your self-confidence. “We are all capable of so much but we won’t unlock that potential unless we try new things”.  Additionally, in a world enamored with quick results, it’s easy to abandon a new path if you don’t find immediate success. For those truly committed to excelling at something know that success is found in being persistent:  investing time and effort is non-negotiable. Maintaining your self-confidence is the third leg of the stool. “Believe in yourself and be the leader you would like to follow. Don’t strive or pretend to be perfect – find peace with the fact you will not be good at everything. Instead strive to be your authentic self and be comfortable speaking about your strengths and weaknesses”. That self-acceptance of where you are and a belief in your future capability to rise to the challenge in front of you will reinforce your confidence. This combination is unstoppable and contagious. Be you and persist with determination.

Looking Ahead

Laura is excited about the future. Last year, she helped HealthEdge bring on a new Chief People Officer to help usher in the future of a large, international mature employer. This was a great move for everyone, and as the new CPO approached her one-year milestone this fall, Laura left HealthEdge to enjoy the holiday season with her family and explore new challenges. In 2024 she aims to join an innovative and growing company as their Chief People Officer, eager to make a difference and contribute her expertise to empowering the company’s mission and building a growing and vibrant culture again.

Laura is enthusiastically sharing insights into the lessons she learned during her rapid growth and success journey. She is using this sabbatical to try new things and to disseminate insights and lessons learned in the hopes it builds others’ confidence to take on the challenges they face. While she believes there isn’t a single “right” way to do anything, she offers insights or ideas that inspired her along the way. She has begun speaking to groups and teams about these lessons learned.  You can follow her on Instagram and TikTok @nonstop_optimist. If you are interested in connecting with Laura about a speaking opportunities, please contact her at

Photography credit: Jess Cronin Photography