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Verily’s Stephen Gillett Wants to Gamify Healthcare

The former Starbucks and Best Buy exec is bringing leadership experience at some of corporate America’s biggest names to the world of precision health.
| |Photography courtesy of Verily
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Stephen Gillett has long been a walking contradiction. As a college football player for the University of Oregon, his weekdays were consumed with practice, film study, and weight training. His Saturdays were spent suited up in the Ducks’ green and yellow. But between football and homework, the offensive lineman dove into World of Warcraft on his way to becoming a high-level paladin, a holy knight with healing powers. 

Today, Gillett is the CEO of Verily, a precision healthcare technology company owned by Google’s parent, Alphabet. His ability to be comfortable on both sides of the cafeteria, whether it be with the jocks or fantasy gamers, has helped him strike a resounding chord during his impressive career climb.

Gillett is the son of a Lebanese immigrant raised by parents who worked in grocery stores and eventually owned a restaurant. His humble beginnings help explain why, despite rising to the heights of corporate America, he is also comfortable in the bleachers watching one of his eight children play offensive guard (just like his dad) on his high school’s varsity football team.

He has held C-suite positions in some of the country’s largest corporations, working directly under Bill Gates when he was chief information officer at Bill Gates-owned Corbis. He became one of the youngest CIOs of a Fortune 500 company, serving with Howard Schultz at Starbucks. Executive roles at Best Buy and Symantec followed, and he was later the CEO of Chronicle, a cybersecurity company that was merged into Google Cloud.

Today, at the helm of Verily, which opened its North Texas operations hub in 2021, Gillett’s goal is to synthesize health data to develop solutions that improve health outcomes (see sidebar). The company sprung in 2015 from Google’s “moonshot factory,” a workshop that helps innovators launch solutions at the intersection of a “major problem, a radical solution, and breakthrough technology.”

Through his career journey, Gillett says he has learned as much from business luminaries as poor managers. In his best-selling memoir, From Simi Valley to Silicon Valley, Gillett shares lessons from some of the biggest names in corporate America, as well as his gaming experience. Schultz taught him about being an authentic leader and making decisions with grace and humility. “The one who sweeps the floor should pick the broom,” Gillett says. “If you make decisions that will affect hundreds of thousands of people, go work in a store first.” Bill Gates modeled how to point out problems, focus on critical areas, and ask tough questions. And for his gaming journey? The problem-solving, teamwork, and creativity required to succeed in the game are what corporate leaders should look for in their talent acquisition, he says. So, when Gillett’s children turn 8, they ritualistically create their own gaming ID and join family gaming sessions.

Gillett is bringing his gaming experience to DFW’s corporate world, where Verily is already expanding to fill an additional floor of its building overlooking North Lake at Cypress Waters. Gillett is relatively new to healthcare and has hopes for a moonshot in the industry. He wants to help it adapt to technology and incentivize behavior as other industries have.

“I believe that the same mechanics that get people to go to a coffee shop 25 times a month can be applied to get people to take their Type 2 diabetes medicine or to visit their primary care physician,” he says. “It aligns with our strategy of bringing these elements of research and care together for better health and patient outcomes, better access to information, and better advocacy for getting treatment and therapeutics into people’s hands.”  

Author

Will Maddox

Will Maddox

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Will is the senior writer for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He's written about healthcare…

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