I always knew I wanted to work in healthcare—I loved the idea of making a living in a field dedicated to helping people—but I was also interested in science and business. So after graduating from the University of Minnesota, I was fortunate to land a job as a pharmaceutical representative, combining my three interests—healthcare, science, and business. I knew next to nothing about sales or the pharma industry, however, so I did what most graduates do: I learned onthe job.
That experience set the stage for my career in two important ways: first, I stayed in healthcare, moving from sales to consulting to management; and second, I’ve never begun a new job knowing exactly how to do it! As a result, I’m constantly challenged and always learning. The key for me has been to listen—especially as a leader—and to work with talented subject matter experts who can fill the gaps.
These experiences have shaped my philosophy as a mentor and a leader. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. And get to know your strengths and weaknesses so you can fall back on what you do best and ask for help where you need it.
I’ve found that with each new level of job responsibility, the more critical it is for me to maintain a strong internal network and a network outside the company as well. It is important to rely on people who will give me the straight story—the good and the bad—rather than what they think I want to hear.
Throughout my life, I’ve had many wonderful mentors, but one in particular stands out. Early in my career, a colleague and I began co-mentoring each other, and we continued to talk after leaving the company. To this day, I depend on my friend’s feedback and insights on everything from business strategy to work-life balance.
I still struggle with that age-old dilemma prevalent among so many professional women I know: how to create and maintain balance in life. I’ve learned that if I don’t manage my own time, it’s no longer mine. I’ve had to fight my tendency to let the scale tip too far into work and away from family. I’m a wife and a mother as well as aCEO, and I depend on those first two roles to help me keep my sanity, humility, and sense of humor!