Hello SOTGC community,
A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Suzanne Foster (who is the Global General Manager and Vice President of Medtronic Advanced Energy AKA: MAE) at our Global Sales Meeting/Reunion. For those of you recently joining us, Suzanne gave SOTGC an interview when I first started the blog.
Over the past year Suzanne has been traveling the world, meeting and developing our global sales and marketing teams around the world, and meeting with the heads of the MANY other Medtronic divisions. She has told our story to and shared our culture (from Salient Surgical Technologies) with the other branches of this global giant that bought us, and apparently we are making waves.
I wanted to sit down with Suzanne because over the last year I have been interviewing and learning from amazing women in the corporate environment, and since I think Suzanne is the epitome of what I’d call a “true SOTGC powerhouse” I wanted a follow up interview, and I always go after what I want. 🙂
Me: In your first interview with SOTGC you answered the question: “what is the hardest lesson for working women to learn” with: “to work like you don’t need the job.” When did you have your “work like you don’t need the job “AHA moment” and how did it affect the decisions you made and the outcome of those decisions?
Suzanne: I was working at a big law firm in Boston when I finally decided to join Salient Surgical Technologies. I’d been thinking about their offer for months, but I didn’t want to make the move from a firm I loved, doing work I loved, into an “in house” position. The reason I took the job was I was spending so much time on the road and away from my family, that I looked at my son on the morning on his 9th birthday and realized that I only have a few years left before he leaves for college, and I better take advantage of those years. When I arrived at Salient, well, you remember that building Marney…let’s just say it was a FAR cry from the high rise I came from in Boston. I got there and literally thought “WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?!” The first couple months were REALLY hard and it was a rough transition for me. Also, the firm I had left basically told me that anytime I wanted to, I had a place to come back to. I think having that safety net of a husband who also worked, good savings, and knowing I had a job to go back to if this new position didn’t work out, enabled me to literally “work like I didn’t need the job.” That feeling of KNOWING that others saw what value I bring to their company led me to make really bold decisions. I looked at the way some of the business was being run and I went head to head with our CEO and I gave my recommendations with the confidence needed to implement them. I think seeing the way people responded to my confidence also fueled the “work like I don’t need the job” way that I presented ideas and challenged the organization to grow and develop.
Me: How about when Medtronic bought us? To point out the “elephant in the room,” I’ve been through enough acquisitions to know that the first people to go are usually the ones at the top. We were all worried about what was going to happen with our leadership team. How did you manage to not only stay with us, but come out as the Global GM/VP when I’m SURE there were other tenured managers and VPs in other MDT divisions that were vying for that position? Did you continue with your “work like you don’t need the job” mantra or did you adjust it a bit?
Suzanne: This is kind of funny. I actually went further with it than I did at Salient. I fully expected that I’d have to leave, so my husband and I spoke, and once again we were in a good position for me to be able to take a year off and re-charge before getting back into the business world. I had a lot of options with companies who were reaching out to hire me, and so when I interviewed for the GM/VP role I honestly was a 50/50 split. Half of me wanted to continue on and continue with the vision I had for Salient (now MAE) and the other half would have been happy to take a year off. I will say that I was very happy to be kept on and promoted!
Me: One last question. For those readers thinking: “OK…so it’s easy for you to ‘work like you don’t need the job’ because you TRULY didn’t need the job…but what about me? I DO need this job.” What advice would you give a woman who wants to get to the same point in her career that you got to with yours…where she feels comfortable enough TRULY working like she doesn’t need the job…because she truly does not…?
- Don’t ever burn bridges. Never leave a company in such a manner that they wouldn’t welcome you back with open arms at any time.
- SAVE money…no matter how much you’re making make SURE you have a good nest egg in case you do get laid off or you decide you want to take some time off. ALWAYS continue to educate yourself, especially for the young women. When I was young I literally collected degrees with a passion. When you have a family you won’t have as much time, so when you’re young with a lot of time…continue to rack up degrees because you never know which degree and from which institution will be the “deal sealer” on the job you are applying for.
- Be strategic about WHAT degrees you get and from WHERE you get them. Many people pick colleges and degrees based on a pretty location or what sounds fun to learn about. When applying for universities and picking your major you want to keep in mind “in 10-30 years from now…in the big picture of where I want to take my career…how (if at all) will this place and this degree help towards that vision and goal?”
Wow…excellent advice from such a wonderfully self-aware, generous, kind, and lovely lady. Thank you Suzanne for the interview, the time, and always for your consideration. And to you ladies who found this helpful, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions you have for Suzanne…I plan on doing continuous follow up interviews as long as she has a few minutes to give them.
Above: Suzanne and I at the Global Sales Meeting/Reunion May 2013