Flex makes a diverse set of products that touch our everyday lives – from medical devices to coffee machines to cloud solutions and autonomous driving systems for electric cars. As a key member of the executive leadership team, Samproni oversees the $2.4B business unit through industry leading R&D solution delivery and strategic innovation. Prior to Flex, she was the Vice President and Head of Critical Care R&D for the Point of Care Division at Siemens Healthineers.
Samproni has more than 25 years of industry experience in medical device product development; she has led engineering and scientific organizations with a specialized focus on functions related to assay development, advanced technology and processes, operational excellence, and systems engineering. A transformational business leader, Samproni is also an accomplished inventor with more than 30 issued patents and patent applications. She sits on the Board of Directors of BrightInsight, the leading global platform for biopharma and medtech regulated digital health solutions, and is based in Boston, Massachusetts.
What first drew you to medtech? When did you first know you wanted to be in the industry?
Samproni: As an early career professional, I was eager to gain experience in an industry where I could meaningfully contribute. I received two job offers coming out of university: the first was developing environmentally friendly pesticides and the other was developing products for diabetes management. My grandmother had been diagnosed with diabetes that year, so I accepted the medical device product development job in the hopes of helping to improve her experience as a patient. In that role, I was able to experience the full product development lifecycle from scientific discovery and engineering through manufacturing and commercial launch. During this time, I witnessed first-hand the tremendous positive impact that meaningful technology and design can have on people’s lives. At Flex, I have the privilege of amplifying that positive impact by helping companies accelerate their medical product time to market through innovation, integration, and disciplined execution.
What projects, past or present, have made you love what you do?
Samproni: What I love about medical product development is not only the value that such devices provide to patients and practitioners, but also the multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to solution delivery, which ultimately drives success. But what I also love is a good challenge. A colleague at Flex’s design center in Haifa, Israel recently remarked that the word “challenge” is regarded as a positive at Flex. “When something is called ‘challenging,’ he said, “people get really excited.” Whether in the form of innovation, budget, or timeline I’m most fulfilled when working through a challenge. I recall on previous experiences with former employers where I overcame obstacles such as developing highly complex diagnostic instruments by combining our core expertise in assay and reagent development, electromechanical system architecture, optical systems, microfluidics, and human factors and leveraging external engineering partnerships. We work on similar initiatives at Flex, just on a much larger scale.
What projects are you most looking forward to?
Samproni: The pandemic has taught us that we can and must be agile, resilient, and efficient in de-risking product development and manufacturing. The exponential demand for innovation has taught us that we really can benefit from partnering with companies to complement our core competencies or shorten our learning cycles. This is the power of collaboration. Furthermore, market forces have taught us that big data, connectivity, and miniaturization, while also cost effective will play significant roles in driving medical technology beyond traditional healthcare settings. The projects I most look forward to at Flex are those that incorporate these teachings and intersect at the point of technological innovation and engineering execution. This includes clinical chemistry analyzers, point-of-care diagnostic devices, hematology instruments, and connected drug delivery devices.
What are some of the barriers women face in today’s medtech industry, if any?
Samproni: To close the gender gap, women must both challenge themselves to take greater risks and actively make time to sponsor other women. By reframing barriers as opportunities to drive change, we can unlock an organization’s full potential. Flex’s CEO, Revathi Advaithi, captured it well when she said, “The only way we can reach gender parity, as well as equality between different groups, is if we have enough leaders who are passionate about change and want to be part of the solution.”
Describe your biggest leadership challenge. How did you conquer it or resolve it, or what was the outcome?
Samproni: Like many others who provided critical products during the pandemic, my team had to navigate supplier shutdowns, material shortages, remote working conditions, and significant uncertainty about the future. We were fortunate in that we had already embarked on our digital transformation and had adopted several methods that eased our transition into the new way of working. For example, digital communication platforms like Teams and project management tools such as Azure or Jira helped our team maintain communication and the ability to collaborate without being physically close to one another. Whether leading through a period of change as we have for the last 18 months or simply leading change, focusing on actions, tools, and processes that amplify trust and transparency has helped to keep the team motivated and alleviated many of the challenges that come with uncertainty.
Talk about your leadership skills. What is the most important lesson you have learned that has guided you in your career?
Samproni: One of the most important skills a leader can have is the ability to drive leadership behaviors deeper into the organization. Thoughtful, disciplined hiring practices, frequent and meaningful mentoring and coaching, and sponsorship to help people achieve their career goals are powerful investments into a company’s future. I’m proud to work at a company like Flex that conscientiously recruits, develops, and retains an extraordinarily talented and diverse team.
In your opinion, what more can be done to promote greater participation of young women in the medtech industry today?
Samproni: To promote greater participation of young women in the medtech industry, we must first create a more robust pipeline of girls interested in STEM. Educational institutions must strive to create science, math, and technology environments that are inviting to females and foster their curiosity. Mentorship and sponsorship play a dual role in building confidence in young women while also advocating for them throughout their professional journey. Similarly, as employers hire and develop female leaders within their organizations, they create more role models for young women. In both cases, highlighting women in leadership positions and their accomplishments in disciplines where they are underrepresented in the workforce can help break down gender bias and foster a more equitable pipeline of talent.
Why is it important for companies to be more inclusive and have more women in charge?
Samproni: Medtech leadership should reflect the population it serves in an equitable distribution of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and age. Organizations that acknowledge the individual strengths of each employee and create inclusive environments are the most successful at attracting top talent and meeting the needs of their diverse customer base. In fact, studies published in Forbes and other business magazines have demonstrated that companies with at least some female representation at the top perform extremely well and generate just as high and often higher returns than those with mostly male leadership. For employees to excel at innovation and problem solving, employers and employees have a shared responsibility to foster a culture in which everyone feels valued and respected.