Gross joined Hobson & Motzer in the engineering department in 1995, contributing to Hobson & Motzer’s early quality management system (QMS) and the ISO 9001 certification Hobson & Motzer earned in 1996. As Compliance Manager, Gross lead Hobson & Motzer’s 2020 effort to complete medical-device component certification to ISO 13485. In 2019, she was named one of MetalForming Magazine’s Women of Excellence in Metal Forming and Fabricating for her leadership and encouragement of women to pursue a career in manufacturing.
What first drew you to medtech? When did you first know you wanted to be in the industry?
Gross: Many members of my family are in healthcare—and while I respect that—when I started my career, I was more interested in business. I wasn’t at the company very long when I got the bug for medical component manufacturing. I was able to combine my business management interest with manufacturing products that help save lives, and I got hooked.
What are some of the barriers women face in today’s medtech industry, if any? Gross: There is still a perception of it being a man’s world. In the 20-plus years I have been in the business, the opportunities for women have increased significantly. Industry insiders are starting to get it, even if it’s not something people outside of the industry see as an option. This presents a bit of a barrier with the younger generations of females — they don’t see medtech manufacturing as a viable career option, so don’t pursue it.
Is there a perception problem that makes women less likely to pursue medtech careers? If so, how can we change that? Gross: We could spend more time as an industry educating and recruiting young people about the vast opportunities in medtech — there are many directions a person can go. Hobson & Motzer gets this and actively builds relationships with tech schools in the region — encouraging all students to pursue careers in manufacturing. Tech schools are not always given equal time to present to students in the way that college-bound or traditional high schools are allotted. While STEM programs are getting better at working with girls, it is at an older age, not middle school. If we can start the conversations with them earlier, we can expose them to the possibilities available to them and lay down a stronger foundation for what was once thought of as a less traditional career path.
Describe your biggest leadership challenge. How did you conquer it or resolve it, or what was the outcome?
Gross: In the early part of my career, it was being a young female systems manager in circles dominated by older men. I’m speaking more of external auditors, customers, and suppliers. Hobson & Motzer trusted a 28-year-old woman—at a time when this was more of a rarity — with the keys to the quality systems, and allowed me to handle the biggest customers with autonomy. When working with people outside our organization, I often was met with a mix of novice bias or straight-up chauvinism. I felt the pressure to always be on my A game. But I didn’t get upset about it; I carried on professionally, and consistently demonstrated that I knew what I was doing. The internal support bolstered that. I won them over, got their respect, and their trust in me grew. It still rears its head externally at times, but very infrequently.
Talk about your leadership skills. What is the most important lesson you have learned that has guided you in your career?
Gross: When working with fellow employees, they could be an intern or in a supervisory role, I try to foster independence and confidence. I listen to people, so they know they are heard and acknowledged, but I am not a micromanager; I hold them to the same high standards as I would any professional. Giving agency to people empowers them and it promotes ownership and accountability, loyalty, and longevity.
In your opinion, what more can be done to promote greater participation of young women in the medtech industry today?
Gross: Educating children in middle school (even younger) about the vast opportunities for women. If we can expose them to the possibilities, we can begin the interest and foster belief that there is a broader horizon, influencing their trajectory at a younger age. It wasn’t on my radar as a young girl, but I feel fortunate that my upbringing was one that supported the belief that I could do anything, so when I did encounter it later in life, I was not intimidated by it.
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Gross: Go to tech school, then focus on manufacturing management in college. My company has a great tuition reimbursement program, and I was provided so much training, but I could have been a couple years ahead when I started. What many people don’t know is that they can come right out of tech school, then finish their tech degree with full reimbursement. We have a fantastic program for that at Hobson & Motzer.
Why is it important for companies to be more inclusive and have more women in charge?
Gross: Having the multiple perspectives that diversity brings is important in any organization. Additionally, it shows female colleagues that advancement is attainable, which fosters increased participation and productivity. The more collaboration you have from all stakeholders on all levels, the more successful you will be in general. Thinking back to the trust Hobson & Motzer gave me starting out, it inspires people, naturally creating a loyal work culture, very much the environment we work in today. It’s an organization where talented people can thrive and build a career. We’ve experienced steady growth, and we actively train people, which creates opportunities for everyone.