“During this time, I also completed my MBA. Recently, I transitioned into a new role as a custom applications engineer where I work on custom solutions for another rapidly growing business unit within the company. I’m also an active member of the CPC Green Team, which leads initiatives that promote environmental sustainability. Outside of work, I volunteer for TC Food Justice, which reduces food waste and hunger within the community.”
What first drew you to medtech? When did you first know you wanted to be in the industry?
Switalla: My interest in medtech began while I was undergoing physical therapy for a knee injury I experienced playing high school soccer. Over the course of many PT sessions, the physical therapist talked about exciting medical innovations in prosthetics for athletes. My fascination with these innovations led me to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. I was eager to apply math and science to help people through product development in the medical space.
What projects, past or present, have made you love what you do?
Switalla: I led an R&D project for the biopharma team around expanding our testing capabilities to leverage the latest technologies and methods. I had a lot of responsibilities for that project, including collaborating with internal and external resources and keeping team members motivated to ensure progress. Exploring the most advanced testing methods and their impact on final product performance was a great learning experience and it was rewarding to make that contribution to the company’s capabilities.
What projects are you most looking forward to?
Switalla: My medtech/biopharma test lab experience has served as a springboard to becoming a custom applications engineer in another rapidly expanding market that CPC serves. I recently joined our thermal management group to design custom engineered solutions for liquid cooling of electronics. The market for cooling high-performance computing (HPC) and other applications like data centers and electric vehicle charging stations has grown quickly. Many of these companies also aim to reduce energy consumption and promote sustainability, which is very inspiring to me. I have also found a real passion for strengthening the connections between the commercial and engineering teams to help create a more effective cross-functional unit that delivers exciting new designs for customers.
What are some of the barriers women face in today’s medtech industry?
Switalla: The medtech industry, along with many other STEM industries, continues to be male-dominated. Unfortunately, it seems that women’s qualifications and skills are sometimes questioned in both the hiring and promotion processes. I believe women also face bias and stereotypes that can impact career growth. The tendency to steer away from self-promotion, for example, can affect professional advancement. The industry is headed in the right direction but there is still plenty of progress to be made. I’m glad that CPC champions women in engineering and leadership roles. Our president is a woman and it’s nice to collaborate with other female engineers and business leaders across the company who continue to make a huge impact.
Describe your biggest leadership challenge. How did you conquer it or resolve it, or what was the outcome?
Switalla: An organizational restructuring resulted in significant changes in my department. In the short term, the change substantially increased my workload and responsibilities, which was very challenging. I learned a great deal about the importance of adaptability and how to ask for help when I needed it. The department added new team members who I helped train and integrate into the company. Although the situation was stressful at the time, I discovered a lot about myself in terms of how I can empower others and contribute to the team.
Talk about your leadership skills. What is the most important lesson you have learned that has guided you in your career?
Switalla: I value adaptability, resilience and humility among other characteristics, and I try to incorporate these into my work. The ability to adapt is crucial to keep a team focused and organized in times of uncertainty. In an industry like medtech where expectations for success are very high, resilience is key for anyone working in this field. I believe that humility is one of the most important skills a successful leader can possess. Leaders who dedicate their time to helping and advancing others have been influential to me throughout my career. I look to them as role models for my own work.
In your opinion, what more can be done to promote the greater participation of young women in the medtech industry today?
Switalla: Increasing awareness of gender stereotypes and subliminal bias would be beneficial. Healthy work environments that include anti-discrimination policies will also help more women feel confident in the workplace. Organizations also need to offer meaningful career advancement opportunities. Encouraging networking and mentorship and creating situations where women can make an impact are important steps in improving participation within the industry. Leadership teams need to stress the importance of diversity and incorporate this into their company’s strategic goals.
Why is it important for companies to be more inclusive and have more women in charge?
Switalla: Gender diversity in positions of power at companies adds a broader range of useful perspectives and strengths. When people from different backgrounds and experiences are brought together to solve problems, the number of good, strong ideas greatly increases. In medtech, a diverse leadership team can leverage their skills to quickly adapt to changing customer demands and market conditions. That ability benefits the company, employees, and the customers the organization serves.