Janelle Swanson, Business Unit Director for one of two business units at QTS, leads a cross-functional team of customer account managers, project engineers and quality coordinators. Janelle also manages relationships with strategic customers and is responsible for growing sales revenue, increasing market share and meeting business unit KPIs. Over the past seven years under Janelle’s leadership, her business unit’s sales have tripled.
Janelle’s business development and executive sales leadership experience comes from a variety of industries. She spent seven years with St. Croix, a promotional products distributor, as Vice President of Sales & Marketing and in other sales management roles, leading both internal and external sales efforts. Janelle also has operational management experience from her time with UPS.
Janelle has a bachelor’s degree in Education and Business Management with a minor in Coaching from University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
What first drew you to MedTech? When did you first know you wanted to be in the industry?
I was looking to make a career change out of the printing industry, and into an industry where I could make a difference in the lives of others. One of my friends was in the MedTech industry at QTS and encouraged me to tour QTS to learn more about medical device outsourcing. I immediately felt a connection to the purpose, culture and passion of the organization and was fortunate to have an opportunity to join QTS a short time later.
What are some of the barriers women face in today’s MedTech industry?
In today’s MedTech industry women face inclusivity obstacles, a shortage of women role models and networking groups, and lack of career pathing. While I think these are improving, we still have a long way to go.
In your opinion, what can be done to promote the greater participation of young women in the MedTech industry today?
We need to do a better job of educating young women about career opportunities in the MedTech industry. MedTech companies, both large and small, should partner with school administrators and guidance counselors to offer programs that encourage young women to learn more about the diverse opportunities available in MedTech, including engineering, quality, business, and manufacturing roles. It is imperative that we pair students with women mentors in the industry and provide flexible learning opportunities during the school day for credit, summer programs and internships.
Why is it important for companies to be more inclusive and have more women in charge?
There are a lot of very intelligent and talented women that can improve and bring new perspectives to the MedTech industry. It is also important for young women to see other women in leadership positions and as role models in the industry.
What projects, past or present, have made you love what you do?
My team and I were involved in the development of a deep brain stimulation project designed to help patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Dystonia and Essential Tremors. Our OEM partner shared patient testimonial videos depicting how their quality of life had been dramatically improved by these devices. In some cases, it saved their careers and families. While we were only a small part of the success, it was very impactful and has affirmed for me that I am in the right industry!
Describe your biggest leadership challenge. How did you conquer it or resolve it, or what was the outcome?
My biggest leadership challenge has been COVID and the ripple effects thereof. My team is very tight-knit and our motto is to work hard and play hard together. We enjoy being together and gain energy from one another. While working remote, and now hybrid, has provided welcomed flexibility, it has also changed the day-to-day dynamic. Now that COVID restrictions have lessened, I have asked that all team members come into the office on Wednesdays. The team organized a Wednesday Breakfast Club and birthday celebrations. These interactions help engage and on-board our new team members, facilitate valuable collaboration and strengthen work relationships and retention efforts.
Talk about your leadership skills. What is the most important lesson you have learned that has guided you in your career.?
My leadership style is to cultivate a culture where all team members feel genuinely cared about as individuals and know they are an integral part of our success. The team is worth more than the sum of its parts. We all have each other’s backs and strive to never let one another down. The work we do is meaningful. The bar is set high for team expectations; we take our jobs seriously, but stay humble and do not take ourselves too seriously. One of the most important things that you can do as a leader is to listen. Leaders may not have all the answers, but we can listen and show that we care. Finally, make sure that you celebrate successes! Understand what motivates each of your employees and ensure you are recognizing them for their hard work and contributions!