Finding your path with WLI and HBA

Christa Heydt
Christa Heydt

This blog post was written by Christa Heydt for the J&J Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI)  blog and is reprinted here with permission. We thank everyone from the ACE award winning Johnson& Johnson WLI for sharing this post.

Dear Colleagues,

I am honored to share with you some of my experiences, as well as those of colleagues, from last week’s Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association’s (HBA) Leadership Conference.  Earlier this year, Kathy Fitzpatrick, director credo and workplace engagement at Johnson & Johnson, blogged about getting more than you give when getting involved in community groups illustrated by her involvement with HBA.  The HBA is a global non-profit, professional organization with 15 chapters across the United States and Europe and is dedicated to furthering the advancement and impact of women in healthcare globally.  This is very much in line with our own Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) commitment to the development, advancement and retention of women leaders with a vision to “grow women to grow the business and our world.”  It’s no surprise that Johnson & Johnson is one of approximately 130 corporate partners of the HBA.

This year our Global WLI Steering Committee decided to pair our end-of-year Celebration of Women session with the 2012 HBA Leadership Conference in Orlando.

On Nov. 7, colleagues from each of our Johnson & Johnson sectors, including a group of “local” employees from our Vistakon facility in Jacksonville, FL as well as other colleagues based in Florida, came together in person to celebrate Vernette Daniel, commercial contract improvement manager, site readiness of Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems Inc. Participants listened in on a fireside chat between Vernette and Debra Bass, worldwide vice president of global marketing at DePuy Synthes Companies and MD&D WLI co-chair.

Vernette shared with us her experience in identifying roles she was interested in and being bold enough to reach out to leaders in the organization to learn more. Her insights were an empowering example of the value of knowing what you want and taking the risk to go after it.  In some instances all it took was an email to someone in the J&J family asking for a few minutes to chat. It really is that simple. The discussion was followed by an overview of the J&J/HBA relationship and benefits of membership by Julie Weber, SE region business director at Vistakon and 2012 secretary and the newly elected 2013 vice president for the HBA Florida chapter along with Lynda McDermott, president & CEO of EquiPro International, Ltd. and founding president of the HBA Florida chapter. In addition to the in-person participants, colleagues around the globe were invited to participate virtually.

Following our Celebration of Women session, around 20 employees went on to participate in the 2.5 day HBA Leadership Conference.  The conference featured three main plenary sessions for all participants with 14 different interactive workshops to choose from at specific times between them.  Topics ranged from Coaches, Mentors & Sponsors: Why You Need This Trio on Your Professional Journey to the Summit (in line with the Global WLI launch of MentoringWorks!) to Harnessing the Increasing Influence of Patient and Professional Advocacy Groups to Personalized Medicine – Implications for the Healthcare Ecosystem.  Our own Christine Hopkins, product director of DePuy Synthes Companies, reflected, “The workshop, Finding Your Leadership Voice: The Role of Influence by Beth Gullette resonated with me.  It enabled me to realize what tendencies I naturally gravitate to and where I need to balance those traits to be a more rounded leader.”

These workshops and networking sessions made for an experience rich with ideas to develop attendees personally and professionally. Vernette Daniel commented: “The HBA conference is uniquely tailored to the needs of women in business and specifically the women in healthcare.  That comes through when you sit down for any of the sessions because the material immediately hits home and makes it easier for you to connect.  As a first time attendee I found both the connections that I made and the materials I received to be invaluable.”

In the first plenary session we heard 2012 HBA Woman of The Year (WOTY), Carolyn Buck Luce, speak about “The new healthcare ecosystem: From developing new medicines to delivering healthy outcomes.”  Carolyn noted that the future of healthcare will be more about patient behavior not product behavior.  How can we better enable our customers not only to seek the medical care they need, but actually adhere to directions without fail?  She continued by highlighting a report by Ernst & Young illuminating “the third place” – where the digital world comes together with traditional healthcare to provide solutions for social health.  We as a company are starting down the path with programs like Text4Baby and OneTouch® Ping™ Glucose Management System.  Who will be next to launch our products into the digital world?

From there Carolyn spoke about finding the courage to lead.  Debra Bass reflected, “Statistics show that women have stronger business competencies than men, but have leadership obstacles that impede them from fully capitalizing on those competencies.  We need to turn these obstacles into leadership advantages and be more explicit about what these leadership advantages are and how we unlock them in the workplace.”  Carolyn shared many tips and examples to help us do this including having a 10-year plan and reference to a McKinsey report highlighting the “Centered Leadership Model.”

The conference continued the next day with a plenary session featuring Pat Mitchell, the first woman president and CEO of PBS, and currently is the president and CEO of the Paley Center for Media. Pat shared some of her experiences when she was starting out in broadcasting and the women in the industry were told to “wear ugly suits and lower your voice” to appear more like men. Our own Kendall O’Brien, vice president, group finance, global surgery at MD&D and global co-chair of WLI, reflected, “Pat Mitchell spoke about how we as women can really make a difference because we are different. I am personally inspired to be bolder in driving greater recognition of our individual and collective strengths as women but also for men. This HBA conference will strengthen our ability to grow women to grow our business and the world.” While women’s rights and empowerment have come a long way since Pat had these experiences, women still run only 3.6% of Fortune 500 companies. According to Pat, “The single biggest leadership lever for us is women helping other women.”

Noreen Fraser, award winning television producer, responded to her diagnosis of stage IV metastatic breast cancer by a co-creating and co-producing the 2008 Stand Up 2 Cancer network television special was the second plenary speaker. Noreen shared a montage video she produced featuring celebrities and doctors wishing everyone a happy Mother’s Day and reminding them to schedule their mammogram and pap smear. Picture Jack Black volunteering to have a mammogram. Needless to say, the combination of stars like Zach Galifianakis, Will Farrell and Sarah Silverman among many others reminding women to have preventative tests in only the way they can, had the crowd laughing. But it wasn’t all fun and games. The montage also included doctors explaining that cancer kills more people each year than HIV/AIDS.  Noreen noted that one in every two men and one in every three women get cancer each minute. When you look at your teams can you imagine who might be affected?

Noreen went on to explain her experience of being diagnosed, how the treatments affected her quality of life and her choice to carry on and help others rather than let cancer have the best of her. Noreen closed the emotional session with, “the role of women in the world is constantly growing and changing… All of us in this room can use our leadership skills to make a contribution and don’t give up!”  As she left the stage she shared an inspiring video from the Stand Up 2 Cancer fundraiser.

The last plenary speaker was Bonnie St. John, a highly successful author, Rhodes Scholar, White House official, Olympic athlete and an entrepreneurial businesswoman. Bonnie and her daughter, Darcy, wrote the book “How Great Women Lead” where they take a look into the lives of women leaders around the world. Bonnie noted “We don’t start out courageous and as leaders.  Courage is a muscle you can develop to become great leaders.” Women need to make choices about what is right for them and the courage to take those risks. Darcy gave a TED interview (which you need to hear) on how her worldview changed as a result of this journey with her mother. Wow. There’s an idiom: out of the mouths of babes oft times come gems, meaning children can say profound and wise things. Darcy really sums up the messages heard through the course of the conference that leadership is unique. Each of us needs to identify what the future will look like for us, have the courage to stand up and go after it, do it together, helping each other along the way and most importantly – don’t give up.

Additional thoughts were shared from some of our J&J colleagues (also past J&J HBA Rising Stars), including:

Kassy McGourty, director of communication and public affairs at MD&D Supply Chain: “The conference offered a great time for learning, networking and reflection – both on what I can give and get as a female leader in healthcare and at J&J. For me, the overriding message from the week is that women’s leadership is derived from a masterful combination of capability, credibility and visibility. Now, my accountability is to pay it forward by taking the message back to other women at J&J, as well as playing an active role in advancing the J&J women’s leadership agenda to the next level!”

Sabine Dandiguian, managing director at Janssen EMEA Emerging Markets: “I felt so privileged to have this opportunity to step back and reflect on what I should do differently back to my “normal” life. How to build a bold personal dream, aspiration on what could be my contribution in 10 years time? Figure out what could be the intermediary steps and ask for support, mentoring… Secondly, as I have a new responsibility in WLI EMEA, I was wondering on what could be my added value there? How to organize, engage… Finally, I met with so many inspiring women so close and so different…That I was also thinking on how to keep that inspiration and energy high?”

Perhaps it’s the change in the weather and falling leaves where I live in the northeastern United States or maybe the hustle and bustle of wrapping up projects by year end, either way it reminds me of how important renewal of our skills and energy can be to our success as individuals and as a company. I am thankful to be a part of a company and a professional organization that supports and enables this growth each year. As I look to 2013 I know I’ll be thinking about what I want in my future and using the tools and tips gleaned from all of the remarkable women I heard from to help me find my path.  Will you?

Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts below.

Check out more insights from our WLI Social Ambassadors by searching for #HBALead on  Twitter to see more.

For local insights on HBA chapters in your area, check the HBA website or contact one of our J&J Ambassadors to each of the HBA chapters.

Kind regards,

Christa Heydt
Global Systems Lead, Pharmaceutical R&D Quality & Compliance, Quality Systems
Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson
Co-Lead, Pharma NA WLI

Director At-Large – Membership, Greater Philadelphia Chapter and 2011 HBA Rising Star


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