“…nothing was invented in a day – or invented without a journey, recognise the journey and push, but don’t rush, but make sure you take the learnings on the journey. Even a journey to failure is a learning”
Currently I am the CEO of a small biotech company moving towards A listing. I started to talk to Next Science as I was attracted to the very elegant science they have for eliminating biofilms and I took the job because every day is going to be different and every endeavour worthwhile.
Previously, I was the President, Asia Pacific for DePuy Synthes – Johnson and Johnson’s (JNJ) Orthopaedic business, a small piece of an enormous corporation. I took this job as a result of JNJ acquiring Synthes GmbH, where I was also the President, Asia Pacific.
I started my Medical Device career at GE Medical, where I spent 15 years moving through various position until being appointed Managing Director in 1993. In 1999 I moved to Cochlear, where I started working in Product Development projects and moved through the organisation as it grew. When I left Cochlear in 2004, I was the Vice President for Customer Support and Education. I joined Synthes in 2004 as the VP for Marketing for Asia Pacific and was promoted to President, Asia Pacific in 2007. Working in Medical Technology has always felt like a privilege. Yes, there is a profit mandate, but there is also the opportunity to truly provide help to people.
The exciting challenge for me is where technology, medicine and business collide and my current position as CEO allows me to constantly manage that collision on a daily basis.
What do you believe are the key attributes of a successful leader?
Knowing you don’t know all the answers or all the questions, and listening very carefully so you can hear questions and answers from others. Patience – nothing was invented in a day – or invented without a journey, recognise the journey and push, but don’t rush, but make sure you take the learnings on the journey. Even a journey to failure is a learning. A high regard for all people and their possible contribution. Ideas come from everywhere. Give everyone your time and respect.
What support structures did you have in place to support you?
I am a single parent, now a single proud parent as my very adult son is a Paediatric Oncologist. My family supported all of my journey, it would not have happened without them – nor would it have been as worthwhile.
How do you cope with rejection?
It’s never easy, if you care that much about something. Getting rejected is difficult and it is personal, and it should be. We are chasing our passions – we have the right to be unhappy when our plans don’t come off. But you cannot stay that way, so I rely on the positive anchors in my life that bring me back to centre. To change my immediate mood (if I need to face others quickly) I rely on music. A trip to the beach will always help me reset, a firm unbiased review of my goals when I am balanced and with an unbiased friend as a coach, and probably now as I grow older a play date with my granddaughter.
How do we keep more women in STEMM careers?
My first view is put them in collaboration with each other, women together are a very powerful group and can bond very quickly. We then need to ensure all workplaces are family-friendly. We will need new generations of scientists and leaders. They don’t come to life in a test tube (though they will get better lives because of the science that happens in test tubes).
Do you think it is important to have a mentor?
It is important to have someone you can trust to tell you the truth (even when it is bad news) and still be on your side. A mentor who has more experience can share other possible pathways, explanations, and understanding based on their experience. The ideal mentor gives you a different perspective or two than your own and helps you understand some of the other perspectives that may be influencing any situation.
LinkedIn: Judith Mitchell