Q: What do you do for a living?
Barbara: As the CEO of a $2.2 billion division of Philips Medical Systems, I am responsible for the strategies and Profits and Loss for three major business units: Ultrasound, Patient Monitoring and Cardiac Resuscitation & Supplies.
Q: How did you come to be doing what you’re doing?
Barbara: I was an electrical engineer by education. I moved up the ranks in technical management and then as a general manager of various medical divisions at Siemens Medical and GE Medical. Four years ago, I joined Philips as the CEO of the Ultrasound division.
Q: How can others get into the career that you are in?
Barbara: A great many of the people who work as a CEO or in general management in our company have technical or marketing backgrounds. Another great way to start is to obtain a business or financial degree and then select medical imaging companies for employment.
Q: How important is it to “network” in the business world? Any pointers?
Barbara: I don’t consider official professional networks to be that important, but think that one should be open to establishing relationships at various levels and with many different types of people—internal and external to your organization. I also think it helps to like the people you work with within a business environment, since not many of our tasks can be accomplished alone.
Q: What do you believe your key strengths to be?
Barbara: I’m very persevering and I’m passionate about the medical businesses. My job is to improve healthcare and I am not afraid to embrace new ideas in people management, cultural change or product innovation to accomplish that.
My team also tells me I’m very driven by business performance, and quite clear and concise in my direction. I also have a strong vision of where our organization needs to go, which is a valuable asset when leading a team.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
Barbara: I love creating value both for the company and within our customers’ eyes. It is exhilarating to work on developing and launching new products which excite our users and produce additional profitability to our division. I also enjoy growing new leadership.
Q: What does it mean to “grow new leadership”?
Barbara: I think all leaders should be accountable to grow new leaders for the future success of their business or operation. This means providing ongoing mentoring—either formally or informally, coaching new skills, and giving feedback to your employees about ways they can persevere in your organization.
Q: What do you enjoy most about the process?
Barbara: I enjoy the ability to make a difference in a colleague’s development and feel pride when they advance or feel better about their accomplishments.
Q: Have there been barriers to your career?
Barbara: I’ve always been in the minority gender-wise. I have had to balance an assimilation of a male-dominant leadership styles with my own style. I’m also very emotional and while this helps illustrate my passion and determination, I sometimes have to repair the impact with peers or superiors who are not accustomed to different styles.
Q: Do you have any tips for women who also work in male-dominated careers?
Barbara: Persevere and don’t let anyone tell you that you are not good enough due to your gender, or their lack of comfort with women. I’m happy to say that much has changed in 30 years! In the future, the disadvantages and obstacles that I’ve had to face will be even less for the new leaders because advances we’re making today.
Q: How do you manage to balance work and your personal life? Any tips?
Barbara: I have four children and have worked through many challenges of work/life balance! My tip is to become a compulsive planner: scheduling time for your kids, your husband and for social outlets, too. I have pre-planned 90% of our dinner menus for the past 20 years and although my husband has prepared more than half of them, our family had a particular time we knew we would be together each day.
Q: Based on the lessons you’ve learned, what’s your career advice for women?
Barbara: You can do anything or be anyone in life—assuming you have the passion, the support systems and the confidence in your own abilities. I really feel the most important element in succeeding in your life and your career is confidence.
Q: Any advice to women who are working to develop their sense of confidence?
Barbara: I’ve been blessed with strong self-confidence. But I do sometimes use a visualization technique to minimize any self-doubt that might occasionally creep up. Here’s how it works: I visualize a role model or the responsible person’s head on a child’s body. Even presidents of countries or companies started out the exact same way we all did—with no experience, no following, and no innate confidence to be in their position. Everything they have today they learned. And because we all can learn, they are really not that different from all of us. This technique helps level the playing field.