Flexible thinking keeps CareFusion and on top of the technological curve.
By Christine Gatuiria
Jeanette Sanchez is not afraid of change. As the Vice President of Information Technology (IT) for CareFusion, a global medical technology company, she is adept at keeping her head above water in the fast-paced, innovative environment of her chosen industry. It also helps that she has a can-do attitude and understands the symbiotic relationship between IT and business strategy.
“I can translate business needs into a set of technical requirements without getting lost in the translation,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez’s practical approach to business and technology is just one of her many talents. She started out as a Junior Draftsman working on a large project with a team of 30 engineers, 90 percent of whom were male.
“As a young professional, I learned the etiquette of the workplace and how to learn from other people,” said Sanchez, who was not shy about asking questions and signing up for projects. She wanted to learn the ropes as well as contribute to the team and proactively sought out mentors who were willing to teach, noting that “smart people are not selfish with their knowledge.”
It is a testament to Sanchez’s character that she sustains relationships with former co-workers and managers. One of her early career mentors, Patti Garvey, has become Sanchez’s best friend. “[Sanchez],” Garvey said, “is flexible in her thinking, and she is so responsive to suggestions for change.”
Tap on the Shoulder
The first winds of technological change blew in Sanchez’s direction when she made the move from mechanical drafting to computer-aided design (CAD). Although Sanchez knew virtually nothing about CAD, her manager tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to lead the team. Shocked at first, Sanchez readily accepted the challenge and relied on hard work and collaboration to engineer a successful transition. “It [always comes down] to the people you put around you,” Sanchez said.
After demonstrating her ability to produce positive results through change, Sanchez felt another tap on her shoulder: This time her superiors asked her to manage the move from CAD to computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). Once again, Sanchez was fairly new to CAM but was keen on learning and achieving. As she tells the story, Sanchez reveals that even though her managers were confident in her abilities, she had some doubts.
Her reputation, however preceded her. “[I was known] for being able to figure it out and get it done.” And so once again she rose to the challenge and successfully cemented her status as an effective change agent.
Soft Front, Strong Back
Sanchez’s profession has taken her all over the world, though working with different cultures has not always been a walk in the park. Early on in her international career, Sanchez was assigned to a project that involved change and automation at a Swiss operation. She went in ready to relay the corporate message and get the team on board, but her initial approach backfired and she had to retreat and “cool her jets.” After talking with her mentors and reviewing the situation, Sanchez realized she needed to initiate a two-way conversation and focus on inclusion. “It’s OK to admit you made a misstep,” Sanchez said, “as long as you learn from it.”
Bouncing back from that experience, Sanchez developed a personal leadership motto: “Soft Front, Strong Back.” She embraces a firm-but-sensitive approach when it comes to spreading the message of change, and is always ready to listen to the other side.
“It’s not talking to, it’s talking with,” Sanchez said. This inclusive approach served her well during a recent assignment in Hong Kong, where various teams had to perform under pressure in a difficult economic environment.
Sanchez’s strong work ethic and leadership expertise is evident in her executive roles at top global companies, including CareFusion, Mattel, Bausch & Lomb and Edwards Lifesciences. By approaching technology from a user perspective, Sanchez truly understands how to automate processes for efficiency, accuracy and repeatability in a way that promotes company growth.
The one thing that has remained constant in Sanchez’s career is change, and she continues to enjoy the challenge. “I don’t like to come in and run operations that already work,” Sanchez said. “I like to solve problems.”
Christine Gatuiria is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, Missouri.