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Top Women In Medical Sales: This Is The Time To Intentionally Move Forward

Advice from Julie Brewer of Medtronic

Women are outnumbered in medical sales. In fact, in the 2016 Medical Sales Salary Report, 71 percent of the respondents were men. In addition, the report found that women earn just 80 percent of what men do and that women make up only 14 percent of the highest paying job titles in the field.

While this picture seems bleak, there are highly successful women in medical sales. We’re talking to these professionals to find out what it means to be a woman in the field and what it takes to be successful.

Julie Brewer’s passion for the impact medical innovation has on the world began in pharmaceutical sales, and she’s committed more than 20 years to developing her leadership skills and knowledge of the healthcare industry. Brewer is currently Area VP of Sales for the Cardiac and Vascular Group at Medtronic. Her journey to VP of Sales at a top medical device company was no accident — each career move she made was a confident and deliberate step toward her success.

Since breaking into the medical device sales field, Brewer has continued to intentionally grow both personally and professionally in a field she’s passionate about. We spoke with her about the moves she’s made to advance her career and what advice she has for women who want to push their careers to new heights. Here’s what she had to say:

Find where your passions lie and chase them

Brewer knew she wanted to be in the medical field, but it wasn’t until she moved her way through pharmaceutical and capital equipment sales that she realized where her true passions lie.

I started in pharmaceutical sales in 1992. When I realized that medical device was an industry with such great impact on people’s lives, I made the decision that it was the way I wanted to advance the course of my career. I’ve been in medical device and sales leadership for just over 10 years now.

It’s all about the passion to be in a field where we have a true impact on people’s lives, and certainly, medical device fits that bill. With a world class company like Medtronic, I feel I can contribute at my highest level. It’s so rewarding to see the impact medical device technology has on people every day.

Don’t wait: intentional actions move you forward

Once she discovered medical device sales was her passion, Brewer took her ambitions and ran with them.

I think it’s all about being intentional. I’m a big believer in the ability to transfer your skills from one industry to the next.

That was my strategy — taking my experience from pharmaceutical and capital equipment sales and demonstrating to Medtronic how my leadership ability and unique perspective could benefit their company. It all starts with being a rockstar in your current role. If you consistently hit it out of the park from where you are you have earned the right to pursue the next opportunity.

Once you’ve reached this level of success, you must take an intentional step forward with the company you’re in or with one you want to pursue. Don’t sit back and wait. Take that step forward, and be persistent and confident. Identify how the successes in your current role translate into the new role and show that in everything you do to advance your career.

If you want to achieve your career success, it’s always better to do it intentionally by meeting the right people, investing in the success of others and pursuing the companies/industries that best meet your passion. You have to take that step.

Leave your comfort zone to reveal opportunities

Sometimes your greatest opportunities lie within the unknown. Brewer suggests leaving your comfort zone to reach your goals and ultimate passions.

Before joining pharmaceutical sales, I was with a company in a different industry. I pursued management roles and diversified my healthcare experience by stepping out of management roles with other companies to gain different experiences. I made a decision to walk away from a very strong company to pursue my passions.

It was when I took that risk and moved to a startup company that was more consumer focused that I learned my passion was in working closely with hospitals, their teams, and the technology that could really make a difference in people’s lives.

I’ve found when you’re passionate about what you do, it’s easier to find a way to balance. But in order to truly pursue those passions, you have to leave self-doubt and a need for perfection behind. It was going out of my comfort zone to really follow my heart that led me to Medtronic.

Women shouldn’t limit themselves

Brewer doesn’t view being a woman in a male-dominated field as a negative, but rather focuses on the advantages.

I see being a woman in the medical device sales field as a unique opportunity. Female perspectives can drive higher results and higher engagement, which means they have the ability to bring a strong voice to the table. It’s important to step up, be confident and share that perspective. I think there’s a growing appreciation for the benefit of diversity within companies. This is certainly the case at Medtronic.   

Building credibility, the way you engage with people and build teams — regardless of whether you’re male or female — is what really matters. No matter your gender or culture, the people who engage with their team and incorporate different voices and perspectives are the strongest leaders.

I encourage women to not overthink it. We need to make sure we’re confident in our skills and abilities — that we’re pursuing opportunities just as aggressively as our male counterparts would. Always pursue the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Take your seat at the table. Recognize that female leaders are some of the greatest leaders.

Find a company with mentors and diversified support

A forward thinking company, like Medtronic, has provided Brewer with opportunities to grow and create meaningful relationships.

Medtronic has many resources and programs that focus on development. We created an employee resource group called ASPIRE (Accelerating Sales Professionals through Innovation Results and Excellence), which is a community for women in the field that, after eight years, is over 2,000 members strong.

They do year-round work on professional development, networking, and talent development. That networking for talent spans across the business units. The energy of women helping other women is inspiring. That energy drives success.

They also have 9,000 members in the Medtronic Women’s Network around the globe. It’s a very active network of people focused on professional development and advancement opportunities for women in a variety of functional areas.

It doesn’t stop at women, though. Men are also involved in our ASPIRE group and often bring ideas to the table on how to inspire, advance and motivate women. At times, women hold themselves back by not believing they can leave the same footprint as men, but our group shows men also believe in the difference women can make. It’s about everyone working together to support women in stepping up and stepping forward in their careers.

Making the next big step in your career starts with your own intentional initiative. If you find something you’re passionate about, make the move to achieve the goals needed to get there, and always have confidence in your ability to bring something great to the table.

As a woman in the medical sales field, what obstacles have you overcome and how do you intentionally drive your success? Let us know!