Hooman Hakami Talks Women in Leadership at Medtronic

Hooman Hakami Talks Women in Leadership at Medtronic

Earlier this year, the Medtronic Women’s Network (MWN), the company’s oldest and largest employee resource group (ERG), announced the appointment of Hooman Hakami as its new executive sponsor. Hooman has been the executive vice president and group president of the Diabetes Group at Medtronic since June 2014. He provides overall strategic direction and operational management of the group’s three global businesses.

As executive sponsor of the MWN, Hooman will help the network achieve its strategic goals by providing guidance, removing potential barriers, and communicating the strategy at an executive level. We asked Hooman to share some of his thoughts around the MWN and the importance of advancing women in leadership at Medtronic.

Tell us about your “day job” at Medtronic and your primary areas of responsibility.

For the past three years, I have had the privilege of leading the 5,000 global employees at Medtronic Diabetes. We are in the process of transforming our business to move from a provider of medical equipment to an outcomes-based company — one that provides services and solutions that drive better health outcomes for our patients and better economics for health care systems. I also sit on the Executive Committee, which is tasked with working together to drive the company toward its strategic and operational objectives.

As a leader at Medtronic, what have you done to foster the advancement of women within your organization?

Since I joined the Diabetes Group three years ago, the number of women on my staff has increased. We also have a woman at the helm of our Advanced Research group. Women are leading our sensor engineering and software engineering teams and run two of our three U.S. sales regions.

What advice do you have for mid-level Medtronic managers, since they play the most critical role in ensuring we reach this goal?

My advice is to focus on the strategic value of diversity and drop any cynicism you may feel about the goal. If you see cynicism or skepticism in your team, stamp it out. Driving diversity into all levels of our organization is an absolute imperative for our global business and managers need to embrace this for the following reasons:

  1. Our customer base is diverse. If we want to think like our global customers, we need to look like our global customers.
  2. Healthcare is globally connected. We need to be as well.
  3. Doing the same thing everyone else is doing isn’t leadership. It’s following. Leadership, therefore, is being different. To be different, you have to think differently.

Diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, ideas, and thoughts in the long run will get us closer to our customers, connect us with our communities, and generate the best ideas. Diversity is a critical component in our success; it is what will help us generate the best ideas and create great products and services.

As a male executive sponsor of a female employee resource group, how do you see men and women working together to advance women in the organization?

I have been surrounded by strong, smart, successful women my entire life.

I was raised predominately by my mother and my only sibling is my sister, Elli. Growing up, when we gathered with our extended family, it was usually me, my sister, and my six cousins — all women. I have an amazing wife and an incredible daughter.

So, I really don’t think of myself as a male sponsor of a female resource group. I view myself as a citizen of the world who lives in the twenty-first century and who is a proud shareholder of a great company that values diversity. Working together to advance our objectives as a leader in healthcare and as an inviting, engaging and rewarding place to work for everyone should simply be a given — not just for me, but for all 88,000 of employees.   

What would you like to see happen over the next few years?

I would like to help drive a broader understanding of the importance, and value, of diversity in the business context, which will help to drive broader engagement in advancing diversity at all levels. I would also like to work towards achieving broader recognition for Medtronic as a place where diverse talent is valued and championed, and where anyone can realize their dreams.

Please share a personal story regarding someone in your organization that you think illustrates the value of the Medtronic Women’s Network.

Dr. Rebecca Gottlieb leads our Advanced Research team and has been part of our Senior Leadership Team since 2014. She is a woman in a predominately male field – research and development – who has grown from an individual contributing scientist to become a key R&D leader. She has a long track record of building strong teams, which she achieves by promoting an atmosphere of entrepreneurship and discovery that energizes and inspires our scientists.

Rebecca has also led the creation of a Technology Advisory Board to expand Medtronic’s external focus, accelerate the technology development cycle, and secure grants to further our research. In her quest to make everyone an innovator, she created and successfully implemented an internal Kickstarter program at the Diabetes Group, called InVenture. Rebecca leads the team that is tasked with creating the new technologies that will drive Medtronic towards a successful and sustainable artificial pancreas product pipeline, including closed loop algorithms, sensor research, novel micro-fluidic delivery and fast-acting insulin. She was named to the Bakken Society in 2015 – Medtronic’s highest technical honor – and is currently its co-chair.

Two other leaders that spring to mind are Annette Bruls, VP & President, Diabetes Service and Solutions, and Laura Stoltenberg, VP/GM, Non-Intensive Diabetes Therapies. They are two of the three business unit leaders at the Diabetes Group. Both are electrical engineers who have transitioned into business roles, demonstrating how it’s possible to successfully cross over from technology to business leadership.

Annette was only one of 20 women in an engineering program of 500 at her university. She grew up in the German-speaking region of Belgium – in a country where French and Dutch are the dominant languages – and has shared that she never had to think about whether she was like everybody else because she never was. Her life experiences have made her tenacious at achieving goals and she is an incredible leader for our DSS business, always willing to overcome any obstacles and hurdles along the way.

Laura is an electrical engineer who holds a patent. She also earned an MBA at Columbia Business School and has built a successful career by thriving in ambiguous situations that require strong strategic thinking, organization development to drive new business growth. Her entrepreneurial nature and ability to bootstrap a business has made her the ideal person to lead our Non-Intensive Diabetes Therapies business, which is geared at type 2 patients.  It’s where we have the greatest growth opportunity since more 90% people living with diabetes have type 2.

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