Manufacturing a Life-Changing Device: Inside the FreeStyle Libre Facility with Site Director Pat Cole

Abbott Site Director Pat Cole worked hard to get to the top of her field, and now that she's there, she wants to inspire others to pursue their career goals.

REACHING YOUR POTENTIAL     |    Apr. 21, 2019

Pat Cole wasn't sure what to expect when she re-entered the job market after seven years as a stay-at-home mom. She took a number of positions in the medical device industry searching for a good fit, but it wasn't until she found her first role at Abbott that Cole was given the opportunity to develop her natural leadership abilities.

With decades of experience now under her belt, she was recently promoted to site director of third-party manufacturers across three different manufacturing sites for Abbott's FreeStyle Libre, a revolutionary continuous glucose monitoring system. She now manages two proprietary manufacturers in Ireland, as well as a team at her previous Witney, U.K. location.

"I didn't expect to have a career like this, but then I came to Abbott to be part of their supply chain group," Cole says. "The great thing with Abbott is that I haven't had to move companies to get more experience. I've been able to move within Abbott and, in fact, within the same business."

That ability to grow within a particular business allowed Cole to gain in-depth knowledge about the products while still taking on increasingly senior management roles. At Abbott, she's been able to rise to the level of her talent and ability, and today, Cole is a high-powered professional working on some of the most exciting technology in the field.

Becoming a Site Director at Abbott

Cole's aptitude for management was evident as soon as she joined Abbott's supply chain group, and leadership quickly took notice. She was put in charge of closing an older manufacturing plant and transferring operations to a new replacement facility, a complex job where she distinguished herself as a problem-solver.

With every step, Cole grew her skill set through increasingly senior roles, including shop floor manager, operations director, and then finally site director.

"I guess I wear two hats, most days," Cole explains — maintaining direct control of site operations and offering high-level strategic guidance. "Part of my role is to define the site strategy and then translate that in a way where everybody understands," she says.

"I'm representing everybody here. I'm making sure that we're ready for the future, and I'm making sure that people want to come to work every day and give their absolute best."

Working to Revolutionize Diabetes Care

Medical technology for diabetes care has always been about balancing effectiveness with user experience. Cole and her team helped find that balance through their work on the FreeStyle Libre, a continuous glucose monitoring system that makes checking glucose levels easy by eliminating finger sticks1 and offering integration with a suite of digital health products.

Specifically, the Witney team manufacturers the sensor for the FreeStyle Libre system. This sensor triggers the product's chemical test, which Cole calls Abbott's "secret sauce." It's a huge responsibility, but given Cole's long history of tackling challenging roles, she was the right person for the job.

Now that she's managing two smaller groups, in two different locations in Ireland, as well as some employees back in Witney, the skills that have made her successful are more important than ever. She now works to ensure that all her employees across different locations are engaged, motivated and doing their part to work together toward a common goal.

"For me personally, this represents another unexpected opportunity in my career — working in a new country with the added excitement of seeing the FreeStyle Libre sensor that I've been making for four years turn into the finished product that people with diabetes see," Cole says.

Creating the Future with Today's Most Advanced Tech

From the moment she joined Abbott, Cole jumped right in to successfully take on some of the company's most technical projects. Abbott has the scientific insights to conceptualize new tech products and the engineering expertise that can bring them to life. "We really are working on life-changing technology," she explains.

The ability to attract the best and brightest from the available talent pool is a good gauge of how exciting a project's tech really is: "Engineers always want to be working on the next big thing. They don't want to be working on yesterday's technology," Cole says.

Abbott teams have access to some of the most advanced technology and biomedical techniques in the world, and they continue to develop new tools and processes. Combined with the opportunity to continue education and work in different lines of business, this level of sophistication allows ambitious young scientists and engineers to pursue goals that might not be possible elsewhere in the industry.

Spearheading a premier biomedical manufacturing operation, Pat Cole is very aware of just how transformative this experience can be.

Paying It Forward in the Medical Industry

Looking at today's industry, Cole says that one of the most striking changes is the new focus on high-level science and engineering roles: "The ratio of those roles has gone up to about 50 percent of all the roles here." Today, one of her major responsibilities is helping Abbott to find more top-tier talent with strong leadership potential.

Working at a company like Abbott allows young people to build a career that can truly change people's lives for the better. "I have family members using FreeStyle Libre, and I know what a difference it makes for them," Cole explains.

Because Abbott is willing to invest in its most promising talent, Cole had the chance to build a rewarding career and to discover some of her own hidden talents. Those talents have already helped her find an exciting career, and she's eager to see where they'll take her in the future.

[1]  Fingersticks are required for treatment decisions when you see Check Blood Glucose symbol, when symptoms do not match system readings, when you suspect readings may be inaccurate, or when you experience symptoms that may be due to high or low blood glucose.


FreeStyle Libre and FreeStyle Libre 14 day Flash Glucose Monitoring systems are continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices indicated for replacing blood glucose testing and detecting trends and tracking patterns aiding in the detection of episodes of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, facilitating both acute and long-term therapy adjustments in persons (age 18 and older) with diabetes. The systems are intended for single patient use and require a prescription.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Remove the sensor before MRI, CT scan, X-ray, or diathermy treatment.

WARNINGS/LIMITATIONS: Do not ignore symptoms that may be due to low or high blood glucose, hypoglycemic unawareness, or dehydration. Check sensor glucose readings with a blood glucose meter when Check Blood Glucose symbol appears, when symptoms do not match system readings, or when readings are suspected to be inaccurate. The system does not have alarms unless the sensor is scanned, and the system contains small parts that may be dangerous if swallowed. The system is not approved for pregnant women, persons on dialysis, or critically-ill population. Sensor placement is not approved for sites other than the back of the arm and standard precautions for transmission of blood borne pathogens should be taken. The built-in blood glucose meter is not for use on dehydrated, hypotensive, in shock, hyperglycemic-hyperosmolar state, with or without ketosis, neonates, critically-ill patients, or for diagnosis or screening of diabetes. When using FreeStyle LibreLink app, access to a blood glucose monitoring system is required as the app does not provide one. Review all product information before use or contact Abbott Toll Free (855-632-8658) or visit for detailed indications for use and safety information.