REENGINEERING MY CAREER WITH NEW LIFE-TRANSFORMING TECHNOLOGY

Engineer Laura Brandner realized her passion for addressing the challenges of global healthcare software development.

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Nov 27 2018

Laura Brandner never expected she'd be working as a software product manager. She always envisioned her background in chemical engineering would lead to a challenging and rewarding career in R&D — a job that was technical but also allowed her to help people. After landing a coveted internship at Abbott, Laura took the next step in her career through Abbott's Professional Development Program (PDP), her first full-time job where she had the opportunity to see the intensely cross-functional nature of modern healthcare and medical devices. This experience opened the door to a whole new realm of possibility she hadn't considered. With her skills and experience, R&D was far from the only department where Laura could achieve her goals.

Today, Laura is a digital platforms product manager for Abbott's diabetes care business and directs the development and international release of the business's digital health tools, including the FreeStyle LibreLink1 mobile app2 that enables FreeStyle Libre users3 to monitor their glucose directly with their compatible smartphone.

Read on to see how she made the transition and why it's an extension of what she wanted to do all along.

Can you describe your life in R&D and why you made the switch to the commercial side of the company?

Thanks to Abbott's two-year rotational development program, which allowed us to immerse ourselves in a new role every six months, I was exposed to several different jobs at Abbott — some I didn't even know existed. These rotations helped me gain invaluable experience.

For one of my first positions, I acted as technical project manager, which gave me a whole new perspective. I encountered interesting problems and challenges — especially the process of launching a medical device product. There are a lot of external factors that can complicate a launch, and we're always tackling new technical issues. That's where I found my sweet spot. The project management role wasn't my first choice of rotation, but it ended up helping to define my career.

My current role allows me the opportunity to work on both sides — with our internal-facing teams on development and upstream product definition, and our external-facing teams in global markets gathering customer feedback and gaining insight into the marketplace.

What does your typical work day look like?

Although there's no such thing as a "typical day," the global, cross-functional nature of product management definitely plays a major role in the work I do. Most days start with an early call with our European colleagues, followed by meetings with our internal and partner development teams and brainstorming sessions where we tackle the problem of the day. And lately, we've been conducting a lot of internal education sessions on the digital health tools, too. We've always got an eye on the world clock and our international colleagues' time zones. We may even close the day with a call to Asia, where they're just waking up.

How does your role fit into the global Abbott team?

In Abbott's diabetes care business, we work with every organization in the company. Our influence definitely spans the globe. We have a really strong connection to our in-country commercial teams; during a recent two-week trip to Germany and Austria, the team and I successfully launched the FreeStyle LibreLink mobile app in 12 European countries. We also work closely and effectively with our quality, regulatory, legal, data privacy, software engineering and project management teams.

Did you encounter any technical or other challenges when developing the FreeStyle LibreLink app?

Working with teams across the globe on a product that does one very specific thing and making it successful in each market is a big challenge. Different markets have different requirements and trends. We try to make the product configurable and flexible to adjust to their needs.

For example, if there's a telemedicine or remote monitoring opportunity in one country, we think about how that will apply to others in the future. Should we actually build this so it's more sustainable and scalable for other countries? How can we take all these inputs we're getting and properly prioritize them? That's a really tough part of the job — figuring out what's most important and going to have the most impact on the business and the people using the product.

What do you like most about your role?

I'm exploring and learning all the time. I enjoy working with smart people who collaborate to identify and solve complex problems. What I love most is working with people who embrace that mentality of constant learning.

What excites you most about your work at Abbott?

It's very inspiring to see how fast the FreeStyle Libre system has been embraced by people with diabetes, globally. We get a lot of feedback from people who love the product or have suggestions for product updates. I'm always happy that we can help someone to live a healthier life.

References

1. Use of the FreeStyle LibreLink app requires registration with LibreView, a service provided by Abbott and Newyu, Inc. The FreeStyle LibreLink app is compatible with NFC-enabled phones running Android OS 5.0 or higher and with iPhone 7 and later running iOS 11 and later.
2. FreeStyle LibreLink has not been approved by FDA and is not yet available in the U.S.

 

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