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Debra O’Loughlin: Celebrating Women in Leadership

4 August, 2021

Here at Advant Medical we are dedicated to gender equality. We know that gender equality should not just be viewed as a “women’s issue”.  It is everyone’s battle, and it is critically important that men understand that this includes them. We want to take time to promote some of the women in leadership positions within our company as a visible role model to young women thinking of careers in the STEM industries. Every Wednesday this month we will be posting interviews from some of the women in senior positions in the Advant Medical Group to talk about their personal experience of working in the MedTech Industry.

We sat down with Debra O’Loughlin to ask her what it is like being a woman in a leadership position in the Advant Medical Group and what advice she would give to young women thinking of working in the STEM industries.

Introducing Debra O’Loughlin

Debra O’Loughlin is the Managing Director of the Advant Medical Group and has been a member of the Advant Team for 25 years. Debra has received a Diploma in Management from the National College of Ireland and a Diploma in Employment Legislation and Industrial Relations from the National College of ireland. Debra joined Advant Medical in 1996 as a Product builder and throughout the years has also held positions as Production Supervisor, Production Manager and Plant Manager. Her leadership has been integral to the Advant Medical Group becoming a key medical device manufacturer for multinational OEM’s. Debra’s dedication to building a strong culture and developing customer relationships has enabled Advant to grow to over 200 employees and establish manufacturing facilities across four sites, strategically located around the world. Debra O’Loughlin is one of the driving forces at Advant Medical and is committed in her efforts of growing a positive culture, collaborating with customers and expanding the Advant Medical Group.

“Believe in yourself and your ability. With commitment and a strong work ethic the world is your oyster”

Q.1 What first drew you to MedTech? When did you first know you wanted to be in the industry?

One of the reasons I was attracted to the industry here in Galway is that I could see the potential growth. I knew the industry was going to stay for the future. It is also an industry that through commitment and dedication you can enjoy excellent career development opportunities. My positions with Advant have shown that.

Q.2 In your experience, what is it like for women working in MedTech now, versus 10 or 15 years ago?

My own personal experience has always been positive. Advant has always embraced and encouraged growth for our female employees. When I first started, the MedTech industry in general had fewer women in leadership positions. I’m encouraged to see that over the years the number of females in these roles has increased. The change has been slow but I believe the industry is beginning to understand the value of female input.

Q.3 You hold one of the top leadership positions at Advant Medical. How much does it help when women employees can see that there are already people like them holding top positions?

I think it’s really important because I’ve been in their shoes. I’ve worked my way up and I hope that my career journey has set a precedent for other women in Advant Medical to follow. I think my position acts as motivation for females to see that you can have a rewarding career. Advant supports all employees in further education and career progression is encouraged.

Q.4 Talk about your leadership skills. What is the most important lesson you have learned that has guided you in your career?

The most important lessons I’ve learned are: It takes a team not an individual to make a company successful, Treat others as you wish to be treated, Respect is earned not an automatic right, and Admit and learn from your mistakes. I try to instil these not only in our culture but in my everyday life too.

Q.5 Describe your biggest leadership challenge. How did you conquer it or resolve it, and what was the outcome?

The biggest challenge for me has been the growth of the company, going from a single site to 4 manufacturing sites. Delegation is key to successful completion of tasks. Building and supporting a strong, competent team takes time. However, it is time well spent as it results in success.

Q.6 In your opinion, what more can be done to promote greater participation of young women in the MedTech industry?

It needs to be promoted to our young women in secondary schools. This would give them the opportunity to review a career in Medtech before defining what subjects they choose. Companies could give tours and presentations. In the past we have accommodated this and students found it very beneficial.

Q.7 What career advice would you give to your younger self or to other women starting out their careers in the MedTech industry?

This is a very rewarding industry to be involved in. Believe in yourself and your ability. With commitment and a strong work ethic the world is your oyster.

Q.8 In your opinion, do you feel that Advant Medical encourage and support women in the workplace?

Absolutely!!! I have always felt supported and encouraged. My third level education was achieved while working. I was given the time and resources to achieve this. I have always felt valued and that my opinion matters. Advant has always allowed me to have a good work-life balance between family and career. Even now, coming up to 25 years, I love coming to work every day and being part of the Advant Team!

Enjoyed reading? Keep a copy

We hope you enjoyed our Q&A with Debra and found some insights from her interview. If you would like a PDF version to download you can do so here

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