When Nothing Is Normal
What is it like to start a new job in the midst of a pandemic?
Erin McEachren | | Opinion
To say it has been an interesting time to start in my role at Johnson & Johnson Surgical Vision would be an understatement. The process of onboarding in a new place is always going to have its ups and downs, whether it is in person or remote. Nevertheless, even in these difficult times, it has been a thrill to join the company, partly because it is so focused on people. I think we have all been feeling the need to show more empathy, and be more supportive of each other, and the team at J&J Vision has been very warm and welcoming, for which I am very grateful.
Have there been any silver linings to the dark cloud of the pandemic? I truly believe that COVID-19 is making us better leaders. We are letting our guard down and being more human. Seeing our co-workers — via Zoom — in their homes with spouses, kids and pets popping into view — has softened our interactions. It has also given us time to pause travel and spend more time at home with loved ones.
Not having the flow of communication that you achieve from face-to-face interactions has been a challenge for me – it takes longer to build deeper team relationships, but I have been encouraged by watching the willingness of my colleagues to support one another during this time, not just as a new leader of the team, but in working together at a unique time. I have approached this time with gratitude and have learned a great deal. And when I finally get to be in a room with my team, I am going to cherish it!
Our industry has been significantly challenged by COVID-19, as our main realm is elective surgery. It has been difficult to witness the dramatic effect this time has had on the elderly cataract population who have had to delay care. As a corporate partner, we have been listening carefully to our customers, as their future has also changed. We are looking at ways to build more efficient business models, using data and digital tools, and enabling stronger partnerships.
At J&J, our number one goal is to support our customer base and make sure that they can affect patient care. We also want to be bolder, with our sights set on innovation and customer support. We have had some remarkable, game-changing innovations — rare in our device world — in the past year that we’ve launched in the optical segment. My first launch since joining J&J Vision was at ESCRS recently, where we expanded our TECNIS Synergy range with a new TECNIS Synergy Toric lens. It has been exciting to watch the response of our surgeons who are implanting these advanced IOLs, for example, and the great results that they’re achieving. We are always looking to improve as a business partner with ways we can better deliver our services and become easier to communicate with. Long term, we want to be able to have a profound effect on ophthalmic care throughout the stages of a patient’s life.
I have a deeply personal reason for playing a role in a surgical, device-based organization because surgical technology has made a tremendous difference in my own life – I was affected at a young age. Many of us have had a family member undergo a surgery that changed their life for the better. And that’s why I am so passionate and why I love healthcare. I am fortunate to not only be a part of a great organization with a powerful credo, but also be a part of the device world. I truly value the opportunity to produce technology that has an impact on people.
It has been a real privilege to come to J&J during the hard times because there’s such a broad range of solutions, between pharma, consumer, and medical devices. In times of crisis, it is great to be part of a stable, large and diverse organization that can and does make a real difference — I think all of us here have gratitude for that. J&J was built for times like this; we are structured to be supportive and serve through challenging circumstances. It is now my role to help lead through these challenges.