My Unexpected Path to a Medical Device Career

There really is no routine day in the medical device industry.

Kirsten Newquist

November 8, 2021

4 Min Read
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A note to young women executives: career paths often take unexpected turns.

Consider my road to general manager of Avery Dennison Medical. The medical device industry was not on my radar during college and graduate school. My degrees were in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and business administration from UCLA. Throughout my earlier endeavors in the business world, I worked at a venture capital-backed start up in the entertainment industry and a private equity-backed roll up in the business services sector.

I was introduced to the medical industry at Avery Dennison when I joined the company’s corporate strategy group and helped build a growth strategy for its medical division. After putting the strategy together, I ultimately joined the division to help implement it. 

As a partner for medical device manufacturers, Avery Dennison Medical offers customized solutions, development expertise, and the manufacturing capabilities to take our customers’ ideas from concept to commercialization. Our adhesives technologies, engineering experience, and coating capabilities are integral parts of products used daily in medical facilities worldwide. In the medical device industry, you can directly see how your daily work and the products you develop enable doctors and nurses to provide excellent patient care.

Medtech Response to COVID-19

This past year, COVID-19 created some significant challenges. We had to make quick changes to support our customers’ needs and keep our production lines up and running. Customer demand surged for some of the product we produce and decreased sharply for others. The decrease was especially true in the surgical segment since many elective surgeries were canceled or delayed during the height of the pandemic. To help offset some of the reduction in demand, we turned our attention to the demand that arose during the pandemic for N95 masks, which involved entering a partnership with Global Safety First. We were proud to produce almost 5 million masks in 2020 to help keep our healthcare workers safe.

This quick change in direction exemplifies what I like about my daily routine—there really is no routine. Every day is different. I worked with the Avery Dennison Medical team to pivot during this time, and even while many of us were working from home, we kept our production up and running. We delivered products to our customers that ultimately got to the patients and hospitals that needed the end products.

The most enjoyable part of my work falls into two categories: interacting with employees and customers, and delivering new products to our customers. It has been challenging not being able to visit in person with our employees and customers during the pandemic, and I am looking forward to seeing them again soon. Our plants are in Mentor, OH, USA; Longford, Ireland; and Turnhout, Belgium. I work out of Avery Dennison’s corporate offices in Glendale, CA, where I report into Greg Lovins, Avery Dennison’s CFO.

New Opportunities in the Medical Device Industry

The wearable device industry is an area of focus for our business. For more than 40 years, Avery Dennison has developed new adhesive materials and finished products across multiple segments, including wound care, ostomy, and surgical. The wearable device space is a rapidly growing area that crosses multiple product applications. Wearable devices include patches that remain affixed to the skin as they monitor factors such as heart rate, ECG, activity level, and temperature. It's an exciting area with lots of innovation, and we are expert at working hand in hand with our branded customers to ensure they have materials that meet all their requirements.

Our manufacturing facilities operate with an ISO 13485 quality system. We have several cleanrooms that house our converting and some of our coating assets. We have regular quality audits from our customers and regulatory authorities, and maintaining our quality standards is a top priority.

Achieving Balance

When I'm not working at Avery Dennison, I participate in volunteer activities. While my four kids were in school, I was involved with our local school district. I served on the board of directors for the local educational foundation for five years. We raised close to $2 million per year for the district. We received a lot of support from the community and hosted many fundraising events throughout the year, including an annual gala, a silent auction, and a wine auction.

I have also been involved for years with a local organization called the National Charity League, which supports multiple nonprofits in the Los Angeles area where I live, and I served on the Board for our local Boys and Girls Club. I enjoy travel, hiking, and running in my spare time.

In my business activities, I’m truly honored to have the role I do. I have a great team. We exist because of our customers, and we are committed to supporting them and ultimately the doctors, nurses, and patients who need our quality products. That is what drives us every single day.

For young women considering the medical device industry as a career, I highly recommend this field. It is rewarding to be part of a business that focuses on improving patient care and patient outcomes.

About the Author(s)

Kirsten Newquist

Kirsten Newquist serves as General Manager for Avery Dennison's Medical Division. She has held roles as Vice President of Business Development for Avery Dennison Medical (formerly Vancive Medical Technologies) and Director of New Growth Platforms at Avery Dennison.

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