May 26, 2021
In this episode of the MedtronicTalks podcast, Martha Ha, chief privacy officer and chief counsel of corporate governance, and Jon de Csepel, CMO, vice president, medical affairs of the Americas, explain how the company is reaching out to employees of Asia and Pacific Island and helping them to understand how to better work within the corporate culture.
Both come to the conversation bringing direct experiences. Ha, who is Korean descent, shares some troubling experiences from her young life and some challenges she’s had to overcome and some realizations that she’s had. Dr. de Csepel is married to a woman of Chinese descent and he’s raising two biracial children.
Ha gives high praise to Medtronic leadership. She also shares that the company also has won external recognition in the form of several awards.
Tom Salemi (00:00):
Hey, everyone. This is Tom Salemi of DeviceTalks. Welcome to our newest member of The DeviceTalks podcast family. It's called MedtronicTalks. Our constant search to find you insights in the med tech industry led us to the fine, fine folks at Medtronic. They've agreed to make their senior leaders available to us and you. In each episode, we'll discuss the opportunities and challenges facing one of med tech's clear leaders so you'll have an inside view on what makes Medtronic go. We'll ask the questions, Medtronic will provide the answers, and our great network of sponsors makes it all possible, so sit back, hop on a treadmill, take the dog for a walk, whatever you do when you listen to a great podcast, and let's listen to how Medtronic is getting the job done. Let's go.
Tom Salemi (00:45):
Hey, everyone. This is Tom Salemi, Editorial Director of DeviceTalks. Welcome to this episode of The MedtronicTalks podcast. This episode is going to be a bit different than ones we've done in the past. We're not going to focus on technology or treatments or business or market shares. We're going to talk about people. Specifically, this is timed with the close of Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We're going to talk with Martha Ha. She is the Chief Privacy Officer and Chief Counsel of Corporate Governance at Medtronic, and John de Csepel. John's the CMO and Vice President of Medical Affairs of the Americas Region of Medtronic. If you've listened to the podcast in the past, you recall or remember his name or his voice, rather, and probably his name from the very first episode.
Tom Salemi (01:33):
In this episode, though, as I said, they're not coming to this conversation as leaders of Medtronic's business, but really as leaders of Medtronic's culture or Medtronic's people. Martha and John explain how the company is reaching out to employees of Asian descent, employees of Pacific Island descent and helping them to get their voice. To help them understand how to better work within the corporate culture, not only of Medtronic, but of other corporations as well and society as a whole.
Tom Salemi (02:08):
This is a conversation where we listen a lot. We listen to Martha share some troubling experiences from her young life and some challenges she's had to overcome and some realizations that she's had as a leader at a corporation. John brings some experiences of his own. John is married to a woman of Chinese descent and he's raising two biracial children, so he brings not only the sensitivity of a leader at a company like Medtronic who wants to help foster growth in young people, but also as a husband and a parent. It was a very frank and I thought interesting conversation and I'm sure you will find it that way as well, so thank you to Martha and John for sharing their experiences.
Tom Salemi (02:57):
Before we begin of this interview, I'd like to introduce our sponsor, Quasar Medical. Alex Wallstein is Quasar Medical's new CEO. Alex, tell us about Quasar Medical.
Alex Wallstein (03:08):
Yeah, thanks, Tom, for having me. Enjoying the podcast. Greetings from Hong Kong, where it's 90 degrees and a thousand percent humidity this morning. Quasar Medical is a contract manufacturer that's been a partner to Medtronic for many, many years now. We have factories in China, in Thailand, and expanding further across China and Asia. We really focus on high-precision medical devices such as catheter products or tube sets, tube assemblies, that require a lot of scale and manual assembly, which is, ideally, sourced here in Asia.
Tom Salemi (03:42):
Thanks, Alex. We'll hear more from Quasar Medical a little later in the episode. Now, let's bring in Martha Ha and John de Csepel of Medtronic.
Tom Salemi (03:54):
Martha Ha and John de Csepel, welcome to the podcast.
Martha Ha (03:59):
John de Csepel (03:59):
Tom Salemi (03:59):
Martha, you're a first-time visitor. John, you are our first returning guest to the MedtronicTalks Podcast. I think if you'd come on a third time, I have to get you a Screen Actor's Guild card or something. I'm sure the unions will get involved, but it's great to have you back. John, we covered your background when you were on our first podcast, so Martha, I'm going to focus on you for a few minutes. Tell us a bit about how you came to be where you are at Medtronic. You're Chief Privacy Officer. A little later, I'd love to learn exactly what you focus on, but take us way back. What's your back-
Martha Ha (04:29):
I was born, Tom, in Korea, actually, in Seoul, Korea, and my family moved to the United States and to the Chicagoland area when I was less than a year old. As I was... actually, I was thinking about my history and making notes for this podcast, I started thinking back to my childhood and I hope this is relevant because I was trying to remember specific instances of discrimination that I may have faced growing up as a young Asian female on the streets of Chicago.
Martha Ha (05:01):
I remembered a fair amount of name-calling, but then as I actually just sat with it, I remembered being taunted as a child. I remember kids pulling their eyes into little slits and then laughing at me and pointing at me. One of the boys actually when I was in elementary school challenged me to a fight, so-
Tom Salemi (05:23):
Martha Ha (05:23):
... yeah, and -
Tom Salemi (05:25):
For any reason other than you being you? Or-
Martha Ha (05:28):
I guess I was intimidating. I don't know. Maybe I looked different or... For those of you who can't see me, I'm actually about 5'2" and 110. I was even smaller back then, so luckily we didn't fight, so that all ended up great. But then, I remembered this one incident very clearly of going to a department store with my Mom. I remember these two boys following me as we went from department to department. Finally, when I was cornered, they started calling me names. They started teasing me and to the point where I literally shrunk down to the ground and I hid underneath some clothes, under a rack of clothes. And I just wanted to become invisible. I never told my mom or dad about this. I felt ashamed, I felt embarrassed, I felt helpless.
Martha Ha (06:19):
Then, from there as I grew up, I guess I feel like there was less blatant racism and discrimination, but I'm also thinking that maybe I just became numb to it-
Tom Salemi (06:30):
Martha Ha (06:31):
... and I just started to ignore it. Anyway, fast forward, I graduated from law school.
Tom Salemi (06:35):
I wondered, before you get into that, I do want to... I find myself going back to my own childhood, not... I mean, I was taught to for other reasons, but racially, growing up in the '70s and '80s, you kind of look at things that you said that are just thoughts that you had and how they compare to today. It really requires you to stop and really think and really hold it up to the light and see and compare one to the other. Did you carry these memories with you in an active way through the years? Or are you sort of unpacking them now?
Martha Ha (07:07):
I'm unpacking a lot of the really what I consider more nasty and blatant racism. I do remember just the teasing and some of the name-calling. That's kind of simple and I can carry that with me and I never have forgotten that, but I just do what I have to do to move past it.
Tom Salemi (07:28):
Martha Ha (07:28):
I think now more than ever, especially as the leader of the Asian Employee Resource Group at Medtronic, it's really time for me to bring those to the light and to the surface and talk-
Tom Salemi (07:38):
Martha Ha (07:38):
... about it because I think that's important, not just for myself, but also for the other Asian employees and it's time to speak up and it's time to speak out, so-
Tom Salemi (07:49):
No, I think we all should be doing that, but please, so you moved to... You were getting into your move to law school.
Martha Ha (07:53):
Yeah. Actually, I had graduated from law school and worked-
Tom Salemi (07:56):
I missed that entirely. Wow, okay. Congratulations.
Martha Ha (07:59):
Oh, I remember it, I remember it. I graduated from law school, started working in law firms for about 10 years, and then I went in-house and I went in-house in a healthcare company. I started to move up the ranks and I thought that I was moving up the ranks because I worked hard because that's what my mom and dad said. "You work hard, keep your head down, and people will notice you."
Martha Ha (08:20):
Well, some people did and it was okay for a while, and then nobody noticed me, and so really the way I got to rise in the ranks to the executive level is really from some lucky breaks and from people actually extending a hand to me saying, "You got to get pulled up right now." So I had luckily some great mentors and sponsors who brought me up with them.
Tom Salemi (08:43):
How did you choose healthcare? Or did healthcare happen to choose you? Did you consciously choose a career in healthcare?
Martha Ha (08:49):
I did not. Actually, healthcare chose me and it just happened to be a good company. It happened to be not far from my house, and I thought, "Hey, I can do this, it's a good cause," and so it worked out that way.
Tom Salemi (09:03):
Martha Ha (09:04):
I joined Medtronic about five years ago, again, staying in healthcare, and I became the leader in the Asian ERG about 18 months ago. I've always been a supporter of I&D, inclusion and diversity, and mentoring and supporting other Asians and females and Asian females, but I never really knew how or whether I could make a difference. And remember that I became numb to my own racism and microaggressions against myself.
Martha Ha (09:33):
The events of the last 12 months have really woken me up and it's time now to take a stand. It's time to find my voice, if not for myself, for all of my other fellow Asian colleagues and my friends, the community. It's time and I'm ready, and so here I am speaking up and speaking out.
Tom Salemi (09:56):
Great. No, good for you, and John, I want to bring you into the conversation in a moment, but Martha, you say the events of the 12 months, do you specifically have a moment or an event where you said, "Enough is enough?" Or was it sort of a cumulative building?
Martha Ha (10:13):
I did have a moment when enough is enough, and that was actually just this March. I started to wake up a little bit more clearly over the course of the pandemic as we saw the rise in anti-Asian racism and violence escalate, but then the Atlanta murders back in March of the six Asian women, and then I started to watch very, very disturbing violent attacks against mostly elderly Asian men and women. Then, I started thinking about my parents who are in their 80s and it literally broke my heart, so...
Tom Salemi (10:52):
Those videos were immensely troubling. We've all seen them and it just boggles the mind that they can happen and that no one was helping, so I can understand that completely. Wow, okay. Well, we want to get into the work being done by Medtronic, but I think, John, I would love to bring you into the conversation just... Maybe... I'm not sure who to speak to the program, but I think, though, this would be a good time to talk about the group you're involved with at Medtronic and what you're trying to do. Maybe, John, you can try to start that and explain what perspective you're bringing to this important discussion?
John de Csepel (11:32):
Sure. Thanks, Tom. I'm still thinking about what Martha just said about how as a junior executive she wasn't recognized for her performance and she ultimately had to depend on some people to give her a hand up. How unfortunate is that? Because we should all be recognized for our performance and not necessarily need someone to go out of their way to help us, but that is our reality, so I've tried to do my part.
John de Csepel (12:05):
I recently had the honor of participating in a development program that we have for mid-level Asian women executives in our company and where we have a number of mentor-mentee sessions. Having an appreciation of some of the challenges that our Asian workforce has and speaking to them very directly and very frankly with my mentee has been really rewarding for me. I could share with you some of the things that we spoke about if you think that would be valuable?
Tom Salemi (12:40):
Sure, let's cover a few of those things now.
John de Csepel (12:43):
Some of the things that we spoke of included the importance of not just completing your assignments, but taking it a step farther and having the confidence to look to influence the company's decision-making. We spoke about, how do you do that? We also spoke about the importance of getting out of the office and going to see customers and then bringing that back to the conference room, if you will, and being the voice of the customer.
John de Csepel (13:13):
Shaking things up and getting out of the usual role is something that some of our Asian employees may struggle with, and so encouraging her to do these things was rather eye-opening. Hopefully, that will help her break through, if you will, the glass ceiling, and we know that that glass ceiling exists because we've seen the studies that show that amongst U.S. white collar professionals, that Asians are the least likely to go from individual contributor to the managerial ranks.
John de Csepel (13:49):
Having an opportunity to talk about on the specific ways of moving up, how you can be very intentional, maybe even double down on the intentionality of your career development by talking to your manager about succession planning. Are you named in their succession plan? Are important for anyone, but probably doubly important for our Asian-American employees.
Tom Salemi (14:14):
That's great advice, John. I know you bring a personal perspective to this conversation. Can you provide some details on that?
John de Csepel (14:22):
Yeah, sure, Tom.
Tom Salemi (14:23):
We got to take a quick break from this conversation to bring in our sponsor, Quasar Medical. I'm here again with Alex Wallstein, the new CEO of Quasar Medical. Alex, Quasar Medical is a multinational company. How do you view diversity and inclusion?
Alex Wallstein (14:43):
Yeah. Quasar was actually founded by an Israeli family. Always based in Hong Kong. It's kind of right there. Diversity is something that is absolutely a core characteristic of Quasar Medical. We deal with different languages, different religious backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, time zones, of course, on a daily basis. Actually, when we recruit top talent from external, we're looking for people that have spent time outside of their home country because if you don't have the curiosity to really see other cultures and other colors of life, it's going to be difficult for you to really adapt in a company like Quasar.
Alex Wallstein (15:20):
I think this is such a part of DNA of Quasar. We really consider ourselves as a fully global. Very small company, 1500 employees. Compared to Medtronic, it's tiny, but fully diversified gender and all religious flavors you can think of.
Tom Salemi (15:35):
Final question, Alex. What opportunity does Quasar Medical present for medical device OEMs?
Alex Wallstein (15:42):
Quasar's traditionally just focused on providing high-quality, high-volume assemblies that are very hard to make outside of Asia because of the skill set of the labor that we have here, and this has really been made for global consumption. Our customer base is typically in Europe and in the U.S., the large OEMs, if you will, but most recently, you might have heard of the China policy trend called dual circulation. This is really China has become the future growth market in medical devices. Everybody is aware of it, and most multinationals provide important products into China.
Alex Wallstein (16:16):
There's a big trend in China really understanding how to localize the core products that the Chinese healthcare system needs. Quasar's uniquely positioned to deliver localized versions of products made by the global companies. We have a manufacturing base in China, we have a track record of high quality and also we have earned the trust with the large OEMs related to intellectual property and IP and patent protection, et cetera. This is very, very important to the large OEMs when they partner and they want to localize products, Quasar, again, is very uniquely positioned to take advantage of this trend in China. We look forward to partnering with Medtronic and further expand this business.
Tom Salemi (16:58):
Thanks, Alex Wallstein, for joining us on this episode of MedtronicTalks. For more information about Quasar Medical, to to quasar-med.com. That's Q-U-A-S-A-R-M-E-D.com
Tom Salemi (17:15):
That's great advice, John. I know you bring a personal perspective to this conversation. Can you provide some details on that?
John de Csepel (17:23):
Yeah, sure, Tom. My wife is of Chinese descent and getting to know her story has helped me appreciate even more so the challenges that our Asian-American employees have. Raising two children who are of half-Asian/half-European descent also has been informative to me. I draw upon these experiences to hopefully make me a better manager, a better mentor when given the opportunity, and a better leader in our organization.
John de Csepel (18:00):
My wife has had what some might call, unfortunately a stereotypical Asian upbringing, even though she was born in the U.S. At dinnertime, the family would sit quietly at the table, everyone with books out reading, having very little conversation. That doesn't translate well into business where you have to be able to articulate your thoughts. As compared to my own experience with a mother who's Italian and the back-and-forth was robust from start to finish, including dessert.
Tom Salemi (18:37):
I'm familiar with that dynamic, John, yes.
John de Csepel (18:43):
Yeah, I bet you are, so drawing upon some of these, the quiet nature of our Asian employees, understanding where it comes from, it helps me be more attuned to it. For example, when I conduct meetings, I always go out of my way to make sure that everyone around the table, or on Zoom, as the case may be, will have an opportunity to contribute because all too frequently, it's the Asian employees who are the ones who are taking a disproportionately less talking time in the course of a meeting.
John de Csepel (19:16):
So I try to draw them out and give them the protected time that they need to express themselves, and the more they do that the better they get at it. That experience with my wife's upbringing helps my sensitivity in that regards.
Tom Salemi (19:31):
Martha, what's your feeling about that? It's an interesting place we're in. We're encouraging people to speak up for the first time, but we also have these folks who have had the microphone like myself literally and figuratively, and we're not quite sure whether to step aside and let you speak exclusively or whether to stand next to you and speak with you and offer our input even though whether or not you sort of asked for it. How does having someone like John, particularly with his perspective, involved in this program help?
Martha Ha (20:04):
I think having someone like John... First of all, I adore John. I think he's fantastic. Smart, funny, fitness enthusiast, which I love as well. I think about it in two ways. On a very superficial level, being married to a Chinese woman provides authenticity to his allyship, but really on a more substantive level, he really is the real deal because you can be married to someone who's of Asian descent or biracial, you can say that you have Asian friends or Pacific Islander friends. You can say, "So I understand and I'm not racist," but John actually really deeply, deeply understands.
Martha Ha (20:51):
He has children that are biracial as well and he brings this understanding and awareness with him to work, into the community, and to his extended family relationships in a very meaningful way where this allyship, Tom, we can't do this alone. The Asian American/Pacific Islander community cannot defeat the racism and discrimination that we're facing alone. We need allies. We need sponsors. We need people to stand with us, and John is absolutely one of those people, and plus his style, he's got such a great style, so that when he works with his team, and he understands.
Martha Ha (21:36):
Okay, some of his Asian employees may feel a little reluctant to speak up, so I'm going to gently encourage them to speak up and ask for their opinion in a way that's nonthreatening, in a way that shows by example to the rest of his team. We should be getting everyone's opinion, even the people who don't want to speak around the table. I actually think we need more people like John. I mean, people don't have to marry Asian spouses, but people who are truly authentic allies.
Tom Salemi (22:08):
Let's talk... We have some points I wanted to talk about, but I think for myself and perhaps for our listeners, I need a clearer understanding of what is... Describe for me the effort that's going on at Medtronic. What is the group called? What are your functions? How are you engaging with employees?
Martha Ha (22:25):
The group, The Asian Impact at Medtronic. We call it AIM, and that is The Asian Employee Resource Group. It was actually started in 1992, some form of it. Medtronic actually had a lot of ERGs that were formed many, many years ago, but I want to fast forward. The only reason I bring that up is because we are, I think, at a more sophisticated level than maybe some other companies because it's been around for a long time because inclusion and diversity have been at the forefront of at least the last two CEOs and probably more, but I wasn't at Medtronic then. At the forefront of their minds as well.
Martha Ha (23:10):
I want to start with this in terms of, what is Medtronic doing? I want to be absolutely clear. The tone at the top is unequivocal and resolute. Geoff Martha has come out saying internally and externally that he condemns all acts of hate and violence and discrimination. I have a quote from him. "Hate has no home here at Medtronic. I stand united with our AAPI employees, partners, and allies. We must and we will do more."
Martha Ha (23:43):
To me, that's unequivocal in terms of support. What has Medtronic done? They've done a number of different things. The first thing is to create a very safe working environment for their employees so employees can feel safe in terms of just physically safe as well as the opportunity to speak up and speak their mind.
Martha Ha (24:03):
Second, we double-clicked on the awareness and education piece and we're still diving deep into that. We are in the midst of Asian Heritage Month right now and we have a lot of programming, actually, to help educate not just the Asian employees, but all of the employees on the differences between all of the ethnicities within the Asian race, the model minority myth and how that's impacting not just the AAPI community, but other communities as well. So we are double-clicking on the education and awareness piece.
Martha Ha (24:37):
Third, we put in place some differentiated development programs for AAPI employees because typically Asian programs are geared more towards cultural inclusion versus executive management diversity. John can even speak to some of those. Then, we've also developed some leader resources and those were rolled out actually a couple of months ago really in response to the Atlanta murders and what that is is it's a toolkit to help leaders understand. To the best we can, write down in words what some of the cultural influences are for Asian employees and how best they can actually comfort and support their Asian employees and give them a safe space to talk to. I don't want to take up all of the air time because I want to let John have a chance to speak.
Tom Salemi (25:32):
No, that's just... Please, keep talking. You're doing a great job. John, Martha smartly, though, asked you to speak to sort of the executive development element of this, and I thought your point about not speaking at the table was an interesting one because you're right, that's so much of advancement is done in social situations like that. I was never the person who had the joke to tell, and I sat at... I would sit at tables with all of these VCs who had great stories to tell and they climbed some mountain and they had all of these great things. I just had my life and it wasn't that, so I can relate to sort of being shut out from that.
Tom Salemi (26:07):
How do you... Let's talk a bit about what you're doing on the executive development front and you sort of either... I don't know if you impart those skills upon folks who need? Or if you sort of make the culture aware that you don't need to necessarily be that way to be a good leader?
John de Csepel (26:23):
Right. That's a tricky one because I think that there are some skills that you need to have to be a good leader, and those might not be the ones that our Asian employees have learned in childhood. I think we need to particularly focus on those, whether... They're differential, but at a certain point, if you really want to move up the ladder, then you really need to learn how to advocate for yourself.
John de Csepel (26:53):
What are we going to do in the meantime is have particularly sensitivity to that persona, but at the same time, also try to take a holistic view. What I mean is something that's been on my mind quite a bit lately is that we're at the... our fiscal year ends, so we're doing our year-end evaluations. In the course of doing year-end evaluations, I'm drawing on the unconscious bias training that we've all had to go through at Medtronic and I know that executives at probably every major Fortune 500 company have had to go through it. That's been a real wealth of information for me and it's changed how I manage.
John de Csepel (27:45):
For example, we talk about the SEEDS model, which is part of unconscious bias training about similarity and how this concept that people like me are better than others. I draw upon that to look at people that are different than me to go out of my way to find value in people that are different from me. Also, things like experience and how my perceptions are accurate, but the reality is that they might give out part of the picture, but they don't give the whole picture.
John de Csepel (28:19):
Getting back to the year-end evaluation time, you want to be particularly sensitive to people who come from a different place than myself as someone of European descent. You want to gather a larger picture, the holistic view, as I mentioned. I went out of my way this year to write to stakeholders for all of the people who report to me to get their input about a given employee so that it wasn't just my point of view being represented to year-end evaluation, but it was a number of people. They can pick up on things that I can't because I have unconscious bias and that's going to help not only all of our employees, but it will also particularly help our employees of Asian descent. Then, we can really identify this talent because it maybe... Allow me to expand on one more thing.
John de Csepel (29:10):
Besides giving an evaluation, we also think about their potential. I'm really concerned when we label people in regards to their potential that we skip over people, particularly those of Asian descent, who might have had that keep your head down, grind-it-out mentality that we're going to skip over them versus the louder mouthed, having those who are comfortable advocating for themself when it comes to a signing potential. I think that everyone has got high potential and sometimes we just have to look a little bit deeper, and so I'm drawing on that unconscious bias training to help me see potential where I might not have seen it before because I have that similarity bias.
Tom Salemi (29:58):
Martha, I'd love to get your perspective on that. I mean, you opened this up saying that you were taught keep your head down, work hard, and it almost sounds as if that's almost setting you up for failure or to be a victim of unconscious bias. Speak to what John was just talking about. Looking back, how has unconscious bias affected you in your career?
Martha Ha (30:24):
Well, it really is, Tom, around this model minority myth, and that is an unconscious bias that actually was ingrained in folks because they selected Asians and they said, "Look, academically, socio-economically, Asians are 'successful,' and so we don't need to help them. We don't need to give them funding, we don't need to help educate the broader community." The fact of the matter is, and I didn't realize this till just recently, we have not yet, Asian-American/Pacific Islanders, have not yet been seen in the United States as Americans. We've not yet been treated as American citizens. The Japanese internment camps is a perfect example of, you know, we had-
Tom Salemi (31:16):
Martha Ha (31:16):
... 120,000 Japanese-Americans be ripped out of their homes, thrown into these internment camps, when many of their husbands were fighting for the United States in World War II. Anyway, I'm getting back to your question. The unconscious bias has always been there, and I think my mom and dad unwittingly, unknowingly actually fueled that fire by saying, "Keep your head down, work hard, don't raise any waves. Just work hard and that will get you ahead. Good things will happen to you because you work hard." I so did, and plus, actually, you might not believe it, but I am an introvert, and so I wasn't really out there-
Tom Salemi (32:04):
Martha Ha (32:04):
... and that's information. I didn't really speak up for myself and I kept my head down and I worked hard. It does get you advanced at a very junior level, but especially nowadays, you can't keep your mouth shut. You can't stay quiet. It's finding that right balance that John was talking about of being your authentic self and living with where you came from.
Martha Ha (32:36):
For me, I am an introvert. I am Korean. I am a female and I actually don't like to talk a lot, so how do I retain that authenticity of who I am at the core and yet have to step into this other persona at times in the modern corporate world in order to advance my career and get what's due for me because of the fact that I do work hard, that I do contribute, that I am valuable to this organization? It's finding that right balance and what we need, we need people like John. We need allies. We need people who sponsor us.
Martha Ha (33:13):
We need people who encourage us to stand up and find our voice, and it can be a little at a time. It can be one sentence at a meeting. Start with that. Then, it can be two sentences. Then, it can be a small presentation that we give. Then, it can be a little bit of coaching on the side. When you did that, you got to make more eye contact, look up more, speak slowly. Then, it's a second presentation and it's longer, it's a higher level audience. It literally is one step at a time, but we need people to help us as well. We need to help ourselves. Let there be no doubt.
Tom Salemi (33:50):
Martha Ha (33:50):
... but we also need the opportunities and the opportunities will come when there's education and awareness, particularly with the allies because they will make the space for us to have those opportunities.
John de Csepel (34:02):
There's something that Martha said really stuck with me, and she's focusing on how those of Asian descent need to develop once they're in their careers, and you talked about things like the importance of making eye contact. I was just thinking back to one of my sons. One son is maybe more like me and he thinks he's Elton John and he runs around the house wearing a straw hat with a red ribbon around it and big flashy glasses.
Tom Salemi (34:39):
John, I'm going to be looking at you differently from now on.
John de Csepel (34:43):
The other one probably has more of those stereotypical Asian traits and he's more soft-spoken, and so I want to start his career development, if you will, now at age seven. When we walk out the door in the morning from our apartment here in New York City, we always stop to look at the doorman and my son now looks him in the eye and wishes them good morning, and the doorman greets him similarly.
John de Csepel (35:10):
That's where it starts and I'm hoping that there is increased awareness in schools, that curricula change, that we start to recognize the Asian-American role models. There are so many, more and more every day, particularly amongst the entrepreneurial class. Founders of now large companies are of Asian descent and we need to hold those people up as role models. We need to work to develop the whole person, so all of the character traits. Yes, having humility is so critically important, but also having the comfort to advocate for oneself is important, too. I'm hoping that when the next generation gets into companies like Medtronic that there's less of a gap to have to solve for.
Tom Salemi (36:03):
That's a really interesting point. I know Medtronic's taking action. You've hired an outside vendor to develop some programming that's tackling these issues, the harnessing your voice, microagressions. You talked about the bamboo ceiling, which I'll admit I was ignorant about up until preparing for this podcast, so talk a bit about the work you're doing with the vendor that you've brought into Medtronic. What is maybe some details on what is actually happening? Martha, if you wouldn't mind starting that off?
Martha Ha (36:30):
Sure, so we've been working with an outside vendor to really... This is double-clicking on the differentiated development program that Medtronic is really intentional about for Asian Americans, and so what we're doing specifically with this vendor is exactly what you listed. We're developing workshops and programs and exercises for Asian-Americans to tackle these issues like harnessing your voice, learning how to speak up, even just the simplest of things in terms of, "Hey, here's my opinion," or, "You know, respectfully, I disagree and here's what I think." It's those just things we take for granted in terms of negotiation or just discussions in the executive conference rooms or even one or two levels below that. It really is harnessing your voice and it's about learning and teaching about microaggressions.
Martha Ha (37:29):
You know, I talked about growing up, I remember the teasing, but then actually it took me a while to remember when people were pulling their eyes into slits and these boys that chased me at the Sears because I pushed those out of my mind. Then, I said, "I think from that point forward to where I am now, the microaggressions had ceased," but actually, I really do believe I just got numb to that. Part of this training is, "Guess what? They're still out there. Here's what it looks like in case you've forgot or in case you just became numb to it, and here's what you do when that happens."
Martha Ha (38:10):
We learn about unconscious bias as well and what we can do to help educate people so they can unlearn some of those stereotypes, which I think is really important. Then, the bamboo ceiling, just to call it out for what it is, how we can help advocate for each other, sponsor each other. One of the things that I tell folks is, "Hey, if you have a hard time finding your voice for yourself, find your voice for your next-door neighbor," because it's a lot easier to advocate for somebody else than it is yourself. Once you do that, you might be like, "I can do this. Now, I'm going to have a conversation with my own boss, or I'll ask somebody to advocate for me if I feel uncomfortable doing that."
Martha Ha (38:51):
We have that, but we also, Tom, we have differentiated development programs that Medtronic sponsors, that AIM actually works in programmatically in developing these programs. It really is at all levels of the company because different levels of employees and skill sets require different kinds of development programs, so all the way from individual contributor to what we call the senior director rank, which is one level below the vice president.
Tom Salemi (39:20):
John, what led you to become so involved with this as well? Is it your family connection? Do you think you would have been involved with this if you didn't have that personal connection?
John de Csepel (39:35):
I think I would have been. I've worked with other employee groups at Medtronic. I'm also an Executive Sponsor of our Medtronic Women's Network, so I just take a real interest in identifying barriers and helping people overcome them and I've always had that interest not just for women, but also for those from the Asian-American community. I've developed a passion around equality in educational opportunities. We don't have to go into all of the current events around that, but we do see it here in New York City in the public high schools and who gets into the magnet schools and what we'd call like a reverse racism if you call it against those of Asian descent.
John de Csepel (40:32):
We see it at the college level and university level and we've seen lawsuits... so it's an area that's always been an area of interest of mine, particularly with a focus on the Asian community, and that's how I've come to it, whether I married into the community or not.
Tom Salemi (40:55):
Well, this is a really important conversation. I want to make sure that we're... What else has Medtronic been focusing on? Especially over the past 12 months where we're sort of all... You raised this at the start, Martha, that there was just sort of an overdue awakening of this. We're all working remotely, we're all trying to deal with the stress, but how specifically... What steps have been taken at Medtronic to sort of help find some solutions and improve communications now?
Martha Ha (41:26):
Yeah, that's a great question, Tom. As I mentioned, The Asian Employee Resource Group has been around for the past 30 years and has had different programming for the Asian employees, but really in the last 12 months and particularly because of the pandemic and the rise in anti-Asian violence and discrimination, we have really doubled down our efforts on all fronts. First of all, the most important thing is to listen to our employees. What are your needs? What do you need right now? How can we support you?
Martha Ha (42:01):
We had listening sessions. We called them listening sessions. We were going to call them town halls but they weren't really technically town halls, and they were listening sessions. I know I was like, "I don't think that's appropriate," but so we had listening sessions with Geoff, the CEO, both of them, and one of them was also with our executive sponsor for AIM where Geoff just listened to our employees that were on the phone. We had hundreds of employees on the phone and they ran the gamut. They asked questions. They shared stories. They shared stories about their experiences at Medtronic. They shared stories about what's happening in their communities.
Martha Ha (42:40):
So I thought that was great because it provided us actually true feedback from the employees on what they need to support them. Then, from there, we've had lots of different programming and communications. The communications internally and externally unequivocal, and in terms of the programming, we've held about 15 or more open-air dialogues. What are they? They are small group sessions that are facilitated by an outside Asian social worker or psychologist in about groups of 10 individuals that can just literally have a safe space to talk, to share. We've had great feedback on that and we're going to probably continue those.
Martha Ha (43:23):
In addition to that, we've had a lot of speaking programs and speaking engagements. We had a series of three. We call it "The Power of We Series" that we held last year, and John was actually in the third of the three programs, but we had external speakers come and talk about finding your voice, talk about the racism and discrimination that was going on and what we could do as a community, both in terms of being Asians and also as allies.
Martha Ha (43:53):
Then, this year, we're also emphasizing another set of speaker series and focusing on external speakers as well as internal as well within the company. In addition to that, we continue to double down on our education programs here and, as I said, we developed that toolkit for leaders in terms of how they can actually support and have productive dialogues with their employees. Those are just some of the things.
Tom Salemi (44:20):
How have those listening sessions impacted you? Did you hear a lot of stories that resonated with you? Did it sort of empower you to share those stories that you're sharing about your own experiences? I'm not sure, would you have been comfortable sharing these stories on a podcast a year and a half ago or two-
Martha Ha (44:37):
Well, I -
Tom Salemi (44:38):
... years ago?
Martha Ha (44:38):
... I didn't know what a podcast was until today, but-
Tom Salemi (44:46):
A room full of-
Martha Ha (44:46):
Tom Salemi (44:46):
... people, we'll say a room full of people. That's all we are.
Martha Ha (44:47):
The answer is probably no, is absolutely no, and for me, my own personal development these past 12 months has really been a hockey stick. I have shared more on more public forums, not like this podcast, but most of them have been internally within Medtronic. There was an inaugural Twin Cities Asian Executive Leadership Conference that Target sponsored and it was held at the end of April.
Martha Ha (45:16):
There were about 1,600 participants that dialed in for that and there were three panels. I was on one of those panels as well and Geoff was on the CEO panel. Over the last 12 months, I have shared probably more of myself and my experience growing up as an Asian female than I have probably in my lifetime, so for me it has been transformative and therapeutic in many ways.
Tom Salemi (45:44):
That's fantastic. I'm glad. You're certainly getting your voice and your sharing stories that I think everyone needs to help hear, rather, so that's extraordinary. I understand that your work at Medtronic has received a few awards of late. Can you bring us up to date-
Martha Ha (45:57):
Tom Salemi (45:57):
... on that?
Martha Ha (45:58):
... yes. Thank you. Actually, just recently last week, as a matter of fact, The Asia Society announced their 2020 Corporate Awards, and in the past, Medtronic has been a winner. In fact, this is our seventh consecutive year that we have won an award with The Asia Society. The thing that is, I guess, most notable for me is this year we actually won in five categories. We were the winner in four and I think we were the runner-up in one category, which was the Best Employer for Asian-Americans.
Martha Ha (46:31):
I was absolutely stunned by this and it really goes to the work and the efforts and the passion and commitment of not just the AIM team, but of the leadership at Medtronic as well. This is a team effort and we couldn't have done this without the whole team pulling together.
Tom Salemi (46:51):
That's excellent. Just final question, where do you see this effort being in five years or so? John, what would you like the program to look like internally? More importantly, what would you like Medtronic to look like internally?
John de Csepel (47:05):
This is like one of those programs where success is measured by whether the program still exists in five years, so sadly I'm sure that it will, but maybe not to the same extent that it does today because the need is less because we've learned important lessons from our Asian Employee Resource Group, all of us have. That's my hope and I think that we're well-positioned to get there because these programs that Martha has described are really comprehensive. It's not just a very singular approach. It goes from mentorship to listening sessions to group therapy sessions to every aspect that one could think of to attack a number of the barriers that the group has identified has been thought of.
John de Csepel (47:56):
They take a really thoughtful approach and it gives me great hope that we're going to make very substantial progress. We've already made a lot of progress. It's been recognized from outside our company as Martha has described and I'm encouraged that we're going to continue that progress and it's going to even accelerate in the coming couple of years.
Tom Salemi (48:23):
Martha, we'll give you the final word and, I mean, John's point is right. It would be ideal if the group wasn't necessary in five years, but what would you like the company to look like in five years? Maybe you can look outside the company. Is this something that you see the med tech industry itself coalescing around and addressing?
Martha Ha (48:41):
I would love to see not just the med tech industry, but societal changes. Five years is not long enough, but five years is enough to start making a change, and change to me means more people educated and understanding the nuances and the differences and actually the long-seated discrimination and racism against Asians. I want us to be able to be seen in the light and I want us as Asian-American/Pacific Islanders to be finally considered as Americans.
Martha Ha (49:19):
Within Medtronic, again, I do think this program will still need to exist, but I see a more coalesced group and effort, and I've said this many, many times. Even though I am Asian-American, I am a female and I support MWN, Medtronic Women's Network, it really isn't just about being Asian or being female. You can fill in that blank any descriptive, tall, short, blonde hair, blue eyes, African-American, Hispanic, Latino, whatever it is.
Martha Ha (49:52):
People of all walks of life have been discriminated against and I think it's important for us as human beings to see each other for who we are and celebrate those differences. That actually is going to be progress. If we can do it within Medtronic first, that's great. It's a smaller group, even though we're about 95,000 employees. It's smaller than the population of the United States, and I would love to see more diversity at the senior levels within Medtronic and just kind of trickle itself all of the way down throughout the organization. To me, that would be success.
Tom Salemi (50:31):
That's great. Well, this is obviously an important conversation. We typically talk about devices that make people better, but I think this is an important conversation to have just about another form of health, emotional health, fairness, so I appreciate the time you took and congratulations on your awards and on the efforts you're putting together. It's great work.
Martha Ha (50:54):
Thanks a lot, Tom. Thanks, John.
John de Csepel (50:56):
Yeah, thanks Tom, and thanks, Martha. Appreciate sharing this time with you.
Tom Salemi (51:03):
Well, that is a wrap. Thanks for joining us on this episode of The MedtronicTalks podcast. You can reach or find future episodes on devicetalks.com. You can also find it on the medtronics.com news site. Please, though, subscribe. Go to Apple, Amazon, Google, Spotify, come up with some other names that you like to pursue. I bet we're on there as well. You can have future episodes of this podcast sent directly to your listening device.
Tom Salemi (51:28):
Thank you again to our guests, Martha Ha and John de Csepel. Thank you again to our sponsor, Quasar Medical, and thanks again to you for joining us. Tune in next time. We'll have another great episode of The MedtronicTalks podcast waiting for you.