Whatever Caroline Richardson’s doing at her job at Abbott Point of Care, she must be doing something right. When Richardson was appointed instrument operations engineering manager in February 2015, it was her third promotion since starting with the company five years earlier.
She had been promoted from product engineer to product engineer II after nearly two years with the company; it was Richardson herself who initiated the upgrade to a management position in mid-2013 to fill her former supervisor’s slot.
“If you think you can do something, you need to ask for it,” Richardson, 27, Princeton, NJ, said. “The burden is on you as a person who’s trying to develop yourself; you need to be your own advocate.”
Of course, it helps if you’ve actually done something to earn a promotion, which she has, David Jamieson, director of instrument operations, Richardson’s 30 Under 30 nominator, points out.
“Caroline has a great ability to compartmentalize her intellect toward the key issue of the moment and is willing to run to the fire while others may back away,” Jamieson wrote. “This is a key attribute of leadership that is innate to Caroline.”
One of Richardson’s first projects was to review and update, if necessary, the company’s protocols for validating the decontamination procedures for its devices in a clinical setting. This was in response to an industry-wide mandate from the US Food & Drug Administration. Her protocol has become the standard for her division’s validation of decontamination practices.
Then, when the ebola epidemic struck in 2014, and Abbott needed to instruct users how to decontaminate a device infected with the deadly virus, Richardson developed a best practices document to use in the field. Given her background in biochemistry, she said she felt it a duty to raise her hand and volunteer for the task.
“That was another fire drill moment for the company,” said Richardson.
Also, she saved her company $1 million per year by working with a third-party engineering firm to produce a proprietary printer for the i-STAT, Abbott’s handheld bedside patient blood analyzer. Abbott had been supplying its customers with an off-the-shelf printer. Richardson received the company’s President’s Award in 2011 for her work, and thinks it helped lead to an even better assignment.
“It set me up pretty well to work on the bigger project I’m working on now,” she said.
Currently, she’s leading 10 direct reports and 25 dotted-line reports in a project to help develop Abbott’s next-generation i-STAT.
“That’s one of my favorite experiences in my role, revamping an entire instrument,” Richardson said. “It’s the largest-scale development (in Abbott Point of Care) in 15 years.”
Part of the project included producing 100 prototypes within a two-week period in 2015, a timeframe that happened to include Labor Day weekend. Richardson and her co-workers volunteered to work over the holiday.
“We were all sort of anxious to see if it would work,” she said.
Jamieson puts it another way: “Her indefatigable nature and can-do attitude inspired her team to rally around her and deliver.”
This article was first published in the July 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read all of the 2016 30 Under 30 Profiles as a PDF.