Every success story is unique. From the characters that animate them to the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that help define them, no one tale is the same. But to ignore the common threads tying them together would be to miss out on the invaluable life lessons held within.
Angela Ratcliffe’s career is a case in point. As with all success stories, her becoming General Manager of Philips’ Sleep and Respiratory Care (SRC) business in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) required hard work, perseverance and vision. But it also required the help of a kind and talented supporting cast.
The beginning of Angela’s career with Philips
Angela began her career in earnest in the early 1990s, when she worked as a marketing manager for an industrial distribution business in the UK. It ended up being a formative experience for Angela, and not just because it provided her first taste of business leadership. Angela met her husband there, and the couple had a child together in the country, before deciding that they wanted to build a life together in Australia.
"For me, it was returning home. But for my husband, it was moving to a new country,” Angela recalls of the move down under. “It was a very challenging time. I originally moved to the UK for my career, and I was still very focused on that aspect of my life. But I was a mother to a one-year-old boy and there were a lot of challenges involved in meeting the demands of my job while continuing to provide care for my child."
When the Ratcliffes welcomed a baby girl into the world three years later, Angela went on maternity leave.
Astutely aware of the importance of remaining connected to her work colleagues during this time, Angela made a point of staying up-to-date on developments within the office, which meant that, when she returned to work 11 months later, she understood the needs of the business well enough to convince her superiors that she could continue to contribute positively to the company’s development while working part-time.
"I took the approach of saying, ‘let me prove to you that this can work’,” says Angela. “I made sure that it was a win-win situation for the company and myself, and then I delivered the results that were required of me.”
But the way Angela sees it, she wouldn’t have been able to realize such a delicate work-life balance without the support of her colleagues. They understood that leading a fulfilling life outside the office helps to lay the foundations for success within it.
It’s a point of view that’s shared by Philips, and one that the company alludes to in its in-house mantra, ‘we’re at our best when you’re at yours’.
Unlike some employers, the company’s commitment to workplace flexibility fortunately runs much deeper than mere lip-service to a progressive soundbite. In addition to offering its employees in Australia and New Zealand 18 weeks’ paid parental leave, Philips has programs for its staff to choose their own start and finish times, work from home, drop down to part-time hours, and even purchase extra leave. It’s but one aspect of a much broader company inclusion policy that views workplace diversity and female leadership as crucial springboards for commercial success. Such policies play an essential role in signaling to younger recruits that Philips is a place for women to grow.
Underpinning the company’s appreciation for diversity, inclusion and workplace flexibility is its unwavering dedication to improving people’s health. For what are we without it?
Serving a greater purpose: improving lives of others
Angela found herself pondering the answer to that question when a relative became seriously ill ten years ago. As she watched health professionals nurse her family member back to full health, she was struck by the profound importance of their work.
"I realized that these people were miracle workers, which made me want to work in healthcare,” she says. “I did some pro-bono work, which helped me gain valuable experience and make some important connections within the industry. And those connections eventually led me to Philips, a company which I could tell really cared about changing people’s lives.”
Angela finally achieved her goal of working in healthcare in 2015, when she took up the position of Marketing Director for Philips Healthcare in Australia and New Zealand. Almost three years later, in February 2018, she was offered the position of General Manager of Philips ANZ’s SRC Business, which helps improve the health of people by helping them sleep better.
Coupled with the unique business challenges the role presents, that the division has such a positive societal impact means Angela thinks of her new position as “the perfect job”.
We're a business that helps people with sleep health, because that has a huge impact on people's overall wellness and health,” she says. “We make a difference from day one and really change lives. Additionally, I get to leverage my B2B and B2C skill-sets and experience, which makes the job very rewarding professionally.”
One of the most prevalent sleep disorders that Philips has turned its hand to tackling is obstructive sleep apnea. Estimated to affect between two and five percent of the Western world, where data is readily available, the condition causes the sufferer’s throat to close during sleep, preventing them from breathing properly. The oxygen supply to their body is cut off for a few seconds and the removal of carbon dioxide halted.
As a result, the brain is triggered to briefly wake the sufferer, in order to resume breathing. This chain of events can repeat itself up to one hundred times every hour, but as the sufferer only wakes for very short periods, they do not realize at the time what is happening. Of course, when they start their day in the morning, they feel like they haven’t slept a wink.
Fortunately, Philips has developed a wide range of sleep therapy devices (CPAP machines) and masks that help sleep apnea sufferers get a full night’s rest. The CPAP machine provides a constant flow of airway pressure that prevents the throat from collapsing during sleep. The impact on users’ lives is huge, reducing their risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, while also increasing their productivity in the workplace by improving their attention, memory and decision-making.
For Angela, being exposed to such advanced technology is one of the highlights of the job.
Learning about the science of sleep and how important it is to health and wellbeing is fascinating,” she says. “It’s an incredible feeling when you hear patients sharing their stories and the difference our solutions have made to their lives. It’s amazing to see equipment that you sell everyday making such a difference.”
The need to keep abreast of the latest advances in her field also means that Angela regularly brushes shoulders with some of the world’s most respected sleep specialists. Being someone who was totally new to the business, it was fantastic to be welcomed into the new team because you don't know what you don't know in terms of business challenges,” says Angela. “To be able to connect to a network straight away, that was fantastic…I’ve felt really supported from day one.”
In a way, the trip typified what it means to work for Philips: constantly striving to be one’s best, safe in the knowledge that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“ I’ve been successful because I’m driven and I’ve always set goals for myself. But I’ve also been successful because I've been fortunate enough to work with very good people who have supported me along the way."
“I love working at Philips because there is an abundance of support, as well as great roles models and mentors to assist with my career development. People have helped me with my career and I am passionate about helping and mentoring others as well.”
Philips is a world leading health technology company with a vision to make life better for people worldwide through meaningful innovation. Making good on this promise depends on our inclusive, passionate, inspirational, collaborative and diverse team.