Any company that operates in the medical and scientific field would have faced a particular set of challenges in 2020. Rather than a drop in business, demand soared, but logistical issues surrounding health and safety complicated otherwise routine processes.
For Ritianne Schembri, Technical Service & Projects Department Manager at Evolve – which provides custom-made medical and scientific solutions ranging from new lab supplies to specialist equipment – managing the demands and expectations of clients while shouldering the responsibility of her team’s delicate work was far from easy, but her years of experience at Evolve coupled with her leadership skills proved valuable during a time of crisis.
Ritianne’s experience with the company goes back to 2013, when she met Director Chris Busuttil, who she attended the same Bachelor’s Degree with at University. “We had talked about an offer for consultation related to ISO 9001 certification. Following this, I was briefed about the different processes of this relatively small enterprise and was curious about how it operates.”
What began as an external consultant role changed three years later when, in 2016, Ritianne joined Evolve as Division Manager of Technical Service, leading a team of technicians that are specifically trained and employed for the aftersales service. In 2019, she was promoted to Division Manager of Technical Service & Projects Department, where the management of turnkey projects related to the scientific field, such as medical cannabis, was added to her role.
What attracted her to Evolve in the first place? “The fact that, while offering a variety of professional services and products in the major medical and scientific fields, the company still provides the required aftersales service for its vast portfolio,” says Ritianne. “This entails having field service engineers who are knowledgeable about a wide variety of equipment and techniques in both fields to assist demanding customers. In fact, our personnel consistently rank very well among their foreign peers when attending training.”
Ritianne adds that, as a working mother, Evolve’s flexible and family-friendly measures were a plus to her, while the company’s customer-driven approach was one she respected – “the drive to always address a problem by putting yourself in the shoes of the customer, who always comes first even if financially it hurts our bottom line. I have personally witnessed many such decisions.”
Among the many milestones along her journey at Evolve, Ritianne says that “being accepted as a manager to a team of 8 male technicians, consolidating the team and turning the department from a cost centre to a profit centre are definitely some of them.”
Within her managerial role – apart from the non-stop phone calls, emails and people knocking on her office door every five minutes – Ritianne explains that she oversees a group of field service engineers who provide their customers with hands-on support. “Decision making comes with a lot of responsibility, especially since we are catering for the aftersales service of equipment that can save lives, or in one way or another, affect the life of a person.”
Another aspect of her role is to manage turnkey projects related to the medical cannabis sector. “This entails managing the process from the very first design draft, all the way to the official opening of the facility. It is a great satisfaction to see a development go from zero to completion, while making it the right place for the industrial investor.”
Among her career highlights so far, Ritianne singles out a visit to Ghana last year, where Evolve will eventually be installing the first EU GMP laboratory, as well as the installation of an oncology lab at one of the company’s potential customers. As for challenges, she says “to meet the expectations of customers, especially in terms of response time, has its challenges. We have resources, but sometimes problems crop up all at one go. Also, I would say being a female service manager – a job that is usually occupied by men.”
Over the past year, the importance of good leadership while guiding a team through uncertainty has never been so pronounced. Ritianne admits that working throughout the pandemic was and still is a challenge, particularly for the service department.
“Our job is to visit and service equipment at the customer site, so unfortunately, the option to work remotely was very limited. Our customers did not stop, and we had to be there with them giving them our full support. One particular challenge was that technicians had to adapt to a new shift pattern overnight in order to meet requirements of one customer. As a leader, I ensured that all the team is well aware of the protective measures they needed to take in their everyday job – and also what measures are to be expected from the customer.”
She adds that some of the technicians are also front-liners, providing 24/7 support to the hospital on various medical equipment. “Regular internal and external communication, including with leading virologists, helped to keep us going and informed.”
A positive consequence of Covid-19 has been Evolve’s investment in an Augmented Reality system, “which we are very excited to be launching soon on the market. This will mostly help our engineers get direct, real-time feedback from our peers, and in turn for our experts to help our partners in remote parts of the world for our International projects.”
Ritianne concludes that her support throughout all the challenges of 2020 remained constant, including being there with her team in the field. “Teamwork kept us strong and we all did what was necessary in order to ensure that our mission of contributing to improving the wellbeing of humanity is maintained, even during this difficult period.”
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