hero header image The CEO Mum | Annette Brüls | CEO of Medela



Annette Brüls | The CEO Mum

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⭐ Introduction

Welcome to another episode of Career Diaries by Elemed, the podcast dedicated to discussing careers in the MedTech industry!

In this episode, we have a compelling conversation about the intersection of career and motherhood with Annette Brüls, the CEO of Medela, a company dedicated to empowering the lives of women. Annette shares her personal journey, the challenges she faced, and the lessons learned as a CEO and a mother.

The Balancing Act: CEO and Mom

Annette discusses her transition from leading the diabetes services and solutions business for Medtronic to becoming the CEO of Medela. She emphasises the unique appeal of a Swiss family-owned company, highlighting the long-term perspective and meaningful purpose that attracted her to the role.

Medela, renowned for its breastfeeding products, is more than meets the eye. Annette provides a glimpse into the company’s diverse portfolio, extending beyond breastfeeding solutions to medical vacuum applications in cardiothoracic, liposuction, and wound therapy. As a family-owned company based in Switzerland, Medela’s mission revolves around turning science into care and nurturing health for generations.

Annette opens up about her personal journey as a mother of two boys while navigating a successful career. She addresses the common question of balancing career aspirations with family planning, emphasising the importance of not waiting for the “perfect time” and instead embracing the journey as it comes.

Transitioning Back to Work: Challenges and Triumphs

The discussion shifts to the challenges faced when returning to work after maternity leave. Annette shares her experiences, acknowledging the initial struggles and the need to adapt to unexpected circumstances. She emphasises the importance of letting go of perfectionism and seeking support to make the transition smoother.

Annette sheds light on the initiatives at Medela aimed at supporting working mothers. The company’s implementation of 16 weeks of parental leave reflects a commitment to employee well-being. Furthermore, Medela offers support programs and services, extending its expertise to other corporations to ensure a successful return to work for new mothers.

Joining Philips was another risk Steve took – he said the company was the “Mount Everest of compliance risk” because of its complex history. He tries to see risks more as opportunities to advance his skills, rather than something potentially damaging to his career trajectory and development.

Practical Tips for CEOs and HR Heads

For CEOs and HR heads contemplating strategies to facilitate the transition back to work for mothers, Annette provides practical tips. She highlights the significance of providing not only maternity leave but also robust support systems, including breastfeeding facilities, mental health support, and personalised assistance tailored to each mother’s needs. Recognising the diverse needs of mothers and fostering an open conversation about preferences are vital steps toward creating an inclusive workplace.

For mothers looking to pursue their careers, Annette highlights the need for increased awareness among managers. She notes a tendency for managers to become overly cautious, inadvertently excluding new moms from opportunities. An open conversation addressing individual preferences, travel capabilities, and work hours is crucial to prevent unintentional exclusion.

Steve encourages people to break free of the mindset of analysis paralysis and fully embrace risks wholeheartedly, as this is crucial for authentic change transformation to take place. He points out that such a shift in approach can potentially result in inventive resolutions to enduring challenges.

Perfectionism and the Confidence Gap

Annette addresses the common challenges women face, including perfectionism and a confidence gap. She advises women to recognise when perfectionism is unnecessary, urging them to focus on the “how” rather than the “what.” Additionally, she emphasises the role of leaders in boosting the confidence of female talents, encouraging them to take on challenges even if they don’t meet 100% of the criteria

Changing Leadership Styles with Motherhood

Reflecting on her personal journey, Annette notes that while motherhood has added perspective to her life, her leadership style remains consistent. She defines her leadership style as “purple,” emphasising the importance of people, unity, driving results, passion, continuous learning, and leading by example. Motherhood, she suggests, has prompted her to be more intentional about sacrifices and the balance between work and family life.

Breaking Gender Stereotypes in Leadership

Discussing the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles, Annette acknowledges the confidence gap and stereotypes that persist. She calls for a conscious effort to promote diversity and inclusion, urging leaders to actively support and mentor female talents. Celebrating female role models who successfully balance motherhood and leadership is crucial to challenging traditional stereotypes.

Advice for Younger Selves and Future Leaders

Reflecting on her journey, Annette advises younger professionals to embrace opportunities, be open to learning, and not overthink career paths. She emphasises the importance of flexibility, taking risks, and being authentic. Additionally, she encourages self-awareness, advising individuals to recognise signs of tension and stress, and take breaks when needed.

Annette expresses her passion for contributing to the medical device sector, aiming to leave a legacy of improved lives through her work. With a focus on the number of families positively impacted by her company’s products, she emphasises the pride she feels in contributing to the well-being of millions of people.

Steve’s career journey is strongly correlated with risk-taking, taking him to his current position as the “Chief Patient Safety and Quality Officer”.

But if you don’t take any risks at all, you could be missing out on some great opportunities that could catapult your career to amazing new heights.

If you want to hear more about Steve’s story and his thoughts on risk-taking, make sure to download and listen to the latest episode of Career Diaries by Elemed!


Annette’s journey as a CEO and mother exemplifies the possibility of achieving a harmonious balance between career and motherhood. Her insights underscore the importance of corporate policies that prioritise the well-being of working mothers, recognising their valuable contributions to both the workplace and society.

If you want to hear more about Annette’s story and his thoughts on risk-taking, make sure to download and listen to the latest episode of Career Diaries by Elemed!

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