Audrey A. Sherman 3M Co

Audrey A. Sherman [Photo courtesy of 3M Co.]

Audrey A. Sherman received her B.S. in chemistry from Augsburg College. Audrey has over 30 years of experience at 3M in roles working with all aspects of R&D laboratory operations, organic synthesis and condensation polymerizations. She holds 140+ U.S. patents, which earned her the honor of becoming the first woman at the company to hold 100 patents. She has been an internal 3M instructor on pressure-sensitive adhesive courses, including topics on microreplication, silicone and optical. Audrey has experience working on the scale of grams up to tons. Her technical expertise includes acrylate and silicone pressure-sensitive adhesives, release materials and the cross-linking of polymers. She works bringing technologies such as reactive extrusion processing and release liners to large-scale manufacturing polymerization processes.

What first drew you to medtech?
Sherman: I have worked in all kinds of industries from industrial to consumer, and electronics to graphics, but the ability to combine all that experience existed only in medtech. So here I am!

When did you first know you wanted to be in the industry?
When the trend from consumer electronics began to creep into the health-related areas, I knew that I wanted to lean that way.

What are some of the barriers women face in today’s medtech industry, if any?
Sherman: I think that some barriers may exist for women in this field because it is such a combination of traditional industrial and electronics. I do think bringing in the health and wellness and the fact that this area will need so much collaboration across multiple functions. To me, this speaks to women taking more leading roles.

Is there a perception problem that makes women less likely to pursue medtech careers? If so, how can we change that?
Women tend to be well attuned to consumer electronics, and this is so similar- with the health and the human element added in. I think that the ladies should be able to jump into the driver seat! And if they are not taking this role, they should because in the end, so many women can become the next new customers, so lets get the devices doing what we as women need them to do.

Describe your biggest leadership challenge. How did you conquer it or resolve it, or what was the outcome?
Sherman: My biggest leadership challenge was when I first moved from team member to team leader. A team of 8 men and myself. Another leader told me to make a stand and delegate more work to the team, including taking the minutes. He suggested I not even bring any devices to take minutes and simply ask if others would do so. They did just what was asked, and I have never stopped asking and delegating since. The delegation felt just like leaving my baby with the first babysitter, and of course it all worked out once I got over that fear of letting go.

Talk about your leadership skills. What is the most important lesson you have learned that has guided you in your career?
Sherman: By far the best skill has been communication and the big part of that is listening and asking questions so we all get onto the same page. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are not at the same starting place you will never be able to move in the same direction. And then of course … keep checking in and asking where you can help. Not a helicopter mom, just a helpful one.

In your opinion, what more can be done to promote greater participation of young women in the medtech industry today?
Sherman: I think that the more and more this industry seeks to solve life issues for women, in a true non-invasive way, women should see where and how they are needed to make this a reality and can step in to do so. If you want something that can work for women, you will need women to design it.

What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Sherman: Learn about communication and persuasion earlier.

Why is it important for companies to be more inclusive and have more women in charge?
Sherman: When the women are viewed as leaders, they will be in a wonderful position to encourage diversity and inclusion. This helps the company be seen as putting the views into action. Seeing is believing.