Johnson & Johnson Executive Tells UVA Darden Students to Think Big

25 September 2015

By Dave Hendrick

Students interested in a varied, dynamic and rewarding career should not overlook the opportunities available at a big company.

While startups and smaller organizations have reputations for being nimble and fast-moving, a large enterprise can offer an environment of support and training conducive to a long and successful career, according to Andrew Ekdahl, the chief program management officer at Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies.

Ekdahl, speaking to University of Virginia Darden School of Business students as part of the Leadership Speaker Series, said his more than 25 years in orthopedics has taken him across the world and afforded him multiple leadership roles with DePuy Synthes, a Johnson & Johnson Company.

“For me, the benefit is that about every two to three years I get a new opportunity and a new role,” said Ekdahl. “With every new role comes an opportunity to learn, develop new skills and build my career.”

Ekdahl began his career in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as a sales representative for Johnson & Johnson Medical Products selling orthopedic implants.

The Johnson & Johnson executive said that first job taught him much about relationships and persuasion, as much of his work involved building relationships with surgeons and educating them about new products.

Ekdahl progressed through a variety of roles in larger markets in the U.S. and Europe before becoming the president of Johnson & Johnson subsidiary DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc., which is headquartered in Warsaw, Indiana.

“Being the president of DePuy Orthopaedics taught me about the influence leadership can have on the culture of an organization,” Ekdahl said. “Culture has a huge impact on the performance of a team. It’s something not to be neglected. The right culture, combined with strong leadership and meaningful innovation, are essential keys to running a successful business.”

Ekdahl, who is roughly a month into the position as chief program management officer of Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies, told Darden students to place a premium on gaining varied experiences in their formative years.

“In the future, your career is going to be about your experiences, not about a ladder,” Ekdahl said. “Create your brand and your value proposition based on your experiences.”

The Johnson & Johnson executive credited working in a large company for affording him the opportunity to build on his experience without sacrificing opportunity or variation, and emphasized the importance of leadership.

Said Ekdahl: “Leadership opportunities are everywhere, but they require time, dedication and energy. They’re worth the investment. Take advantage of the opportunities.”


About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Sophie Zunz
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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia