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Susan Morrison: Tandem culture built upon “leadership by example”

When Susan Morrison left for her honeymoon to Italy in the fall of 2007, she didn’t anticipate returning to America with a new job. However, while she was celebrating one life-changing event in Bel Paese — the beautiful country — she received a phone call from the States that would ultimately shift her career trajectory and change her life in another way.

On the other end of that call was Kim Blickenstaff — the former CEO at Susan’s previous company calling to gauge her interest about joining a new diabetes care company.

“I asked him what I’d be doing and his response was, ‘Everything,’” she said. “It sounded like an amazing adventure with people I admire and respect, which is evidenced by the fact that I answered his call on my honeymoon, and it turned out to be an opportunity of a lifetime."

It was, and Susan joined the company that would become Tandem Diabetes Care in 2007 as employee No. 5. True to Kim’s statement, Susan's role pretty much touched everything in those early days. Her official title at the time was Director of Corporate Services. That meant HR, finance, helping to raise capital, conduct market research, corporate infrastructure, and “other duties as assigned.”

So yeah, everything.

For nearly 15 years Susan has witnessed the progression of Tandem, its mission to improve the lives of people living with diabetes, and she’s helped shape the ever-evolving culture.

“There was always a hunger about our culture and a drive within the people here that we were going to succeed,” Susan said. “We always knew this company was going to be successful because of that attitude and the belief in our mission.”

Today she serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer.

As the longest-tenured woman at Tandem, Susan brings insight and perspective to the brand that few can match — particularly when it comes to making sure Tandem is providing a positive work environment for its employees.

We’ve always stayed true to saying people first. We’ve always been a very mission-driven organization. We ask. We learn. We try not to presume that we know best for our customers. But instead, really trying to create solutions. I’ve loved how that underlies who we are.

Originally from Michigan, Susan comes from a lineage of nurses that spans three generations —including her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. Even though she opted not to go that route, she still finds a beautiful symmetry to her career arc because she’s still helping people.

“I considered nursing and then ultimately decided I was going to pursue public relations,” she said. “It’s kind of fun to see how history mirrored up anyway and I’m able to be connected to health care. I always had an interest in helping others. Genetics are crazy that way.”

Susan has very much helped fashion the DNA of Tandem. Along with creating a positively different experience for people with diabetes, she has championed many of the initiatives that has made Tandem one of the top places to work in San Diego and Boise, Idaho.

“There’s always been an appreciation of authenticity,” she explained. “I always want people to be themselves inside of work — the same person inside of work as they are outside of work. Tandem has always had a casual culture. But I think the casual part of that is that authenticity.”

That authenticity shines through the various diversity, equity, and inclusivity initiatives at Tandem. Yet, it's also important to reflect on where the company has been and where it is going. National Women’s History Month is a reminder to not only celebrate the year-round contributions of women in and out of Tandem, but to also be introspective and grow.

“We’re always evolving and part of that is within leadership and within the organization being self-reflective,” Susan said. “How do we continue to grow as a business in a way that we would want for younger people to look up to us as mentors? We've done the classical trainings. But I think that nothing beats leadership by example.”

Tandem also pairs with multiple organizations that help to educate and promote women in STEM fields.

“Part of an industry-wide shift is you can see the encouragement of women at a younger age to explore STEM fields and, as a result, the number of people who are interested has just dramatically increased,” Susan explained. “I’m so proud of our ability to continue to evolve in a direction that supports the diabetes community, supports good business practices, and also continues to ask: How do we as a company continue to grow in a positive direction?”

Thanks for all you do, Susan, to help champion our mission of improving the lives of people with diabetes.

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