Industrial engineering alumna Kathleen Taylor '87 is vice president of global manufacturing for Johnson & Johnson (Americas). She has held numerous leadership roles with J&J, including vice president of product management, responsible for E2E Product Value Stream Management for the Vision Surgical products. She has also lead the J&J Operating Systems team, where she spearheaded the deployment of operating and improvement standards and tools across the Johnson & Johnson Enterprise Supply Chain organization. Taylor is a member of the Rossin College Dean's Advisory Council.

How might society benefit from more women in engineering?

The benefit of having more women in engineering has so many layers of value. I regularly experience the benefits of diversity on teams that are working together to solve problems. The perspective women bring to the field of engineering opens up new possibilities in innovation and problem-solving. I've always held the belief that the teams I work with need to be made up of diverse backgrounds and capabilities. Without women in engineering, we are constraining the potential of the way we see the world and develop solutions for our future.

As a woman studying engineering at Lehigh, what did you learn about how to thrive in environments in which men typically are the majority? What did that experience teach you about yourself and what it takes to succeed?

I have always been very comfortable socializing and working in environments that were typically male. (My first job was as a Little League umpire.) When I attended Lehigh, men were absolutely the majority in engineering and at the university overall. I learned, over the years, that I have a voice and an opinion that is valuable, but, more importantly, that voice carries more weight when I take the time to learn from others and listen. While at Lehigh, I learned to work in team environments and identify how I could contribute to the success of a team. Early in my career, I learned that spending time on the manufacturing floor and listening to employees gave me insights into opportunities for improvement.

What is one thing you learned at Lehigh that you’ve tapped repeatedly on your career trajectory?

I have a stock answer that is always a good story: On the morning of my graduation, I learned to whistle (a really loud whistle that will quiet a room). I have used that skill a thousand times over in team meetings, town halls, coaching my kids, you name it!

Seriously, though, I learned that you don’t always succeed the first time around and that self pity and regret do not help you succeed. When I started at Lehigh, I had honestly not faced many academic or social challenges. Lehigh forced me out of my comfort zone and exposed me to new challenges academically and socially. Like many students, I made mistakes and faced obstacles. I learned a lot from those years and came out of Lehigh as a much stronger and independent person. For every step up in my career, I can point to an event that did not go the way I had planned. What has helped me be successful is the way that I have learned to handle those challenges, learn from them, and then move forward.

What do you want engineering students to know that you wish you’d known when you were at Lehigh?

Take time to really soak in where you are right now. It is a singularly unique time in your life where you have the chance to learn in an unconstrained environment. I've had the great honor to work with the Rossin College and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering over the past 10 years in different advisory roles. The opportunities that are available to you at Lehigh—both academically and socially—are incredible. The approach to interdisciplinary learning as well as the social opportunities at Lehigh are experiences that will shape your life, so experience them as deeply as you can.

More about Kathleen Taylor

Taylor joined Johnson & Johnson in 1987 as a production supervisor with Ethicon Inc. in Somerville, New Jersey. She held positions of increasing responsibilities including engineering, packaging, and manufacturing unit manager roles across the United States and subsequently becoming plant manager in 2000 for the Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, site for Ethicon Endo-Surgery. Over the course of her career she has also held roles in ERP system deployment and global strategy. She also lead Obtech Medical in Switzerland and was the vice president responsible for chemical API manufacturing globally for Janssen Pharmaceutical Supply Group of J&J.

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This Q&A is part of Resolve Magazine's Soaring Together series.