To gain respect and loyalty, you need to give respect and appreciation. It can be easy to forget to express your gratitude for the hard work and commitment of your staff and team. Regular reminders lead to happy and successful team members.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women in STEM and Tech,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Debbie Pacyna.
Debbie Pacyna is the Director of Operations at QDx Pathology Services located in Cranford, New Jersey. She has been with the company for 14 years and has served in many capacities, including in the billing and accounting departments and as an outside consultant via her own successful consulting business. Debbie Pacyna currently resides in Brick, New Jersey. She has two sons and three grandchildren, who she enjoys every chance she gets.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Early in my career, I worked as a Controller for an automotive marketplace. After a short break to care for my children, I returned to the workforce only this time as a Staff Accountant at a pediatric group. Through good luck and hard work, I quickly worked my way up to a Controller and then to Director of Operations.
I really enjoyed my work in the medical field, so when the pediatric group began to fracture, I found my way into the urology field. Eventually, I met Dr. Qureshi, the Founder and Medical Director of QDx Pathology. After being called in as a consultant for QDx via my own business, I finally joined the organization full-time 14 years ago.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
In the very beginning, when I had been with QDx for less than a year, the organization was split so that the technical component was on the first floor and run by an outside company, while the professional component was on the second floor and run by myself and Dr. Qureshi.
About one year later, the owner of the technical laboratory decided to shut down the company and lay off all the employees, which would have effectively shut down all of QDx. Unfortunately, this happened while Dr. Qureshi was out of the country! Working in completely different time zones, he and I purchased the technical laboratory and hired and on-boarded all the staff in just under two weeks. It was chaos, but it laid the foundation for our successful company today!
Can you share a story about a funny moment you had due to change in modern medicine? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I worked in urology, Viagra was very popular at the time. One day, a 90-year-old patient with severe Parkinson’s came in to get a prescription for Viagra. As we helped him leave the building, I assisted him with putting his winter jacket back on, but he had no interest in the jacket — he just wanted to make sure he had the Viagra in hand!
This story was amusing at the time, but it reminds me now of the power of medicine. Even people who are severely debilitated by their conditions can keep on living a quality of life thanks to modern science, and that is very amazing. That memory really reminds me what I do It makes me really appreciate my field.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
The quality and extremely high level of service that QDx provides makes the company really stand out from our competitors. Many of our staff members have been with the company since its inception, which really speaks for itself. We pride ourselves on decades-old relationships with physicians and our nearly 99% retention rate for clients.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, we are! We are very fortunate to continue growing over the years, including last year. We experienced so much growth in 2020 that we are currently operating out of three separate facilities. In the next several months, we are moving into a magnificent, 36,000-square-foot building in a fantastic area of New Jersey. I am so excited for our employees to enjoy our beautiful new office that will equip them with the space and technology they need to do their jobs well! This move really exemplifies our growth over the past several years.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
Honestly, I am satisfied! Women still don’t represent the majority of employees in the STEM fields, but we’re getting close. Even though it used to be a man’s game, that’s no longer the case.
At QDx, three of our pathologists and most of our staff and technicians are female. Many members of our COVID-19 team are young, capable and energetic women. I am so proud to be surrounded by so many strong females in the field!
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
I really don’t see many issues that affect my male and female colleagues differently. The female population has worked very hard to get where we are today. The strong, intelligent female doctors and scientists I interact with daily have worked very hard for their achievements, and I often see these women demand the respect they deserve.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?
Honestly, a big myth is that women are highly underrepresented in all of STEM. That’s not necessarily true in all fields! At QDx, we value all our employees, regardless of identifying gender.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience as a Woman in STEM or Tech” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- To gain respect and loyalty, you need to give respect and appreciation. It can be easy to forget to express your gratitude for the hard work and commitment of your staff and team. Regular reminders lead to happy and successful team members.
- Invest in training your team. Provide team members with a toolbox filled with what they need to be successful. Also, learn to know and understand your staff. This will help you identify their strengths, weaknesses, capabilities and challenges. Training and supporting these unique qualities will lead to employees accomplishing their goals, which makes everyone successful.
- Share your passion. Sharing your love for what you do with your team motivates and inspires everyone to embrace and share in that passion. It’s contagious!
- Be transparent. Let your team know who you are and how you work. Honesty paired with understanding really goes a long way.
- Support and empowerment are two essential elements in producing a successful team. Making team members accountable for their responsibilities empowers their strengths and strengthens their weaknesses. There is no “I” in team, so we have to learn to work with others successfully. I must admit this has been a continued effort on my part, but I’m always trying to grow and get better.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Respect and appreciation are fundamental. Your employees’ successes are your successes, and the same goes for your employees’ weaknesses. As a leader, you need to make sure you provide your team with the proper tools and support to succeed.
What advice would you give to other women leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Encouragement and support are crucial for effective leadership. A fantastic training program helps set expectations and provides employees with a toolbox for future success. Even highly educated and capable employees need to learn the ins and outs of their new company.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
In the last 14 years of my career, Dr. Qureshi has been a tremendous mentor to me, both in and out of the lab. He has provided me with an amazing toolbox that led me to where I am today and has taught me a lot about how I want to live my life.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have a real passion for charity, especially when it comes to supporting children’s foundations. Early in my career, I helped initiate a charitable giving initiative on QDx’s behalf to the Jardine Academy, an incredible school for children with cerebral palsy. Since then, I continue to support the amazing administrators, staff members and students that work and attend the school.
Quilting is one of my passions, and I organize a large group of ladies every year (affectionately called the QDx Quilting Queens!) to create new pillows and pillowcases for each student at the school as well as extras for the PT rooms. These pillows are often used to help the children in wheelchairs remain upright and more comfortable as they move around.
I have such fun giving back to the Jardine Academy, and the school has also enriched my life! I am a better person for knowing the amazing team that is behind this academy.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I love to quilt in my spare time, while I have had the good fortune to have met many quilters from all over the country, who I can honestly say are very kind, generous and caring individuals! However, their passion for quilting can border on a compulsion to purchase fabric at any time, whether they need it or not. Many committed quilters have closets or even rooms full of material.
I would like to start a non-profit organization that would partner and inspire quilt shops throughout the country to donate 1.00 dollar from each quilter’s purchase to be donated to children’s hospitals, cancer centers, research hospitals and more. Imagine supporting advancing cures, means of prevention, research and treatment for children fighting illnesses while fueling a passion. I hope to make this happen in the near future!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Never say never, anything is possible if you give it a try!
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Not really! I’m very happy with the amazing people that surround me in my life, but if I had to choose, I suppose I’d enjoy a long breakfast with Richard Gere ☺