Demonstrating the Value of Communication

Baxter senior product manager Jessica Tam talked with MBP students about understanding audiences and knowing what type of content they need to hear.

Jessica Tam

Jessica Tam's role as senior product manager at Baxter International Inc. gives her the opportunity to market new technology produced by the global medtech company.  

How she describes the significance and impact of the products greatly depends on who she's addressing.  

For one audience, she could describe the Starling Fluid Management Monitoring System as "the latest advancements in hemodynamic monitoring, providing easy-to-use, non-invasive technology that helps delivers accurate and precise data that takes the guesswork out of fluid assessment.”  

For a different audience, she could simply say it helps ensure patients don’t get too much or too little fluid.  

Knowing when to use each explanation is key to Tam’s work.  

“Communication is one of the things that’s most important in my job,” Tam told students at Biotech Nexus, an event hosted by Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP) in 2022. “It’s hugely important.”   

Tam did not attend MBP, but she admitted she was impressed by the program's emphasis on communication. 

MBP requires all students to take a critical thinking and communication course that teaches them about argumentation, scientific data analysis, and writing. The goal is to provide students with a competitive advantage as they pursue jobs after graduation.  

Tam said those skills are advantageous. In her role, she needs to be able to communicate with an array of audiences. 

“I can talk to the technical folks, that’s one thing in marketing that people don’t always have,” Tam said. “I’m not a clinician, I don’t have a clinical background, but I still need to be able to speak the same language as the clinical folks.”  

Tam explained that the challenges for her go beyond deciding to provide technical or non-technical explanations. She spends a large chunk of time talking with Baxter’s customers – nurses, clinicians, and sometimes even patients – about their pain points and unmet needs. One day those conversations could be with people in the United States and the next with others halfway around the world.  

“I work not only across different functions but across different countries and geographies,” she said. “Different things have different meanings in different countries, so it’s not even just technical vs non-technical people, but it’s different cultures and languages.”  

That ability to shift her communication style is what she thinks has helped set her apart in her career. In learning about the MBP curriculum, she believes students can develop the same differentiating skill set.  

“You’re almost speaking different languages,” Tam said. “The key is your ability to translate your ideas to different stakeholders.”  

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