Erik Ramp, senior director and general manager of Edwards Lifesciences Taiwan, leverages his diverse professional experience to accelerate patient access to critical care and cardiovascular medical devices. His influential leadership style, curious mindset, and problem-solving abilities have helped him overcome adversity and lead teams to success in the U.S., China, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
Ramp connected with TOPICS Senior Editor Julia Bergström at the Ghost Island Media recording studio to discuss his career journey, what playing team sports has taught him about leadership, and his approach to work-life balance. An abridged version of their conversation follows. To listen to the full conversation, visit topics.amcham.com.tw/listen.
What prompted you to enter the medical devices industry?
I stumbled upon the job through my network. I had worked for my first boss at Edwards almost 15 years earlier, and they were looking for someone to help them run an internal consulting function for the company. I was able to create my own rotational program around the company by doing projects in different parts of the business.
As a management consultant, I worked in several industries, including insurance and IT, but I struggled to connect with them since I preferred to work with physical products rather than services or information products.
But at Edwards, I didn’t just show up every day to earn a paycheck – I felt like my work had meaning and I was part of something that truly made a difference. And the more I did it, the more I realized I wanted to be closer to the patients and customers, which is partly what’s kept me with the company for so long.
You have an MBA and a degree in political science, and in college, you captained the men’s basketball team. What has playing team sports taught you about management and working with others?
Sports have had a massive influence on my life and leadership style. Firstly, I played for a really bad team, so the first thing I learned is how to manage through hard times and continue motivating a team when things aren’t going well.
Another thing I learned from team sports is that putting together a team of only A-players, the best people, won’t result in the best performance. You need a blend of highly motivated top performers but also people who are excited about playing the role and want to do better.
Because I was an athlete, I also got into a great school. But academically, I shouldn’t have been there and because of that, I had to work harder just to keep up. I was able to do that, but it helped me develop humility, and I never felt like I needed to be the smartest person in the room after that.
A lot of leaders do feel the need to be smarter than others and easily become hamstrung by the need to be right. Many managers also think they need to be the central decision-maker, which just slows things down at the top. An organization is an inherently organic, imperfect thing, and it’s my job to maximize outcomes by allowing others to do what they do best.
What’s your general approach to management and leadership? Is there a particular philosophy that you follow?
When it comes to leadership, I strongly believe in the power of influence over positional power. I avoid using my authority as a boss to drive the organization and instead work to build strong relationships and motivate my team through a shared vision and access to the right resources. To achieve this, I focus on recruiting top talent and trusting them to get things done while holding everyone accountable for their responsibilities.
At Edwards we have a strong relationship-based culture, which makes it even more important to lead by example and inspire others to do their best. As a GM, I’m responsible for nothing but accountable for everything – whenever someone has a problem, it’s also my problem. So I focus on motivating and leading my team and making sure I’m available when they need me.
Edwards was voted one of the best places to work in Taiwan in 2022. How does Edwards Lifesciences nurture and retain talent?
We focus on creating employee opportunities by driving and expanding the business. We also create strategic projects for people to take on, which will help them build their resumes. Experiential learning has always been the most effective method of learning for me, which is why I try to create opportunities that provide our employees with new experiences.
The Taiwan healthcare market is a microcosm of larger markets. We have a blend of a direct and indirect model, high-quality physicians, a single-payer system, and a robust national health insurance system. Our Taiwan team is also an excellent cultural fit for Edwards – they live and breathe our company values. People who come up through our organization in Taiwan are great to move to Singapore, Australia, and other markets in APAC, but we need to ensure that their English language skills are up to par.
Helping patients gives our employees a sense of purpose, so we spend a lot of time building connections between our employees and patient impact. Another critical aspect of our culture is recognizing people for their contributions. We also encourage open communication, and our employees are not shy about speaking up about things that need to be improved.
How do you work with government to improve healthcare access? What challenges and opportunities do you see for the medical devices industry in Taiwan?
The AmCham White Paper and the Chamber’s collaboration with the National Development Council is a great way for us to communicate with the government, and the level of discourse facilitated is impressive. But there are still some challenges that need to be addressed.
One of the topics we focus on is speeding up patient access to medical devices, which currently takes three to five years, not including convincing corporate to bring a product to Taiwan. And that timeline sometimes doesn’t even include the device reimbursement, which is the part that’s the most expensive for patients. The second part is ensuring product prices are reasonable once they’re included in the national health insurance system.
In the longer term, healthcare globally and in Taiwan faces two opposing forces at work. One is aging demographics, and the other one is budgetary pressure. By 2025, more than 20% of Taiwan’s population will be 65 or older, increasing the burden on the healthcare system. Taiwanese people also go to the doctor 14 times a year on average, which is almost twice the average in many other countries.
Although Taiwan’s healthcare system provides universal coverage at an affordable price, it spends only 6.7% of its GDP on healthcare, which is much lower than OECD countries like Korea and Australia. There is movement toward increasing funding for the system, but long-term reconciliation of these challenges will be necessary.
As a general manager and the father of three children, how do you manage work-life balance? What ground rules have you set for yourself?
I make an effort to prioritize spending time with my kids in the evenings. This means I have to set strict boundaries around my working hours, even though I’m not always successful. I also believe it’s important to set a good example for the rest of the team – putting in endless hours isn’t necessary to achieve desired outcomes. It’s important to prioritize work-life balance and make time for activities that support your mental health. It can be challenging, but finding ways to balance your personal and professional lives will help you in the long term.
What advice would you like to give young professionals looking for a successful career in your industry?
You need to be curious about what the company does and be willing to put the time in to learn. As I moved into different roles around the business, I always made sure to find ways to learn about our products and get closer to our customers by spending time in hospitals.
If you are willing to work a lot harder than others to get into the hospitals and explore different aspects of the company, it will help you in your career. That’s the approach I’ve taken throughout my career, and I believe that anybody who’s willing can do that, too.
What do you like to do in your spare time to relax and recharge?
I do Pilates – as I’ve gotten older, working out has become less about how I look and more about stopping things from hurting. It’s also great for my mental health and takes my mind off work. If I haven’t exercised in three days, something’s wrong.
But my highest priority is spending time with my kids. My ideal day off is waking up a bit late, going to a cafe and studying Chinese for a couple of hours, exercising, and spending the rest of the day with my family.