With over 20 years of international commercial and marketing experience in the life sciences and medical devices sectors, Jon McMillan is an expert in bridging American and Taiwanese business as well as across the Asia Pacific region. As general manager for multinational women’s health company Hologic North Asia, McMillan uses his extensive knowledge to establish and manage international distribution partnerships, create business plans for product and service launches, and build strategies to maximize emerging market opportunities.
TOPICS Senior Editor Julia Bergström met with McMillan at the Ghost Island Media recording studio in late June to discuss trends and challenges in women’s health, stakeholder engagement, and the art of retaining talent. An abridged version of their conversation follows. To listen to the extended podcast version, visit topics.amcham.com.tw/listen.
What attracted you to the healthcare industry and Hologic specifically?
I began my career in a completely different field coming out of college and spending three years in Taiwan and Singapore prior to returning to Boston where I grew up. Luck was on my side when I got introduced to the healthcare biotechnology community over 20 years ago. Over time, my journey has led me through various life sciences companies and medical device technology companies to where I am today, focusing on women’s health.
Being part of Hologic is a real privilege. What drew me to this company is the rare combination it offers – Hologic is a mature multinational company with cutting-edge technology that spans various areas of women’s health in areas such as breast and cervical cancer, but it’s still in a relatively early growth stage. I was the first person to join our Taiwan team, and now we’re a team of six and have expanded into Hong Kong and Korea.
Interestingly, the company’s headquarters is just down the street from where I grew up, which adds a special layer to my connection to Hologic, especially now that I’m here in Taiwan.
You have extensive experience with launching new services and products in the Asia-Pacific region. Are there any approaches that you found particularly useful for introducing new products to the market?
Introducing new products and technology to this region has been one of the most exciting aspects of my career. Many of these products and technologies, although that’s changing somewhat now, tend to originate from corporate headquarters – often in Europe or the United States – and then make their way into the Asia Pacific region. What I find crucial for organizational success is the art of localization – adapting solutions to fit the nuances of the Asia Pacific markets.
Considering the breadth of the Asia Pacific markets, medical technology, healthcare systems, and healthcare needs can vary greatly. That’s where the crux lies – harnessing market insights and integrating them with the technological prowess that our company brings to the table. We need to make sure that we are not only offering innovative solutions but also aligning them with the diverse needs of the region, healthcare professionals, governments, and patients.
An important aspect of our focus revolves around education and awareness. We’re not necessarily altering the core product itself – it’s still a technological solution. But we’re deeply invested in increasing understanding and awareness of the disease and optimal healthcare solutions. We focus heavily on building bridges between our team and the broader medical healthcare community. This venture involves a multifaceted approach, blending strategic partnerships with businesses in different markets with the expansion of our internal team.
One example is mammography screening. Taiwan has done really well expanding breast cancer screening. With nearly 100 mobile buses for screening spread across the island, we have a great setup for collaboration with healthcare professionals, governmental bodies, and medical centers. Our goal is to join forces with partners to enhance awareness and education and encourage more women to undergo screening, especially at earlier stages.
What’s your approach to leading people? How do you work to nurture talent and retain talent?
For me, leadership is all about fostering an environment where team members can authentically be themselves within the framework of the organization. This approach has been a consistent thread, especially during my time back here in Asia over the past decade or so.
Nurturing talent is such an important aspect of success, and it’s particularly relevant to our Asia Pacific team. We’re proud to have exceptional talent here, a fact that has grown increasingly evident over time. In the early stages of my career, Taiwan’s strong talent pool wasn’t as widely acknowledged or developed, but now a large share of our leadership roles is occupied by people from the region.
Team members usually look for assurance in the form of promising career opportunities. They want to know that they can find growth and advancement opportunities right where they are. We’re always looking at how to provide more on-the-job growth opportunities, whether through immersive classroom experiences or external education initiatives.
What future trends and challenges do you anticipate in the realm of women’s health, and how is Hologic preparing to address them?
A significant challenge we’re facing revolves around disease prevention, and this is a concern that extends beyond gender. We need to make sure people go to see the doctor before it’s too late. Hologic has embarked on a journey to better gauge health and promote preventive measures in the last couple of years. One way we do this is through the Global Women’s Health Index, which we first released in 2021 as part of the Gallup World Poll. The survey includes data on preventive care, emotional health, opinions on health and safety, basic needs, and individual health.
This initiative put a spotlight on Taiwan, which secured the top spot globally for the overall health of women. It’s also helped us immensely when we’ve gone out to talk with medical professionals and various stakeholders. But prevention is something that we also need to improve on a global scale. Over the past year, only 12% of women globally underwent screening for cancer, heart, or sexually transmitted infections. That number is too low and something we all need to focus on changing.
As for opportunities, I see a lot of potential when it comes to personalized medicine. One of the hot topics in the past few years is artificial intelligence. We’ve brought a lot more new technology into our portfolio, and we’ll continue to grow that aspect of our business. The idea of bringing healthcare closer to home and making it more accessible also has immense potential. This involves empowering patients, regardless of gender, to carry out pre-testing at home and ensuring data accuracy. By making it easier to be proactive, we can empower people to anticipate and address disease states, advancing a culture of early intervention.
What advice would you give young professionals looking to enter the healthcare space? How important is having medical knowledge to do what you do?
The key, in my opinion, is identifying a passion or interest that genuinely ignites your curiosity professionally. I was fortunate enough to have a career experience that sparked my interest to start with. But my true passion came about when I entered life sciences and felt like I was making a difference for the healthcare community locally, regionally, and globally. Seeing what our products are doing for communities worldwide inspires me every day.
In my field, knowing medical and healthcare terminology is definitely important. But in today’s landscape, you don’t need to have a medical background to work in the field. The increasing use of AI, for example, has opened up a need for people who understand how to write algorithms. We also need engineers, researchers, and people with strong business acumen. There are many ways to enter this industry, but the most important aspect is having a passion for helping people.
You not only work internationally but also have an international family. How do you work to bridge cultures within your home?
We have a U.S. trip coming up, which will be the first time in five years that my son and wife go back. Obviously, technology has played a big factor in keeping in touch with family and accessing American content. At times, I actually feel like my son is more connected to the U.S. than I am.
My wife is Taiwanese and I’m American, which obviously makes language an interesting dynamic in our household. At home, my wife speaks Chinese and I speak English. Three years ago, I also spoke with my son in Chinese, but we decided that I’d stick to English so he could develop those language skills too. I think he’ll see growing up in Taiwan but keeping his connection with the United States as a great experience when he’s older.
What do you like to do to relax and get your mind off business?
I think for many people – myself included – Covid shifted a lot of our priorities. For me, spending more time at home with family and seeing my son grow up has been a blessing. I spend a lot of time with my seven-year-old son. He’s currently taking music classes, and I love taking him to class and seeing him experience something he’s passionate about and is doing well in. Seeing that passion in your child just blows you away with excitement as a parent.
With the weather being so hot, I also really enjoy going to the beach. I’m from an area of the United States with a lot of beaches, so going to the ocean was a big part of my childhood. Being able to do that here in Taiwan, too, is something I really appreciate.