For this segment of #MeetTheTeam, I sat down with Michael Zwetkow, Montrium’s Vice President of Professional Services and Alliances to learn more about what makes Michael tick. One of Montrium’s longest-serving team members, Mike has been part of the leadership team at Montrium since its inception. With over 15 years of experience in the life science industry, Mike is not only a leader within our organization—heading up the professional services group—but has also been a true agent of change in the life sciences and is one of the leading forces paving the way for the use of cloud technology in managing regulated GxP content.
To learn more about Michael and his experiences, keep reading.
1. What was the first project you ever worked on for a client?
One of the more notable projects I worked on early in my career was one where I had to move to Ohio.
When I was hired at the first company I worked for out of school, I told them that I wanted to travel. In my mind, I assumed I would be sent off to exotic places, maybe somewhere in France or Spain, but instead I was sent to Cuyahoga Falls, which is just outside of Cleveland, Ohio.
My first project was basically to help a company with issues they had in their manufacturing processes. The FDA came in and found a range of issues, and so we had to help them remediate these issues, and I ended up living there for a year and a half.
So, I did get to travel, however it just wasn’t as exotic as I was hoping for.
2. What do you enjoy most about your job?
I’d say the ability and need to solve very diverse problems and being faced with different challenges all the time. Trying to come up unique solutions for each one means that every day and project are different, making it incredibly interesting. It always keeps you on your toes and you need to keep acquiring knowledge all the time to stay ahead.
3. Stuck on a deserted island, what 3 things would you bring with you?
From a practical standpoint, I’d say a survival book. At this point, I don’t know if I’d know exactly what to do in order to start a fire or catch animals for food.
I’d bring a hammock, to be able to stay off the ground and relax a bit.
And I’d bring a telescope. At night I could keep myself busy looking at the stars and during the day I’d hopefully spot a passing ship.
4. What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
Coffee! I’m not officially awake until I’ve had my first cup of coffee, so it’s usually the first thing I do when I wake up.
5. What is your proudest work achievement?
We’ve put together some guidance documents for Microsoft to help life science companies who want to move towards the cloud establish a strategy to do so. We took the lead and defined that strategy at a time when the life science industry was still very cautious and not leading this trend.
Because life science companies need to make sure everything they do is compliant, we needed to define a new approach on how you can achieve a compliant system when leveraging the cloud. I’m proud that we got out there early on this.
6. What is your proudest non-work related achievement?
I built a floating dock at my country house.
I don’t have that much carpentry skill or knowledge when it comes to building docks. So putting that together and knowing that it’s still there and floating today, is my proudest achievement.
7. What are the traits you most and least admire in yourself?
In a way, it is the same trait, but it can be looked at in different ways.
I’m a bit of a workaholic.
Sometimes it’s a good thing; I’m able to bear down and work nights/weekends, and I don’t even realize it. There’s a certain level of enjoyment, but sometimes you get lost in it.
That when it can be a bad thing. Sometimes you just need to disconnect from work.
8. Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
I guess I’d have to say, my Uncle. He helped to guide me into the life sciences after I finished my degree in engineering. In the early 2000’s, there were a lack of aerospace engineering jobs in Montreal, and he recommended I look at life sciences. He then helped me secure a position.
After a decade and a half, I’m still working in the field, working as a VP, so I’d have to say he was a fairly big influence.
9. In your opinion, why is Montrium different from other organizations you have worked for?
It’s a combination of a few things:
One, it’s the passion people have. We’re a bunch of incredibly intelligent and passionate individuals who are also opinionated; we like debate, discuss and challenge the status quo, but we’re also very respectful of opinions, so it’s an open environment where you can debate and come back after the fact knowing your opinion was considered. Because we encourage debate is one of our strongest aspects as a company.
Second, it’s a diverse company to work for. People come from different educational backgrounds, different industries, and also culturally it’s a very dynamic.
Lastly, we’re also known to work hard and play hard. The soccer tournaments, social gatherings, team lunches, all the extracurricular stuff our staff does is well deserved and has helped build the close-knit team that we have today.
10. What is your favourite quote?
“It comes down to a simple choice: Get busy living or get busy dying.” — Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption
These are the only two options you have. It’s one of the tenets I try to live by.
Another one I respect for its practicality is rooted in the bible:
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
11. When not in the office, what would people find you doing?
If I’m not working, I like to read. I read articles online, I read magazines like The Economist, and I like to learn about technology, so I look at a lot of online publications about technology.
Outside of reading, I like to travel, and if I’m able to take the time off, I like to visit different countries.
12. Are there any magazines, books, blogs, podcasts or publications you couldn't live without?
I like to watch TED Talks and I read The Economist diligently.
Regarding news, I like to look at different points of view: I read the BBC, CNN, The Intercept, I even check out Fox News to get a bit some different perspectives.
In terms of podcasts, I listen to Sam Harris,and something a little more lighthearted I enjoy is the Joe Rogan Experience. I also really enjoyed Serial.
13. Where is your favourite place on earth?
I’d have to say my favorite spot is my country cottage. Even though it’s just an hour and twenty minutes outside the city, you can completely disconnect. It’s on a lake, it has a nice mountain view, and I love the fresh air. It’s a nice place to go to get away from the noises of the city.
14. If we are sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for you and Montrium, what did we achieve together?
Well... we’ve grown the professional service team to a point where we’re established as the leader in the industry when it comes to delivering cloud-based technology and compliance for life science organizations. As well, we’d have built a toolset for managing compliant, cloud-based applications that will power the next phase of cloud use in the industry.
15. What's one thing you wish people knew about what you do?
I like to get technical, and I like to solve problems. Sometimes people don’t know why I’m learning the technical details instead of asking my team to do it for me. I guess this is a result of being a very hands-on leader in our organizations, I like to roll up my sleeves and touch as many facets of the organization as possible, giving me insights that help me understand what the groups are doing.
16. What did you do yesterday? What are you doing today? What will you do tomorrow?
We have a big webinar coming up tied with a whitepaper I’m writing with Microsoft. My life has been pretty tied up writing these and preparing the materials, and I know I need to finish soon (Webinar on December 6th). Again, this is a great opportunity to get out there and shape how people deal with the cloud in life science. So even though I’ve been in Argentina for the past two weeks, I’ve had this on my mind the whole time.