Mission Critical is excited to introduce you to the 2024 Top 25 Women in Technology. Meet Earlene Gibbons.

Title: Associate Vice President, Operational Technology

Company: United Therapeutics

Age: 66

Education: Bachelor’s degree in information technology

Organizational affiliations: Women in Manufacturing, United Therapeutics (founding member); International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering; Project Management Institute

Achievements/awards: United Therapeutics Impact Award, 2009; Soldier of the Year, 66th Military Intelligence Group Detachment Hahn, 1985; Soldier of the Year Runner-Up, 66th Military Intelligence Group, 1985

What made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in technology?  

My first exposure to technology, data, and the power it holds was as an Electronic Warfare Signals Intelligence Analyst and Czech Linguist soldier in the US Army. I was assigned to a joint service, multi-discipline site collecting intelligence data from an airborne platform. While I can’t divulge specific details, the harnessing of the real-time dynamic data for active operations had significant impact resulting in successful outcomes.

Shortly after leaving the military, I was the Executive in Charge of Production for the first of its kind, highly successful, live, interactive, satellite teleconferences featuring business speakers Stephen Covey, Tom Peters, Denis Waitley, Ken Blanchard, and others. These experiences broadened my exposure to technology even further. I was managing and configuring communication links between satellites and multiple worldwide real time uplink and downlink sites.

For the last 25 years, I have focused solely on life sciences technologies. As such, my experience has expanded exponentially to include building automation, manufacturing and quality systems, and other technologies to ensure a continuous supply of high-quality products for our patients.

What inspires you to do what you do?      

Technology is exciting, challenging, and constantly evolving. There is always something new to learn. The challenge of solving technology puzzles gives me great satisfaction.

What role does sustainability play in your life?  

Growing up on a working farm in Kentucky, I learned at an early age the importance of the earth. My father practiced crop rotation to maintain the quality of our fields. We grew many of our vegetables and raised cattle for both dairy and beef.

At UT, I am a key contributor for many of our construction projects. We recently opened UT’s fifth net zero building. This facility on UT’s RTP campus is a net zero energy cGMP warehouse and distribution center. This facility has a microgrid-based electrical system, two Tesla Megapacks, a geothermal system, roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) system, and employs smart building technology. The microgrid-based electrical system presented new and exciting challenges for my organization. As an SME on the project, it was important to understand the complicated requirements and prepare to provide ongoing support. Although the focus seems to be futuristic, it all ties back to being good stewards of the earth.

What is the most fascinating thing you have learned while working in this industry?  

AI is at the top of my list right now. It’s the closest thing to realizing my dream of being able to ‘Google in my head.’

What’s something unique about you personally?

I was a talented musician with dreams of attending Juilliard.

What’s something unique about you professionally?  

Most people do not realize what I actually did in my early career with the military.

What’s your most admirable quality?

I am solution-oriented – always looking for more modern, sustainable solutions to solve complex issues.

Why is diversity, equality, and inclusion important to you?  

DEI is important for all – but is particularly important for women in STEM. Women in STEM career fields often face unique challenges. I believe we have a responsibility to ensure the next generations of women in STEM are better equipped to face the rigorous challenges in a male dominated arena. In 2016 I was a founding member of Women in Manufacturing at UT to further the inclusion, impact, and advancement of women in manufacturing (WIM) to reach their full potential.

What aspect of the industry do you think has the most potential for growth, and, on the other hand, which aspect do you think needs the most improvement?

I believe 3D Printing, machine learning and artificial intelligence have unlimited potential for growth in nearly every industry. It is especially exciting to see the enormous strides we are making in 3D printing organs. Waiting lists for organ transplants can become a thing of the past! As we move forward with cutting edge technologies, we can’t leave the basics behind. Some of the best team members who are superstars in their area of expertise, do not have the basic troubleshooting skills that are still valuable and applicable.

When you imagine the future of the technology industry, what does it look like?

The possibilities are endless. I think about how far technology has progressed since my initial exposure and how rapidly it continues to change. It may not be possible to stay on top of all technological changes, but it sure is fun trying!

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