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Transformation instead of change

How INTEGRA employees determine their own careers

At the pipette manufacturer in Zizers in Graubünden, people are not only employed, but encouraged to develop individually and chart their own career path. Find out how a former landscape architect customises his job and now co-develops pipetting devices. And learn how a biologist at INTEGRA was able to integrate her diverse talents into her job profile.

A landscape architect from New Jersey selling pipettes from Zizers

It is a story like out of a Hollywood movie: Tom Bentivegna from New Jersey fell in love with a Swiss woman 17 years ago and has been living his Swiss Dream in Zizers, Graubünden, ever since. “The United States is beautiful, but life here is simply too good. I mean, here I have a Maiensäss!” the 43-year-old enthuses in perfect Swiss German, referring to his Alpine hut. But his story is more like the American Dream: he studied landscape architecture and business administration in New Jersey. But when he came here, he noticed that the Swiss were not so keen on fancy garden sculptures and ended up working as a greenkeeper at the golf course in Bad Ragaz. “The golf course also has a nice lawn, but I did not really have to think creatively about it.” An MBA at the University of Applied Sciences Graubünden and “150 applications later”, Tom, who describes himself as a “super career changer”, found his home at INTEGRA. “I did not apply for a specific job description. I simply knew that I wanted to do something international.”

Dream big, know how to get shit done, have fun!

From one day to the next, Tom, the new liquid handling expert, travelled the world selling electronic pipettes to distributors from Scandinavia to South Africa. Later, Tom set up his own team of salespeople in Switzerland. Today he is Senior Product Manager and responsible for the further and new development of innovative pipetting solutions. At INTEGRA, employees determine their own career paths – after all, who is the same person they were five years ago? Tom nods and adds: “Ultimately, we want to work together to advance science. The necessary amount of flexibility gives employees the freedom to reinvent themselves on the way to a solution.” The strategy seems to be working: the company keeps growing and growing. “We were only 50 people here seven years ago. Now, there are 165.” But a large number of people with big dreams need space, which is why the main building is currently being enlarged to triple in size. Accordingly, there is still plenty of room for budding tinkerers and inventors. Tom sums up the DNA they look for in new employees with a smile: “Dream big, know how to get shit done, have fun!”

A biologist reinventing herself four times

In addition to their purposeful work, the employees especially appreciate the working atmosphere, or the “positive vibes”, as Tom likes to say. At INTEGRA, individual potential is a priority, and tasks are assigned according to talent and expertise. Ursula Leuthold, for example, has changed departments four times in her 13 years with the biosciences company. “I am always deployed where my talents can be put to best use.” At first, the trained immunologist wrote operating instructions. It is still an exciting job today, says Ursula, because she gets to know every new product down to the last detail. “Everything was made possible for me, and that was at a time when things like working from home and flexible working hours were still foreign concepts”, says Ursula. In 2006, as a new mother of three, she applied for a part-time job at 30 per cent. She later increased that to 60 per cent.

 

Three in one: marketing specialist, product manager, sustainability officer

The researcher was drawn to the marketing department, where she presented the products on various online platforms, created AdWords ads and evaluated leads. Afterwards, she advised international salespeople as a product manager for laboratory equipment. “Our customers are from the field of biology. We speak the same language.” Everything changed yet again three years ago. The topic of waste recycling was discussed at a biochemistry conference. An issue that is very close to Ursula’s heart. So much so, in fact, that she was appointed Sustainability Officer by the Executive Board at the beginning of last year. “For 35 years, I have devoted my heart and soul to the environment, both privately and politically”, says Ursula. “The fact that I now get to do this for a living is simply wonderful.”

 

A green mindset for a green future

Pipette tips produce a lot of waste. What can be done about that? “A lot”, explains the Sustainability Officer. “We have developed packaging for our pipette tips that, on the one hand, holds four times more tips and, on the other, drastically reduces plastic waste. Our refill inserts likewise use very little plastic.” But that’s not enough. The activist is currently working on a recycling alliance with other pipette manufacturers to make the disposal of materials more environmentally friendly. On the side, she records the entire carbon footprint of the company together with the ETH start-up MyClimate. Not an easy task at all, because in addition to compiling data from the two main locations in Zizers, Switzerland, and Hudson, New Hampshire, USA, as well as the five other sales locations worldwide, the difficulty lies in not missing even the smallest detail. “If a device contains 300 components, I have to specify the material of each individual part so that the CO2 emissions can be recorded. Add to that all the shipping of our products and our business travel.”

A sustainably infectious commitment

Ursula gets to shape her own goals and projects. “I always think about what matters most to the world at the moment. In the long term, these are the climate crisis, plastic waste in the oceans and the preservation of biodiversity.” No wonder the passionate researcher is also committed to a green mindset in new construction. “Besides rough pastures for the bees, I would like to put greenery on the roof. Not only does it look good, but it creates a cooler indoor climate underneath and retains rainwater.” Her commitment is infectious: INTEGRA employees live an average of 21 kilometres away from Zizers. They now commute to work in an environmentally friendly manner by bicycle, electric car, public transport or on foot for 40 per cent of the distance.

 

When Ursula does need a change of scenery, she turns to her first job: operating instructions. Because she still enjoys writing them.

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