Carolin Archibald, president of Medela's McHenry-based North American division.

Know Your Neighbors: Carolin Archibald

Learn about the extraordinary people who live and work in our region. Paul Anthony Arco introduced you to mom, customer and breast pump manufacturing company president Carolin Archibald.

Carolin Archibald, president of Medela’s McHenry-based North American division.

First Mom. Then customer. Now, company president.Born and raised in the New York/New Jersey area, Carolin Archibald was a new mother using the products of Medela, an international supplier of breast pumps, when she noticed an employment opportunity.

Medela is the only manufacturer to develop breastfeeding products based on research conducted by lactation experts. It serves customers in more than 90 countries, and supplies about 80 percent of U.S. hospitals with its breast pumps. Medela is involved in promoting the practice of breastfeeding, and assists with research and women’s advocacy worldwide.

Archibald, who received a master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School, started at Medela in 2002, first as vice president of marketing, and then as vice president of the company’s retail business. In July 2011, she was named president of Medela’s U.S. division, headquartered in McHenry.

Northwest Quarterly sat down with Archibald to learn more about her family, interests and career.

How did you come to work for Medela?
After graduating from business school, I gave birth to my first child. I was using Medela’s products when I came across a job opening with the company. I immediately jumped on the opportunity. I had no idea where the company was, and I had no intention of moving from Boston to the Chicago area. But I discovered that, in many ways, this was my dream job. It was in my expertise of marketing, and it was a company I could relate to on a personal level.

How was the adjustment moving to the Midwest?
It was a difficult decision to make, but there were so many great things about this opportunity. I heard so many wonderful things about raising a family in the Midwest. I’m an adventurist. My son was young enough, and we were open to trying something different. It was certainly difficult to be away from the mountains and ocean in the Northeast, but it’s great being here. I love it here, and my two children, son Logan, 13, and daughter Lindsey, 9, are very busy with all of their activities. I love to spend time outdoors with nature, whether it’s hiking, or cross-country or downhill skiing. It’s what refuels me.

Tell us about your experience in donating to a breast milk bank.
In light of everything I’ve done, donating to a milk bank remains one of my proudest accomplishments. I breastfed my daughter for two years before I decided to donate my milk. Logistically, it was a challenge to remain committed. It’s difficult for a woman, especially a working woman who travels. It takes a lot of planning, scheduling and juggling of time. When you go through all of that, the thought of throwing away any milk that might not be used is difficult to accept. I went through the effort to find a milk bank and discovered that there was more supply than demand at the time. They were willing to take local donors, but not always out-of-state donors. I even offered to pay for the FedEx shipment and dry ice, hoping they would take my breast milk. After being rejected from several milk banks because I was an out-of-state donor, I was finally accepted at the milk bank in Austin, Texas. I was so thrilled.

Is breastfeeding right for every mother?
If a mother decides she doesn’t want to breastfeed, it’s not our place – or my place – to say a mother’s choice is a bad choice. I respect every person’s decision and choice. Mothers don’t need any more scrutiny. It’s about providing factual information to help support mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend that a baby should be exclusively on breast milk for six months. But whether it’s one month or 12 months, whatever a mother can do is great.

What has been the biggest influence in your life?
My upbringing has been one of the greatest influences on my life. My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic, and to always put my best foot forward in whatever I do. My parents were born in China, and during the Communist Revolution they escaped to Taiwan. My father came to the U.S. for graduate school and to create a life here. I appreciate the life my parents paved for me and my brother. All the things we complain about today pale in comparison to what they went through.

What community activities are you and Medela involved in?
I’ve joined the McHenry County Economic Council board of directors. For several years, Medela has taken part in McHenry County Chamber of Commerce activities, and we’re a longtime sponsor of the March of Dimes walk/run. It’s very important to give back. It’s a critical responsibility and obligation of any corporation.

What might people be surprised to learn about you?
As a young adult, I never aspired to have a career. I thought I would be home, raising my children. I always knew I would do something meaningful with my life, whether it was raising my kids or volunteering. I always found myself in situations where opportunities were put in front of me, instead of me chasing a longtime goal. Part of it is luck, being in the right place at the right time. Whatever I did, I gave it my all. Little did I know I would have such meaning in my career, working for a great company and a great cause.