Sonia Sahney needed a few extra pairs of eyes. She’d just started drafting an introductory slide on GE HealthCare’s highly personalized approach to theranostics, which taps diagnostic tools to identify and monitor an increasing number of cancers. While she was no stranger to the complexities of the technology — she’d been working on molecular imaging (MI) and computed tomography (CT) programs for some time — Sahney worried that she hadn’t distilled the highly technical information in a manner clear enough to be understood by all audiences.
So she ran the slide by an exclusive focus group: her neighbors. As it turns out, a handful of them had related professional experience. For instance, an anesthesiologist could speak from the perspective of a clinician, while a business executive could weigh in on the market-growth piece of the puzzle.
“Any questions they had, I put into the presentation,” Sahney recalls.
Such common-sense ingenuity has been Sahney’s hallmark over the course of a nearly two-decade career at GE HealthCare. However, she’s quick to note that it is rarely as effortless as it looks.
“I try to take complex concepts and break them up for mass consumption, the way somebody on the street would understand them,” Sahney explains. “Nobody sees all the versions that end up on the floor.”
While Sahney studied biomedical engineering at Queen’s University in Canada, conversations with family and friends nudged her toward a different line of work. “They said, ‘You’re too social to be an engineer,’” she recalls with a laugh. A clarifying moment came when she picked up Jack: Straight From the Gut, a memoir by longtime GE leader Jack Welch, during one of her semesters abroad. “It seemed like an interesting vision of where to go,” she adds. Sahney promptly applied to the famed GE commercial leadership program and was admitted.
The problem? She had already accepted a supply-chain role at a Canadian company that she describes as “a Home Depot-like environment.” The lure of the GE program proved too powerful: “It was in healthcare — well, there’s my engineering degree showing some use — and GE was considered a leadership factory, churning out CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. I typically keep my commitments, but this was one I needed to break.”
On her first day in the leadership program, Sahney was surprised to learn that her training would commence in the world of sales. “My boss said, ‘You can’t market to a customer you don’t know — you need to go to sales first.’ But the only thing I pictured in my mind was [Married… With Children’s] Al Bundy,” she says. The role quickly proved a good match and Sahney embraced everything that came with it: “There’s no better way to know you’re doing a good job than when somebody writes you a $2 million check.”
She hasn’t looked back, ascending into roles of greater responsibility every three or four years. Her rise within the MI and CT teams has coincided with the growth of theranostics itself.
“Thyroid cancer was the OG of theranostics,” she explains. “But prostate cancer is when it started to be a big deal.”
That’s why you can expect to hear from GE HealthCare early and often during September, which is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Sahney is especially bullish about Tiny Signs of Hope, a six-part video series focused on a theranostics center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “It shows the patient side of what theranostics is all about,” she says.
Meanwhile, as she nears the end of her second decade at GE HealthCare, Sahney can see two potential professional paths ahead. The first is an even more all-encompassing marketing role; the second is a subtle shift toward an operations-type position.
“I’ve been in commercial roles for 17 years. Maybe something a little more operational would be interesting, to get my head around that side of the business and position me for a bigger role in the future,” she says.
Sahney flatly dismisses the suggestion of doing it anywhere else. “I see myself being at GE HealthCare as long as they’ll have me,” she continues. “When I started and somebody would tell me they were a lifer, I would think, ‘Oh, these people are so boring.’ But I like it here.”
Chief marketing officer, molecular imaging and computed tomography (CT)
July 2017-Oct. 2020
Global marketing director
Aug. 2014-July 2017
Global product marketing manager, premium CT
Jan. 2011-Aug. 2014
CT product manager, Canada
Other positions at GE HealthCare