Alumni Spotlight: Joel Chechik, ’01

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 8:00:00 PM

Joel Chechik, ’01, earned his M.B.A. at an average cruising altitude of 30,000 feet.

“I couldn’t study at home,” said Chechik, noting his daughters were ages 4 and 1 when he enrolled in Stritch’s M.B.A. program near his home in the Twin Cities. “I traveled half the time, so I did my coursework in the air.”


Chechik appreciated the Stritch program not only for the flexibility that enabled him to continue working full time, maintain an active travel schedule, and spend time with his young family, but also for helping him fulfill his goal of personally challenging himself and giving him an outlet to keep learning.

Today, the lessons from his M.B.A. program continue to resonate in his work as vice president of sales and national accounts for surgical urology and gynecology for the U.S. division of Coloplast, a Danish global medical device company that specializes in “intimate healthcare,” which involves creating products and services for ostomy care, urology, continence care, and wound and skin care.

As vice president of sales, Chechik is charged with overseeing the Coloplast surgical urology and gynecology sales lines in North America, which includes supervising 80 representatives in the field and 11 regional managers. He speaks glowingly of the work of his team and believes in entrusting his managers with high expectations and full responsibility for the goals and outcomes of their territories.

“The managers know their business, almost like a franchise,” Chechik said. “And one of the mantras that I try to keep in mind is that franchise mentality, that ownership mentality. Granted we are a large corporation here. …Yet I try to bring it down to territory level for each of our territory managers. There is no one else that we charge with delivering that revenue other than them. They have a business; and these managers have a one-million to two-million-dollar business that they deliver upon. It’s on their shoulders.”

When Chechik moved to Minneapolis soon after earning his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, he found himself in the midst of the second-biggest medical device community in the country with more than 300 such companies in the area. He initially felt drawn to the medical device industry when he found it satisfied his deep-seated interest in product development and commercialization launch of products.

“I started working at Medtronic early on,” Chechik said. “It was an early taste of (the industry) and, I’ve continued in a medical device career through this moment.”

Chechik started at Coloplast in 2006, first as the global director for men’s health, then working as senior director of marketing for surgical urology before taking on his current role as vice president of sales. He said the challenges of working in such a specialized field involve keeping up with ongoing developments and learning medical terminology. 

“It’s great to be learning 20 years later,” Chechik said. “I don’t think I was really comfortable with medical device development and the terminology and the entire breadth of the business for probably four to six years after entering this field because there was so much ongoing education and product evolution during that time. It’s constant. …I thought it was invigorating, never really knowing everything about a specific market or everything about a particular therapy.”

The nonstop learning fits well with Chechik’s belief in lifelong continuing education.

“That’s what I’ve tried to stress with both my kids,” Chechik said. “You’ve got to follow education, continue to follow goals, and set a bar for yourself to always be learning. And whether it means going back to school or taking various coursework along the way, just something outside of the office where you’re challenging yourself mentally. It’s a great thing to do throughout life.”

When he came to Stritch in the late 1990s, Chechik followed his own advice.

“I had a goal to keep on learning, and I felt there was tremendous value in having an M.B.A.,” he said of his decision to enroll in a graduate program. “I also had a personal challenge that no one else in my family had an advanced degree and I thought that would be great to step it up a little bit, to raise the bar.”

Like many adult students, Chechik said he appreciated flexible scheduling and learning from instructors who were full-time practitioners in their field. But he also mentioned that the duration of the classes, each lasting around six to eight weeks, gave him an ongoing sense of satisfaction during the experience.

“It kept that momentum going and allows a student to feel a real sense of accomplishment, unlike a 12- or 14-week course when you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel as easily,” Chechik said.

He added that the program’s format and demands fit well with his life’s priorities and challenges at that time.

“For adult learning you have to realize how much is going on in someone’s life,” Chechik said. “As I was going through the M.B.A., I had two kids under five at home; I was traveling a ton; and I had made a job change. You know there’s a lot of different things going on in a young family, and school’s going to come maybe fourth or fifth on the list? So you’ve got to respect that, and I felt the Stritch program did. I felt it was beneficial as well as challenging and that’s what I was looking for personally.”

Outside of work, Chechik prefers to spend time with his wife and (now) teen daughters, often enjoying the outdoor spaces and recreational opportunities in Minneapolis. He savors his family time even though he still travels 30-50% of any given week. When possible, he plays a lot of tennis and is passionate about cooking, wine and biking. 

“I really enjoy biking. One of the greatest things a person can do is to bike into work. I think it’s a great way to release tension and stress and not be on the phone or in traffic. You kind of let yourself go. I think it can be a powerful tool to become more productive at the office or to unwind on the way home. It helps me be a little bit more focused on the family and home life once I arrive there versus being stressed out from a long phone call while sitting in traffic.”

Chechik said his overall goal is to find fulfillment in both his work and personal life.

“I’m doing everything I can to balance two wonderful high school daughters and 95 wonderful employees,” Chechik said. “I try to do everything with a bit of a sense of humor and yet I expect everyone to be working as hard as I do. …We’re here to produce and win on a daily basis. And all of the professionals reporting to me I feel have the exact same competitive desire. Once you have that, you know there is a team around you. It’s the same thing in your family. You know that there is a team around you, and everybody is contributing to the same goal.”