When Barry Thomas chose to major in information technology and marketing at Griffith University more than 15 years ago, his choice of majors was seen as an odd match.
But this combination of skills helped shape this business powerhouse into the innovator and leader he is today, in the process changing the future of the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.
Today Barry is Vice President of Cook Incorporated and Director of Cook Medical Asia Pacific, a global medical device manufacturer.
His passion for Australian innovation and manufacturing sees him continually exploring ways to improve the overall industry by doing what he can to create a better outlook for the future.
“I believe that our future global competitiveness requires Australia to produce cutting edge products and services to the markets of the world,” says Barry. “Commodities are short term and cyclical at best.”
Barry graduated from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Commerce (IT & Marketing) in 2003. This followed many years of balancing study, family and a career as Regional Business Director at Johnson & Johnson, a role that required regular travel.
“At the time I undertook my studies, information technology was being introduced more and more and it was blossoming throughout businesses and industries,” he says.
“My passion for IT coupled with the growth in that area gave me the opportunity to major in IT and marketing.
“At the time, people couldn’t understand my choice. Now they think I was insightful.”
Barry left Johnson & Johnson in 2001 when an opportunity arose at Cook Medical. He’s been with the company for 15 years and, under his leadership, Cook Medical products have gained rapid acceptance throughout Asia. This includes first-to-market status in Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea with an endovascular graft for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms.
“My role entails being fully responsible for all operations of the company within the legal requirements, and in accordance with the authority delegated by the President of Cook Group Incorporated,” he says.
“What I enjoy most within this role is developing people and business needs for the Asia-Pacific region. Having the opportunity to develop a regional business from the ground up was really exciting, including setting up warehouses and offices and providing employment for more than 800 people from many nationalities.”
His passion also saw him spearhead a recommendation to the Australian Government about an Australian Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Incentive. The AIM Incentive is a viable solution to retaining Australia’s talent for innovation and advancing manufacturing on-shore by providing tax incentives for commercialisation of innovation in Australia.
With the help of industry leaders, this policy recommendation has been presented to key government stakeholders as a solution for the future of manufacturing and innovation in Australia.
“To be a competitive country we need to become innovative in our business practices and incentivise successes,” says Barry.
“We need to provide growth in our businesses for our future success and encourage companies to develop ideas here in Australia instead of looking at overseas markets.”
And his advice to future business leaders:
“Never be afraid of change or challenge; it is the path to success. When opportunities present themselves, give them genuine consideration, and if it is what you want and where you want to be, go for it.”