BY JANET MANDELSTAM
“All roads have led to this position for me,” says Nicky James, vice president of human resources and talent development for Cook Medical and its parent company, Cook Group. After 20 years with the Bloomington-based company, James now oversees all human resource functions for Cook and its 12,500 employees worldwide.
Part of her job is “making sure we have the right people in leadership and the right people around them,” she says. “Cook is a place where everybody has an understanding of what we do. We say to all employees, whatever their job, ‘We make life-saving devices for patients and this is your part in that.’”
James, 51, grew up in Kent in southeastern England and trained as a nurse in London. It was while working as a nurse in the United Kingdom that she first encountered, and was impressed by, Cook representatives. “They were great reps who partnered with us,” she remembers. “They had a lot of science and evidence and great solutions and were part of our team.”
When Cook was expanding in 1998, James joined the company as a sales representative for urology. She held a number of positions in Europe, including regional manager of urology for Northern Europe.
James moved to the United States in 2006. Prior to her current position, she served as a global product manager and national sales manager. The transition to the U.S. was both easy and welcome. “I grew up on American TV and had a fascination with things American,” she says. “I loved the way of life here and wanted to immerse myself in everything American.”
That included her wedding. When James married Hoosier Duane Birnbaum this summer in England, she says friends and family couldn’t understand why it was scheduled on a Wednesday. “It’s because we wanted it to be American,” she says of her July Fourth wedding. The couple now lives in Zionsville, Indiana.
At home, James says, she enjoys cooking, gardening, learning about wine, and spending time outdoors. At work she’s focused on issues such as diversity and retention.
“Diversity is included in everything we do,” she says. “I’m passionate about supporting other women. There is more to do for women in leadership roles and for minorities in all aspects of the company. We want to be an employer of choice. We want to make sure the organization has a pipeline of talented people who want to make a career at Cook, and we want to support them in their journey through life?”
As for her own journey, James says: “I expect to retire here.”