Innovation Matters
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May 01, 2017

An unexpected executive career at Philips

Estimated reading time: 3-5 minutes

Six years ago Sean Carney thought Philips was ‘an old technology company.’ 

So when he was approached to start a new executive role at Philips, he wasn’t convinced. Then something changed.


California sunshine, early morning walks on the beach and working for a leading technology company — life was pretty good for Sean Carney, and certainly hard to pass all that up to come and work in the windy and often wet Netherlands. It was clear that Sean was going to take some convincing, and that’s when Frans van Houten, Philips’ CEO, stepped in. At that time, Frans was incoming CEO, but he felt so strongly about the opportunity for Sean that he decided to take some time on a Sunday morning to explain what an executive career at Philips really meant.


“The fact that the CEO would take the time to meet me convinced me that he was very serious about hiring the right person for this role,” Sean says.

Sean meets Frans

Sean spent three hours with Frans learning about his vision to transform Philips into a health tech company. “Frans understood the strategic role that design could play in helping transform Philips going forwards,” he continued. “That was compelling to me, so I decided to take the leap and join Philips.”


Sean has previously worked for a number of big corporations in the past, so this was not his first time at the rodeo. But this time it was different.


“I’m in a really fortunate position that I get to work across a complete portfolio,” he says. 

I can’t imagine any other job in the world where I would get that opportunity to work across a range so wide and diverse.

developing solutions

His dynamic executive career at Philips expanded from developing solutions for hospitals and healthcare providers to consulting on improving patient experiences and working in the space of consumers’ homes to develop highly desirable products.


Sean thinks the key thing about working at Philips is that your role will never be about making what he calls ‘blue sky concepts.’


“It’s about making a difference to everyday life for a variety of different people,” he says. “We’re working globally to make a real difference to society. There is a lot of social responsibility.”


Sean finds it inspiring that at Philips, it’s about more than just selling products. In his executive career at Philips as Chief Design Officer, he can influence the way teams work. Sean is able to change how design is viewed within the organization and ensure that creativity is embedded within the end to end processes, from how customers are engaged to Philips’ approach to consulting.

One of the key differences I’ve seen here is the openness to listen to people. It doesn’t matter where you sit in the organization, people here have a voice. It’s rewarding.

Sean finds the ability to empower people to be one of the most rewarding parts about an executive career at Philips.


“This isn’t a top-down company. At Philips you use your executive role to enable people to achieve their goals and get them working with you. It’s about being empathic and having a vision,” he concludes.


Sean is constantly participating in keynote speeches at various conferences and helping develop meaningful technology. He looks forward to how his executive career at Philips will grow.

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Innovation matters team

Innovation Matters delivers news, opinions and features about healthcare, and is focused on the professionals who work within the industry, as well as Philips as a cutting-edge health technology organization.

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