Twenty years ago, Tristan Moss was wrapping up a professional football career, wondering what his next step would be. Where would he work? How would he support his future family? Could he discover the same level of passion for a corporate job that he did as an athlete? An opportunity at Stryker presented itself at the right time, and Tristan started his journey at Stryker as an Associate Product Manager. Working his way up through different divisions and departments, today, Tristan is the Senior Director of Sales for Stryker’s Flex Financial division.
We had the opportunity to sit down and interview Tristan to learn more about his career path, lessons he’s learned along the way, and advice he’d offer fellow professionals.
1. Be a leader without the title
Tristan jokes that when he started at Stryker, he was a “nontraditional marketing associate”. After college, he’d played football for seven years prior to starting his corporate career. When he joined Stryker, he was surrounded by other really talented individuals starting their careers and he felt an expectation to assume somewhat of a leadership role, partially because of the age difference. He took it to heart and learned to be a leader without having an official leadership position.
As a natural relator, Tristan was able to connect with his peers and influence the process by building relationships. Reflecting on his early leadership experiences he said,
“I would rather have people respond to me because they respect me, and we’ve got a relationship, than because they report to me on an org chart.”
2. Focus on others
One of the early lessons Tristan learned was the value of focusing on others and letting them shine. “I remember thinking, I’ve got to establish myself. I’ve gotta prove what I can do in my current role, but at the same time, I’m looking out for others. I’m being unselfish. I’m not trying to take credit for certain things. Instead, it’s like a team win. This was just part of my natural way of thinking.” Tristan’s collaborative attitude was noticed by leadership, and as his career progressed from marketing associate to selling in the field, this mindset set him up for success. He was approached to take on a leadership opportunity and soon recognized that being a people leader was an unrealized aspiration of his. “Once they put leadership on my radar as a possibility for me, I told myself it wasn’t about me anymore, it was about what I can do for this organization.”
3. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
In addition to Tristan’s regular, full-time job, he recently served as Stryker’s African Ancestry Network (SAAN) National President. After learning about employee resource groups (ERG), Tristan knew he wanted to get involved. He went from not knowing where to start to helping to build an ERG with local chapters across the United States.
“Back in 2015-16, I attended Stryker’s DE&I conference in Kalamazoo, there was a speaker talking about a big scary bear, and that big scary bear that no one wanted to talk about was race and racism in the workplace. I took it as a challenge, it was a challenge to talk about this uncomfortable topic. I looked at myself and thought in the time I’ve been at Stryker I’ve been able to be successful, but many of my colleagues have come and gone – and that’s not right. I wanted to know what I could do, how I could give back, and maybe help people who look like me navigate Stryker. Looking back, I’m so grateful for this, my career, the relationships, and for all the people who’ve advocated for me. Being involved with SAAN allows me to help my peers find a network and build relationships so they can have a healthy career as well.”
By taking on projects you’re passionate about, you gain additional experiences and help build the type of company culture you want to be part of.
4. If you don’t know, ask…and be willing to listen
Coming into Stryker without a medical or sales background, Tristan could have approached his job with a “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude. Instead, he asked questions. Lots of them. “I was in basically an entry-level job. I was a product manager at the time. I barely knew what I was doing. I barely knew operations. I had no idea what the folks in manufacturing were doing, but I would go and meet with them. I’d ask questions. Those people could have easily told me to go away, that I didn’t know what I was talking about, but there was a common respect that was earned from my desire to learn. They’d offer to help me or explain how things worked. It was really empowering to learn from these people and have them help me with my job because we’d connected on a personal level.”
5. Allow yourself to slow down and find balance
In addition to being a Sr. Sales Director and the SAAN National President, Tristan’s married with three kids and still finds time to coach his son’s football team. One good thing that came out of the COVID pandemic was being forced to slow down and really evaluate how time is spent. “Before the pandemic, in my head, I would always say, yeah family first, but in reality, I wasn’t practicing it. I’d plan to drive my daughter to practice, but if someone called me and asked me to go to a meeting in LA, I’d be like cool – what time? I realized that wasn’t putting my family first. I’m still a work in progress. It was a bit of a wake-up call. Now, I make sure to carve out time. I put everything on my calendar. On vacation, that’s going to be family time, I’m focusing on being here now. I’m being present.” Shifting his mindset to focusing more on his personal life with his wife and kids hasn’t negatively impacted his career progression but has allowed him to find more balance.
From playing in the NFL to ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, Tristan has had some pretty awesome professional experiences. We’re lucky to have him at Stryker.