As we celebrate Ultradent’s 40th Anniversary throughout the coming year, we also celebrate the people that work here and the rich stories they have to tell about the company, how it’s grown, and the role they’ve played in its history. Today we talk to three longtime Ultradent employees, Fabio Fowler, Phyllis Thibodeau, and Pauline La Combe. Read their stories about working at Ultradent Products, Inc.
Marketing Manager- Latin America and Canada
16 Years at Ultradent
If you count the five years that I worked as a distributor before I came to work for Ultradent full-time, I’ve worked for or with this company for more than half of my life. In fact, I began working for Ultradent midway through my studies as a dental student in Brazil. After graduating from dental school, I came to work for Ultradent full-time, and in 2002, moved to Utah to work at the corporate headquarters for four years before being transferred to our subsidiary in Italy, where I spent five years before returning to help manage our plant in Brazil after that.
Fabio celebrating the 4th of July at Dirk’s home in Utah, 2002
What stands out the most to me in my experiences over the years is the personal investment that Ultradent puts into their employees to help them grow. When I moved to Utah, I had only been to two countries in my entire life. Dirk Jeffs, who is now Ultradent’s president, helped me with my visa and all of my paperwork, enrolled me in Spanish classes to prepare me for my new job managing our Latin America accounts and picked me up at the airport when I first landed in Salt Lake City. He even went as far as co-signing on my first car and helping me find my first apartment in the United States! He was truly my mentor in every sense of the word. He bought me management and leadership books, he signed me up for business classes, he helped me move—packing up boxes and my mattress on his truck and taking the them to my new house, and he encouraged me to obtain my MBA degree, which I did at his alma mater at BYU. He really changed the way I work, taught me a great deal about organization, and encouraged my growth as a person and in this business.
Fabio Fowler, Dirk Jeffs, and Dr. Fischer in Brasilia, Brazil, 2012
I remember once in a lecture he said, “You can’t be the chicken, you have to be the pig.” What he meant by that was that you can’t just lay an egg and consider it done. You have to truly give of yourself, like bacon from a pig, to be successful. He has certainly been a perfect example of that. He sacrificed many things to help me find success, and that has inspired in me a desire to continue that legacy by mentoring others and giving of myself and my time to pay it forward.
International Customer Service Team Leader
28 Years at Ultradent
When I walked through Ultradent’s doors 28 years ago, before we were in our large headquarters, it was just a little office next door to Dr. Fischer’s dental practice. I distinctly remember how nice everyone was. I never could have imagined the experiences I would have over the years that would make lasting impressions on me.
I was here in the days when we would carry our products from the airplane to the dental trade show booth all on our own. For a typical show, we would have as many as 20 large boxes to get from the airport to the convention center!
I remember the days of handwriting each of our orders. In fact, whenever I interviewed a new employee, I always asked them how they liked writing, because we sure did a lot of it. Finally, when the stacks of orders and invoices started to pile up in one office, then the next, then the entire building, we knew it was time to switch to a computer system. I even remember thinking, “Wow, how will it be to enter an order into a computer?”
Phyllis hiking delicate arch with her husband. She is an avid hiking and fitness enthusiast.
Ultradent has allowed me the tremendous opportunity to grow as a leader. I remember instilling in others what I learned from Dr. Fischer, which was that people can aim higher than they think they can accomplish, and that “good enough” isn’t good enough! I love empowering them and watching them grow, just as I loved learning these principles.
Last, and perhaps most importantly, I am grateful for the opportunities and trust Dr. Fischer has given me over the years, and how he’s embraced me like I’m family. He has certainly made a tremendous impact on where my life is today. In fact, when I first started at Ultradent, I always said I never wanted to marry or have kids. I remember Dr. Fischer telling me how great families are and how it’s the most important thing in life to raise kids and watch them grow. So, when I told him I was getting married and then when I was pregnant with my son, Joshua, he was so excited. I respect Dr. Fischer for taking a personal interest in me both personally and professionally over the years. I cherish my time here at Ultradent for those and many other reasons. I’m so grateful that Dirk Jeffs asked me to come over to International Sales Department. This is the department I was meant to be in! Thank you, Dirk, and Dr. Fischer. I hope to have many more years here at Ultradent!
Senior Territory Account Manager
20 Years at Ultradent
Throughout my 20-year career at Ultradent Products I’ve worked as a Territory Account Manager in three different regions in the United States. I worked in Ohio, Oregon, and am currently working in Rhode Island. I’ve been lucky that Ultradent has offered me these new areas where I was moving.
In my long career with Ultradent Products, it’s so difficult to choose just one story as a favorite. There is one memorable trip that will always stand out with me for a lifetime, an experience I had one year as I earned a trip to France for President’s Club.
Pauline LaCombe on her trip to France with a relative in 2008
Yes, France is wonderful place to visit, as are so many of the places the company selects for its President’s Club winners. This trip to France was in 2008, and if I never had worked for Ultradent and earned this trip to France, I would have never had the opportunity to go back to my roots where the LaCombe family originated.
This trip had to be one of the most memorable and moving experiences of my life, all made possible by Ultradent. My family left Sauveterre-de-Guyenne, France to emigrate to Canada in the 1600s. As an extension of my President’s Club trip, I was able to travel there and connect with family that took me all around that region to explore my ancestors’ past. It was magical!
When we walked into the town hall I told the man working there my last name. He knew of my family and our history. He looked at me as if I were a celebrity! Then, we went to the old church in town where my ancestors were baptized and married. It was incredible and very moving to be in that church.
While I was there we also visited Chateau LaCombe in the Bordeaux region that had been in my family. The gentleman that runs it today looked at me and said, “Your family owned this property hundreds of years ago and it’s a true honor to meet you.”
I have never felt so connected with my family’s past, and family is what Ultradent is all about. It was a full-circle moment for me.