Being an Engineer

S2E26 Getting To Know Your Vendors & Being Hands On | Mark Adams

June 11, 2021 Mark Adams Season 2 Episode 26
Being an Engineer
S2E26 Getting To Know Your Vendors & Being Hands On | Mark Adams
Show Notes Transcript

Mark began his career as a machinist and counts that role as one of the most important experiences he has had in becoming an engineer. Likely in no small part due to that time of his life, Mark as an empathy & appreciation for the machinists and the builders of our engineering world that is taken for granted by so many of us. Listen to this episode to hear our conversation about the value of getting to know your vendors, as well as many other gold nuggets relating to developing critical engineering skills.

The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical & other device engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at www.teampipeline.us.  

Aaron Moncur:

The being an engineer podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people, resources and opportunities. Enjoy the show. We're so focused on the part of the of the product that's going to save the human life. But what if the nurse can't read the label because it's a low light environment. So, especially when you're first starting to do these things, it's really important to recreate that environment. Hello, and welcome to another episode of The being an engineer podcast. Our guest today is Mark Adams, who holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Northeastern University, and an MBA from the University of Utah. Mark has held roles from engineer to director of engineering to owner and currently holds the title of senior manager of r&d at Stryker neurovascular. Mark, welcome to the show. Thanks, Aaron. Thanks for having me. Well, how did you decide to become an engineer?

Mark Adams:

It's a great question. I think I was destined to be an engineer for a long time and didn't realise it. My dad was in medical devices, which, you know, I'm sure we'll get into a little bit later. That's the field that I'm in right now. He was in that field. Pretty much ever since I can remember he wasn't an engineer, he was on the, on the fire planner on the purchasing side. But he used to bring me around to machine shops on the weekends when he was picking up parts and things like that. And I just, I just really found it really interesting. And that led me towards a career in engineering,

Aaron Moncur:

that you said that your path to becoming an engineer was unconventional? Can you talk a little bit about that? Sure. Yeah, I just I mentioned my dad and

Mark Adams:

taking me around in machine shops in a originally that was my passion. And to be honest, I didn't come from, you know, a family of much wealth or anything like that. And in I didn't come from, I think I was the first in my family to go to college. So college wasn't initially on my radar. So I went to a vocational high school, and then started my machining career, actually, while I was, I believe, a sophomore in high school. But a few years out of high school, I think I quickly realised that I wanted to take my career even further. And, you know, depending on what type of machining you do, and things at least back in those days, you were standing on your feet all day long, and, you know, lifting big heavy parts and things. So luckily, at still young enough age, before I had a family and I could go back to school, and went back to school and northeastern, mostly through their, their part time engineering programme.

Aaron Moncur:

How was that? I mean, working and then going to school full time, was that pretty challenging, or not too bad?

Mark Adams:

You know, it was challenging. And if I had to do it right now, you know, with a family, it would probably be more challenging, but you know, back then is, you know, still relatively young person, you know, without family obligations, just made it work. Yeah. Now, you were a machinist for some time. Has, how useful has that experience been to you as an engineer? I, you know, I don't even know if I would have gotten through college without that background. I really, yeah, I just the ability to read drawings. And there's a lot of things, you know, everybody has a different college experience. But there were a lot of things that weren't taught in college, at least in my engineering programme. But I was able to hit the ground running, you know, I didn't need to learn fractions. And I didn't need to learn what tolerances were or how to read a drawing. And, you know, so a lot of the technical aspects of it, a lot of the lab work, I felt like it really had a leg up on a lot of the other students. I took a drafting class in high school, and it was one of my favourite classes that I took in high school for years. And I really believe that I think I'm pretty good at visualising things in 3d. It's seeing things without having to see them seeing in my mind's eye, so to speak. And I really believe that that class prepared me and helped me quite a bit in terms of being able to visualise geometry in 3d. I talked with I don't know just people, you know, here and there. And, and when we get into conversations that requires some, some mind's eye visualisation, it always surprises me when people can't do that. And I think it's because that, you know, I had this training starting way back at that drafting class, and it's really something that can be developed, it's it's a skill that can't be developed on something that you necessarily just have or don't have. Yeah, and I will say, I think it's actually even maybe more learnable now than ever, because you know, now with things like SolidWorks, and 3d printing, you know, if your mind doesn't work in those spatial boundaries, maybe the way that your mind and my mind were, it's pretty quick and easy now to draw something up in SolidWorks, or print it out and see, you know, the relationships of part size and how they might fit together and things. So yeah.

Aaron Moncur:

Well, you your current role is as senior manager of r&d, and I'd like to talk a little bit about r&d. First of all, what is on your checklist for starting a new r&d project? You know, what is that? Whether it's a mental checklist or more of a formal checklist that you go through as an engineer, and then and then what is that same checklist as an engineering manager.

Mark Adams:

So as an engineer, I think the big thing is definition of the problem or defining the scope of the problem. I see a lot of folks that, you know, everybody wants to jump right into the problem into problem solving. And to be honest with you, more time is probably lost on kind of hitting the reset button button on projects, because there wasn't really clear scope definition or customer needs in the beginning. So I tried to really emphasise that and then as a manager, you know, that's what I try to do with my employees is make sure that they understand whether it's a small task or a big task. What is the definition of word? What's the scope of work? And what is the definition of success? It's, it's a term that I use a lot, you know, define what success on this test looks like to you? And are we thinking the same thing at the end of the day? Yeah, let's say that you had a team member or a customer, maybe that presented you with a problem, and said, Okay, go solve this problem. And you were to come back to this, this customer or this team member say, Well, I don't I don't feel like the scope is really defined well enough. Yet, I think we should spend more time defining the problem and really not understanding that. And the customer, or the team member says, No, we've done enough, we spent enough time on that. I don't want to spend any more time on that. Let's just go solve it. How do you respond to that? Yeah, actually, you know, when you're on the, on the other side, where you know, you're serving the customer and providing engineering services, you know, it can be very difficult to, to some degree, you know, when I worked in on that side of the business, you have to have that customer's always right mentality, you know, but at the same time, anybody that's done enough of these projects knows that generally, it's pay now or pay later, right? So you can hurry up and start prototyping without having a clear scope of work in definition, you might get lucky. And you might only do one iteration, and, you know, come up with a solution. But unfortunately, in most cases, if you're too hasty in the early steps, it'll just cause repeat work. In the end. Yeah, that's a good a good response. Money speaks very loudly, right? Sure. Mr. Customer, we can start now. But it's probably going to cost you more in the long run if we do. Yeah.

Aaron Moncur:

What are some of the most useful tools that you have used as an engineer in in the r&d environment? And then what tools do you think might be missing right now that that would be helpful for r&d teams?

Mark Adams:

Yeah, that's a great question. I've been playing around a lot lately, with 3d printing, I've kind of just gotten back into it. I think it's an amazing tool. And I think, you know, you can go on Amazon now and buy a 3d printer, probably for a few $100. There's a local makerspace here, in Salt Lake City, it's called make Salt Lake, I should give them a shout out and just fallen in love with them. But so I think 3d printing and then again, SolidWorks, I think they're just incredibly amazing tools. I've kind of gotten away from 3d printing over the years, you know, as my career is taking different turns, and now just even more for personal things, and for just pure enjoyment of back playing with SolidWorks and 3d printing for for quite a while. In terms of the tools that are missing, I would say over the last 10 years or so, I've noticed a trend in most of the facilities that I've worked in or visited, where the machine shops are going away. A lot of the free space you know, you know we call it a sandbox, a lot of those spaces are going away and I think that's really unfortunate. You know, the company that I'm working for now, Stryker neurovascular. They're, they're able to maintain a decent space in Salt Lake, you know, in Salt Lake rents a lot cheaper. And, you know, real estate doesn't cost as much. I assume a lot of the businesses that I visit in California, you know, they're really seriously thinking about what they're paying for square footage. And they might not see the immediate return on investment of, you know, having machines taking up floor space that don't get used too often. But if there's trade offs, you know, 3d printers have come a long way. And they allow people to do a lot of things. But at the same time, I don't see younger engineers coming into too many companies that have those, you know, spaces to go in and Tinker and play around in machine and things like that. That's great insight. I think that goes right back to what we were saying before, about, you know, these drafting classes and being able to visualise in 3d 3d printing is amazing. And it's a wonderful tool. I'm so glad that we have it now. But I don't think it really

Aaron Moncur:

it doesn't help you develop those visualisation skills, in the same way that machining something does. So I agree 100%

Mark Adams:

Yeah, the other thing, you know, there are two is even the highest and 3d printers still have limitations, right. So, you know, there was a lot of stories, you know, 10 years ago about how everybody would have a 3d printer on their desk, and you would order something from Amazon, and you would just basically be ordering code, and you would print it out. That really hasn't come to fruition. And I believe the reason it hasn't is because the materials are still limited that you can print with. So you can't print something in aluminium or steel, at least, you know, the average person doesn't have a printer with that capability. So that's where I think the trade off with the machine shop comes in, you know, machining, you can go in, you can grab a rod and Delrin you can grab or rot of aluminium. You know, having your hands on those materials, and actually machining them teaches you a lot about material properties.

Aaron Moncur:

agreed, I have found that good engineering is often a result of asking the right questions, and probably asking the right questions at the right times. Are there any standard or like default questions that you'd like to ask yourself or your team during the r&d process?

Mark Adams:

The one question that I always go back to Well, there's there's a few in my industry, the number one question that's probably more universal is customer needs. So you know, always asking if we add a feature or subtract a feature, or, you know, if we're going to take on large budget hits or project delays. Once what is the customer need that we're trying to solve here? And then the other one, which is essentially the same, but probably a little bit more, you know, ethical in my line of work? Is the patient safety question. So it's something that we have to ask ourselves on a daily basis is, if we make this tweak to a device, or we or we trade this feature for that feature, or, you know, maybe use a cheaper material or things, you know, have we thought through the potential impact to patient safety or or, or livelihood, right in, in my business, the customer is, well, the customer, but in your line of business, the customer really is the patient or maybe the surgeon at the end of the day? Yeah, we think about it in different ways. You know, and in every business, everybody has multiple customers. So, you know, in a purely r&d and environment. I'm in an arm of r&d called process and technology development. So I'm more on the process development side than the product development side right now. But, you know, eight out of 10 days, we consider our customer the manufacturing facility, because we want to give them something that's manufacturable. But then, when we say the customer, that can also mean the physician and it can also ultimately mean the patient. Great points. Well, any tools or strategies that you can share for the ideation phase of r&d, you know, you're you're in the beginning of this, and you're trying to come up with just concepts. how might this device look? What features might it have any tips for ideating on new products? Yeah, it's a good question. Actually, somebody was asking me today about brainstorming because every once in a while I get asked to facilitate a brainstorming session. I spent actually quite a bit of time on the internet, looking at companies that are very good at ideating. So you know, I do in California, they come to mind. Yeah, they developed the original mouse for Apple. And they've done you know 1000s of, you know, things since then, so I spend a lot of time trying to Seek out how other companies that are innovative ideate. But in terms of specific techniques, I think it's very hard in small companies to, to ideate. Effectively, if you have a staff of one or two, you know, the best way that I Ida is bouncing ideas of people. You know, one thing that I find interesting about ideation, especially in the small business space is a lot of folks are really afraid to share their ideas, they're really, really afraid somebody is going to steal their, their great idea, and then run with it. And that I think, has the negative effect, because they're, they're so secretive about their ideas that they're not willing to get, you know, 20 people together to ideate. Because they don't want to, you know, fill up 2029, computer, whatever, you know, but to me, it's, you know, it's one of these things that, you know, it's an economy of scale, the more people you can bounce your ideas off of the better.

Aaron Moncur:

I agree, we work with inventors, every now and then not not as much now, as is several years back, but we would run into that quite a bit where they were very hesitant to share their idea. And I get it, you know, you want to protect your IP for sure. I think what a lot of people don't fully appreciate is how hard it is to develop a product. Ideas are cheap, they're a dime a dozen, but executing on those ideas, you know, taking them all the way through the development process. And through manufacturing, that's really, really tough to do. So even if someone were to take your idea, it's unlikely that they're going to be able to execute on it.

Mark Adams:

Absolutely.

Aaron Moncur:

Let's see, we talked about 3d printing a little bit. And that's something I found to be very useful during the r&d stage. It's, you know, relatively quick and inexpensive, are there other quick and dirty benchtop style prototyping tools that your teams have have used in the past and found useful?

Mark Adams:

In my particular industry, we do, actually, we do quite a bit of modelling on the bench. So again, getting back to, you know, spatial things, and not being able to do everything in SolidWorks. We do a lot of benchtop modelling, which, you know, that means different things to different people, but, you know, trying to essentially create the surroundings that your product or your device is going to be used in to try to give yourself another element of that experience. Now, when you're saying benchtop modelling, are you referring to like clay or something like that? Yeah, exactly. So in our industry, the products that I'm working on right now, the neurovascular, space, everything, all the products are inserted into the body through the femoral artery in the groyne. And then they're fed up through the vasculature through the heart, up into the brain. So obviously, these are products that are difficult to test. So our modelling is extremely important to us. So we use a lot of what we call silicone models. And we work with, you know, outside companies, largely that are able to extract essentially patient data, so like CT scans. And so usually in silicone, basically model our environment, you can take that concept, and you can carry it through to just about any industry, you know, kind of creating your surroundings and where your device your product is going to be used is something that, you know, most season engineers will tell you is pretty important.

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah. And sometimes you can accomplish that with crude tools. I mean, cardboard and tape, you know, yeah.

Mark Adams:

Yeah. Yeah, I love seeing when, when folks, you know, again, in different industries, but just marking things up, you know, you don't need to, you don't need a huge budget to do a lot of these things, you know, and even in the industry that I'm in, we're so focused on on the product that's going into the body, but sometimes we get a little bit ahead of ourselves, and we don't, we don't mock up things like, well, how is the product going to be stored in the operating room? You know, if they have to get from point A to point B, you know, how is that going to work? A lot of times we're in low light environments. So we're so focused on the part of the of the product that's going to save the human life. But what if the nurse can't read the label because it's a low light environment. So especially when you're first starting to do these things, it's really important to recreate that environment that your product is going to be used in. Fantastic insight.

Aaron Moncur:

Thank you for sharing that. Well, I'm going to take just a real short break here and share with the listeners that team pipeline.us is where you can learn more about how we help medical device and others. Product engineering or manufacturing teams, develop turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines to characterise inspect, assemble, manufacture and perform verification testing on your devices. We're speaking with Mark Adams, Senior Manager manager at of r&d at Stryker, neurovascular. Today. And Mark, you've had a few stints during which you owned your and operated your own companies? Can you share a little bit about each? And then I guess why did you decide to go into having your own company? And then what what made you decide to go back out to the corporate world?

Mark Adams:

Yeah, great question. So I owned a company called fruition design for a couple of years. And the company, unfortunately, is no longer in business. But and then before that, the company that led into that, it was essentially the same company just under a different name in a smaller venue. But to answer your question about why I decided to do that it was, you know, something that I'd always had in the back of my mind. And, you know, someday I said, I want to work for myself. And in a very quick matter of time, this was back 15 years ago, all the stars aligned. I got, I got laid off from a medical device company, which, you know, when that happens to anybody, you know, it's, it seems like it's the worst day. And then, you know, after, after I went through, you know, the, the grieving process and things. I said, Well, now's the perfect time to do it. And, you know, sometimes I mentor folks, and a lot of younger folks asked me, you know, about doing this, and I tell them that, it's not for everybody, but the stars kind of aligned for me, and they don't always align for everybody. And when I say the stars aligned, what I was doing at the time, which was working with physicians to develop medical devices, you know, on their own doing that right out of college, you probably wouldn't have the connections or the reputation to be able to do that. I had been in industry long enough where it made contacts, and I had potential customers lined up and things. And then I found myself out of work and said, If not now, it's probably never going to happen. And you know, in the matter of a couple weeks, that kind of all took shape.

Aaron Moncur:

How exciting? And how did owning your own business and then getting your MBA at some point as well? How did those things change the way that you looked at engineering?

Mark Adams:

Yeah, it changed quite a bit, I would say that, I was probably a pretty narrow minded engineer, you know, when I got out of college in, you know, working for large medical device companies, I only looked at the world through the lens of an r&d engineer, you know, I, I didn't spend a lot of time focusing on budgets or timeline or first to market, you know, first mover advantage, or colour swatch, and, you know, all of those things. And then, you know, as you mentioned, between my MBA and, and starting my own business, you know, as a small business owner, regardless of your background, as a small business owner, you know, you're, you're the CFO, the CEO, the janitor, you're everything. So it quickly teaches you that you may have the greatest idea in the world, you might be the best engineer in the world. But if you can't run a business, you know, or if you can't develop a product for a customer that's viable in the market for, you know, financial reasons, then, you know, you're not going to get very far. So you quickly learn how to wear many hats and figure out how to, you know, bounce books and things like that. Yeah, I agree 100%.

Aaron Moncur:

When I give advice to people in that similar situation, I like to say that ideas are cheap, there's not a whole lot of value in an idea. But organisation, that's where the money is, if you can put together a system or processes that organises all of this stuff to produce a useful outcome. That's what people are willing to pay for.

Mark Adams:

And I would say if you look back historically, you know, the very first company that I worked for when I was a machinist, in high school. They were a small family owned business. And they were two partners. They had the classic, very intelligent engineer that, you know, knew how to design and develop great products. And then they had the very business savvy partner who, you know, understood the sales side of it, understood, you know, how to how to get funding and all of those things. And if you look back at a lot of companies that are very successful, usually you'll find you know, Not just one person, usually it's a partnership of somebody that thoroughly understands the business side of it. And then somebody else that has, you know, maybe the technical part of it down. Yeah, absolutely. I'm still trying to figure out which side I have in my business. But if you have both, you're all set, you don't need to give half your business to anybody. So there you go. Even better.

Aaron Moncur:

Well, speaking of machining, when you work at Edwards lifesciences, one of your responsibilities was managing the machining group. And I wondered, what were some differences that you learned about managing a machining group versus managing an engineering group? And what what kind of advice would you give to someone who is tasked with managing a machining group?

Mark Adams:

Yeah, so the machining group that I manage there, it wasn't a production machine shop in the in the way that we would normally think about it. So they weren't machining any parts that, you know, ended up, you know, going into our patients or anything like that. But they were a very robust grade machining group that was building a lot of equipment, you know, for automation, and things like that. But to your point, those are very, two very different things, you know, managing machinists and designers that are designing equipment versus, you know, being, you know, kind of on the r&d side of things. I would say the biggest challenge and the biggest difference between those two roles is I think that the those machinists, and those designers and the people that build the equipment that make a lot of these products, they're very much under appreciated. So one of the one of the stories that I like to tell and like, like to read some of the r&d engineers with is, if you develop a product, it's almost expected that it's going to take multiple iterations of that product before you get it right. You know, so you build a prototype, it doesn't work, nobody's going to get really upset, you build another one, you make it better, you make it better, eventually you get there, maybe it takes you 10 prototypes, or 10, different design iterations, whatever. When it comes to automation equipment and things like that, the expectation is that you get it right the first time and you get it right out of the gate. For some reason, there's a there's a tolerance for, you know, going over budget. And over time on a product development effort. There's less forgiveness given to, you know, the poor machine designer that says, geez, I only ordered three motors, and I needed four, and it's going to be another 12 weeks before we can get this up and running. Those poor individuals don't seem to get to get enough credit in that respect.

Aaron Moncur:

That's a great way to think about it. I ran into the same thing, right? If one of my design engineers needs more time to do something, Well, okay, we didn't, you know, we couldn't have foreseen this problem coming up. But then if the machine shop calls and says, oh, we're going to be a week late. Well, hold on, guys. You said that Monday, you were going to deliver What's going on here? You know, it's a different conversation.

Mark Adams:

Yeah, very right. Yeah.

Aaron Moncur:

Can you share maybe one of your biggest successes and one of your biggest failures that has occurred during your career?

Mark Adams:

I would say the answer is the same to both of those. You know, I think about this quite a bit especially as I get older and reflecting back on things but you know, my company there that I mentioned fruition in a lot of ways I consider it my largest success because I learned so much from that and I'm so glad that I did if I didn't take the time out of my career so to speak to do that. I would have been walking around for the next 30 years saying what if so I'm very proud of that moment and very proud of what I was able to do and I consider it you know, big success it wasn't however financial success you know, in the business only lasted a few years before we close shop and so you know, I do still carry around a bit of a burden where I you know, a lot of times think what could I have done better you know, could I have grown that business could I have made different decisions to you know, get it pointed in the direction of success

Aaron Moncur:

one of the Beatles maybe it was a john lennon I can't remember now said if everything will be all right in the end, and if it's not all right, it's not the end. Yeah, maybe there's a longer term perspective to be to be held there. Like you said, you learn so much that's already helped you right throughout your career. Yeah.

Mark Adams:

One of one of the challenges that that we encounter as a team that pipeline and I think everyone encounters is effective communication. Do you have any any strategies that you found to be helpful in facilitating communication amongst your teams, any like standard practices or or routines that you you've incorporated over the years, really hot topic right now with all of us, you know, locked home still dealing with COVID. You know, hopefully, we'll be out of it here soon in the US. But I deal with a lot of people over in Europe, and I think unfortunately, they're, they're going to be in this for at least the remainder of 2021. But so communication has been at the forefront, you know, of our thoughts. And when we all, you know, grabbed our monitors and our laptops and went home, it was a real concern Are we going to be able to effectively communicate, and I think we've actually done a lot better than, then I thought we would have, but in terms of tools, and effective communication, I've had times in my career where I've gotten really busy, so busy, that I might not get up out of my chair and walk down the hallway to see somebody face to face, I also have a habit of sending instant messages and emails, when I should probably pick up the phone and call, or, you know, like we're doing here, you know, turn the camera on. So I think effective communication, for me, what it means is, it means FaceTime, you know, there's so much to be said about body language, there's so much written these days about body language. It's it's a global economy. You know, right now, I start every morning out with, usually on the phone with my counterparts in Ireland. You know, and we deal with so many people from so many different backgrounds, you know, and so many different cultures. And I think it's really important to be able to look somebody in the eyes, and to be able to meet with somebody and and effectively communicate that way. Yeah, I agree.

Aaron Moncur:

I'm a small business owner, and I wear a lot of hats, and one of those hats is salesperson. And so I had a cold calling people from time to time and trying to solicit work, find ways that we can help. And one of the things that I have learned is that there is some kind of magic that happens when you're actually speaking with a person versus email, you know, I can send 100 emails to someone and not get any response. And I'm probably probably not gonna get a response to the first phone call. But if I get ahold of someone on the phone, and we start talking, in fact, this happened just a few weeks ago, I was talking with a potential new customer of ours a prospect. And we'd been talking for a while, and nothing had really gone anywhere yet. But I got on the phone with this person. And we started talking, and it came up that we do a particular service and, and he said, Oh, I didn't know you guys did that. Really Tell me more about that. And it led him to this whole big discussion that, that open doors that never would have been opened otherwise. So being able to talk with someone in person is his best, I think, but even over the phone is something magic happens when you can talk to a person as opposed to, you know, direct message or email, something like that.

Mark Adams:

And I will say that, in I mentioned my role more on the manufacturing side. Now, you know, some of the best advice I was ever given about working between r&d and manufacturing was at a manager early in my engineering career that said, once a month, you're going to travel essentially to the middle of nowhere and visit this manufacturing site. And I said, Okay, why? And he says, it doesn't matter why. Don't mind that when you get there? Yeah. And what he was trying to instil in me was go show your face, you know, have a drink with these people. You're gonna need them someday, you know? Don't you know, we use this term a lot, throw it over the fence, right? So the r&d guys design it, and then they throw it over the fence to manufacturing. So, you know, different companies have different travel budgets, and they have different philosophies about these things. You know, and unfortunately, right now, again, in COVID, you can't just jump on a plane and go visit people. But I really appreciated the companies and managers that I've worked for that have said, you know, this, this $300 flight to California might pay us back 100 times over someday just just go do it. You know, wow, that's incredible. What a great practice to instil for for a manager. That's great.

Aaron Moncur:

Let's say that you were interviewing new engineers, not like new out of college new but new for your team. And what what is one or two of the, the engineering skills and you can define engineering skills however you want, but what's one or two of the engineering skills that if if you saw it, you'd be like, Oh, yeah, gotta have this engineer. That's, that's we need this. And conversely, what are one or two of the the cold characteristics that if you saw You would you would think to yourself immediately Nope, this one is definitely a no go. Never gonna happen.

Mark Adams:

Yeah, it's great question I actually, I've been doing a lot of viewing over the past three years, we've we've grown our group quite a bit since since I joined Stryker. And so I feel like I'm constantly hiring and interviewing. I try to look for and you're going to see right through my bias and to answer this question, but I look for people with hands on skills, and people that have rolled up their sleeves, you know, and gotten their hands dirty. Our products that we make are so small, they're so complicated, they're very complex, hard to manufacture. I think that in my line of work, it's really hard to be an engineer, without having some mechanical aptitude, and without having at least a halfway decent set of hands. So I actually don't look too much at things like GPAs, I don't look too much at the schools that people come from, it's not a hard and fast rule that I have. But if I look at somebody whose interests are listed on their resume, or, or, you know, do a pre screen with them and start talking to them about their hobbies, I tend to find myself gravitating towards the people that say, Oh, yeah, on the weekends, I fix up old cars, or I bought a 200 year old farmhouse and I'm remodelling it, you know, I find myself finding a good kinship with those people. And I know that, you know, that we're going to be able to, you know, we're going to get a lot out of them.

Aaron Moncur:

Excellent. And how about, conversely, any characteristics that if you see, you're like, nope, nope, that's not gonna work?

Mark Adams:

Yeah, I can't think of anything that really jumps out at me, that would be a non starter. You know, it might be, you know, maybe the other end of the spectrum where somebody seems like, they're, they're much too theoretical, you know, and haven't really, you know, had any hands on experience. And the other thing that I look for is, you know, On a similar note is if somebody has done a lot of work in SolidWorks, and things like that, but you know, how, in the screening interview, I'll talk to them about, well, you know, what has come to market from your SolidWorks? where, you know, and if they can't grow our lineage between, you know, how I'm able to do a 200 piece assembly in SolidWorks. Well, okay, that's great. The proofs in the pudding. So has any of that been built hasn't gone to market. You know, there's a lot of things that can stop a product from going to market. So you can always hold an engineer in a responsible for business decisions and things. But unfortunately, it's almost too easy to do things in the virtual world. So you have to look for proof that they've, they've taken something from the virtual world and brought it into the real world.

Aaron Moncur:

That is a great area to probe. Yes, very good. How about from a culture standpoint? I mean, when when you're interviewing someone, you want to make sure that there's a good culture fit, as seems like almost a buzzword are just kind of trendy these days. But I think there's something to it. And you typically don't have a long time to get to know these people, have you found any useful ways to kind of assess someone from a culture standpoint,

Mark Adams:

either the only, it's something I've always been really interested in, I haven't researched a lot. The one thing that I tried to do is, we generally don't want to make the day of the interview overwhelming for people. So you know, we can't generally think that putting somebody through eight hours of interviews, you know, for a lower level engineering position is unfair, you know, and they're going to get a lot of the same questions. But I do try to push it and get the person in front of as many different personalities and in as many groups as possible to see how they react. And you hope that, you know, if you have some right brain, people interview him in the morning and some left brain, people interview him in the afternoon, you know, and usually, I'll try to take them to lunch with, you know, a few other folks and get him get him out into a more comfortable environment. And then just see how they're going to kind of, you know, play well with others. So sweet.

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah. Something we've started doing recently is we'll we'll have candidates come in and just put them to work for a day, you know, we'll say, if they're working somewhere else, take a day off and come visit with us for a day. If they're not working. Well, that's easy. And we'll just we'll just throw some tasks at them say work with another team member, and let's see how it goes. And that's been really helpful with not only evaluating technical skill, but evaluating the kindergarten skills as well.

Mark Adams:

Yeah, that's a great idea.

Aaron Moncur:

Okay, just I think one more question here. And then we'll we'll wrap it up, what is the best and worst part of your job as a senior r&d manager,

Mark Adams:

the best part of my job, and again, I apologise if I'm being too specific to my industry, but the best part of my job is at the end of the day, we really do save lives. So, you know, it is incredibly humbling, and it makes it incredibly easy to wake up and go to work in the morning, I get to see the results of our work quite quite frequently, you know, and you hear the stories from the family of, of, you know, the patient that had all the symptoms of stroke, you know, facial paralysis, those types of things. And then they go into the ER, and a couple hours later, the facial paralysis is gone, they're able to walk all those things. So that's incredibly rewarding. And that's by far the best part of my job. On the other end of maybe the worst part, and again, this is maybe a little bit too industry specific, but you know, the rules and regulations that are put in place to keep patients safe, are great. But it really slows down the product development cycle. So it takes us 12 to 18 months to do a very simple derivative product launch, you know, change one feature on a product. And again, the, you know, years and years of, you know, learnings have, you know, clouds, the FDA and other notified agencies to put those rules in place. So, you know, they're to the benefit. But, you know, I've talked to people that have worked in like the toy industry or consumer goods industry, and they say, jeez, I could never work there. Because, you know, I've never worked on a project longer than six months. I don't know if I would have the patience.

Aaron Moncur:

Yeah, yeah. Well, how can people get a hold of you?

Mark Adams:

Yeah, the best way is LinkedIn. I'm on LinkedIn probably once a day, especially, you know, when I'm in the midst of recruiting, which I am now, also give out my personal email address. It's Adams m two. So ADA, M S, M, and then the number two at Comcast dotnet. And reach out to me the way I usually get back to people within a day or so.

Aaron Moncur:

Well, that's that's several gold nuggets right there. For all of you medical device engineers. He just told you how to get hired, basically, listen to this episode a few times. Well, Mark, thank you so much for spending some time together. This has been just a delightful and rewarding conversation. And I really appreciate all the insight and experience that you shared. Yeah, Aaron, thanks for having me. And keep in touch I'd love to talk to you again. I'm Aaron Moncure, founder of pipeline design, and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please share the episode. To learn how your team can leverage our team's expertise developing turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines and with product design, visit us at Team pipeline.us. Thanks for listening