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How Omar Ishrak's Thinking Has Evolved During Two Years at Medtronic's Helm

It's been exactly two years since Omar Ishrak has been CEO at Medtronic. What has he learned?

June 25, 2013

2 Min Read
How Omar Ishrak's Thinking Has Evolved During Two Years at Medtronic's Helm

It's been exactly two years since an outsider - former GE Healthcare executive Omar Ishrak - officially took over the reins to run the world's foremost medical device company - Medtronic. The announcement came in May 2011 but his first day was June 13 of that year.  

In an on-stage interview conducted by MassDevice co-founder and publisher Brian Johnson at the Minnesota Museum of Science on Monday, Medtronic's CEO provided glimpses of how his thinking has evolved in the time that he has been at the helm. The event was jointly hosted by Washington D.C. trade and lobbying group AdvaMed, MassDevice, an online medical device publication and LifeScience Alley, a Minnesota industry and lobby group.

Johnson asked Ishrak what has been the easiest and the hardest thing so far. 

To the former question, Ishrak responded that he thought it would have been much harder and take longer to align the organization and he had expected that the "structure would need more work." He added that he initially thought, "perhaps I would have to work much harder at cost." 

As it turns out, this was the easy part.

"I found that the team was already focused on the right things," he said. 

But what has been more difficult is the whole aspect of globalization and the concept of local R&D and local manufacturing, he said. That was something he initially wanted to focus on immediately. Over time Ishrak said he realized that both of these are more important over the longer term.

"I learned that concentrating manufacturing in one place is cheaper even if it is done in a higher cost location," he said. 

Later, after the on-stage interview, Ishrak clarified that building local manufacturing and local engineering capability is still very important, but it should not be the first priority. It becomes more important as device firms begin to build a "value segment" to their business. Ishrak added that Medtronic has already made strides in boosting local R&D capability.

"A few years ago, we had 50 engineers in China. Now we have over 300," he said. 

-- By Arundhati Parmar, Senior Editor, MD+DI

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