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Your Most Pressing Medtech Career Questions Answered

Most medtech professionals are pretty happy with their jobs, we found in our most recent Medtech Salary Survey. But if you aren’t already in the medtech industry, how do you break into what is reported to be a rewarding career?

  • BIOMEDevice San Jose attendees got answers to their pressing questions during the "Jumpstart Your Career in Medtech" panel discussion live on Center Stage on December 7. Speaking were:

    • Brian Cole, Managing Partner, Medtech Executive Search Inc.
    • Nikolas Kerr, Vice President, Product Marketing, Si-Bone
    • Jacqueline Moshref, Senior Manager, Human Resources & Administration, Spinal Kinetics
    • Mike Wallace, Founder and CEO, 880 Medical Inc.

    MD+DI reached out to these experts. Click through this slideshow for their perspectives.

    [Image courtesy of 3D_CREATION/SHUTTERSTOCK]

  • How can a college student dreaming of a career in medtech make themselves an attractive candidate?

    “Look for internships,” said Moshref. She told the audience that companies look for “students who like to tinker and work with their hands.

    “We want go-getters,” she added.

    Regarding degrees, Wallace told MD+DI that “In general, an advanced degree is not required—though in some subspecialties of medical devices, like robotics, you will see hiring managers seek out PhDs to fill specific technical needs. That being said, the medical device industry is mainly looking to hire capable, bright, hardworking folks who can make a difference, independent of whether you have a BS or PhD.” Eighty percent of them have bachelor’s or master’s degrees, he estimated.

    [Image courtesy of AFRICA STUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK]

  • What’s better—a startup or a large company?

    At a startup, “Successes and failures are magnified,” Kerr told MD+DI. “If you are driven, talented, and enjoy making a big impact, go to a startup.”

    Moshref said that professionals “wear multiple hats in a startup.” They also provide a great opportunity to get “your feet wet” and “for advancement,” she added. “There is also a lot of visibility.”

    For those with no prior experience, Cole told MD+DI that “bigger companies have the infrastructure to train and mentor professionals. Startups do not have the infrastructure and need professionals to hit the ground running.”

    But for those with medical device experience, “Startups offer more visibility and the opportunity to “move the needle,” Cole said.

    "Large companies have a lot of structure/systems [and] can be a nice place to start your career. Downside is that [it] can be more difficult [to] stand out and get things done quickly since there are more layers of people and management,” Kerr said.

    Wallace said that he “had a great experience in one large med-tech company earlier in his career, which happened to be an autonomous division in a high growth space.” In the most recent decade, he has also had great experiences in startups. “Your preferences, skills, and adaptability will determine whether you can enjoy and contribute in both large companies and startups.

    “A big company is a great place to learn—everyone has a different role, and there is a best-in-class team structure to execute projects,” he added. “But clearly you can move the needle quicker and faster in startups, which many folks find rewarding.”

    Moshref says that “where you are in your career makes a difference. Startups inherently have more risk, and larger companies give you more opportunity for stability.”

    Bottom line: “Take advantage of whatever environment you’re in (big or small company) by observing the star players and leaders and emulate them on your next project,” Wallace told MD+DI.

    [Image courtesy of M-SUR/SHUTTERSTOCK]

  • How do you transition from a small company to a big one or vice versa?

    “When I interview a person at a small company to go to big one, or vice versa, I get concerned because it’s tough to predict who will do well in their new environment. Those who are the most adaptable usually fair the best,” Wallace told MD+DI.

    On the move from a small company to a big one, Kerr told MD+DI that “If you enjoy wearing multiple hats and want to make an impact, transition is easy. If you expect structure and struggle with a frequently changing environment, transition could be difficult and you should reconsider the move.”

    Wallace said he “was the roll-up-the-sleeves guy in a larger company, which had an entrepreneurial spirit. So I found the transition to a startup world very natural. But for others, the transition will be tricky.”


  • How do you transition to medtech from another industry?

    “Identify the specific skills you have that can be leveraged as value for the job you are seeking in the Medtech space,” Kerr told MD+DI. “Many skills are transferrable. Network with as many folks as possible—it’s a numbers game. The more connections you make, the greater chance you will find what you want. Just don’t give up.”

    Wallace told MD+DI that “if you can, find commonality in technology between your old company and new company. You can often bring an ‘expertise’ that the new employers will hire you for even if you don’t have experience in the same clinical space.”

    [Image courtesy of CHALIYA/SHUTTERSTOCK]

  • How do you find out where you fit in the industry?

    “People tend to think you have to hit all the bullet points, but if you hit the highest ones, you should apply for the job—you never know your competition,” said Moshref. “And keep your LinkedIn status updated and follow the companies you’re interested in.”

    “Don’t worry about what you’re qualified for,” said Kerr. “What function or role are you most excited and passionate about?

    “Think outside the box. For example, the role doesn’t necessarily have to exist or to be listed as a job opening,” he added. “You can write a job description yourself. Simply make a presentation to the CEO, CFO and VP Sales over a free lunch at the company and describe how you can help grow the company’s sales in your proposed role. You can’t lose with this approach; even if your presentation isn’t spot on, folks will respect the effort and get to know your thought process.”

    Moshref told the audience that “the market is not what it was 3 to 5 years ago. [There’s] more legwork to prove your worth. You can’t be shy or reticent. And utilize social media.”

    [Image courtesy of ROMOLO TAVANI/SHUTTERSTOCK]

  • How do you get promoted?

    “It’s very important to influence, as much as possible, the conversations that occur in your absence,” Kerr said. “The best way to do this is by frequently communicating across the organization the work that you and your team are doing and how it’s driving the organization’s revenue growth.

    “Once you and your team have achieved a high level of success and you have identified someone who can take over your existing job, organize a meeting with your boss and make the case for the next role or promotion you want,” he added.

    [Image courtesy of J.SCHELKLE/SHUTTERSTOCK]

  • What if you’re caught in an M&A?

    “Don’t run for the hills, but also don’t wait until they take your stapler,” said Wallace. “For entry-level and mid-level [positions], there often can be an opportunity to make more with retention bonuses by sticking around. Plus, by sticking around you may see a nice growth opportunity for you in a new role…. You never know.”

    Cole told MD+DI that M&As are “a reality that does not seem to be going away anytime soon. Professionals should explore other opportunities to determine whether the new company is the best option for them. Even if it is the best option for them, the company may not believe that the professional is the best option for the company. Recognizing your value (elevator pitch) to that new organization could help. But, knowing your options is critical.”

    For even more advice, attend these upcoming sessions at Advanced Design & Manufacturing Cleveland:

    "Bridging the Gap: Cultivating the Workforce of Tomorrow"

    Speaker: John Ratzenberger (Actor, Entrepreneur, Industry Advocate)

    Date: Wednesday, March 7,  1:00pm - 2:00pm


    Moderator: Rob Spiegel (Design News (UBM))

    Panelists: Brittany Becker (MAGNET), David Dechow (FANUC America Corp.), Brian Fortney (Rockwell Automation), Matthew Hlavin (Thogus Products Company), David Iyoha (Fortech LLC), Josh Olgin (Direct Recruiters)

    Wednesday, March 7, 3:15pm - 4:00pm

    Also, please read "10 Tips to Boost Your Medtech Career" and "5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Career in Medtech."

    You can also download the results of our 2017 Salary Survey here.

    [Image courtesy of MAXSATTANA/SHUTTERSTOCK]

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