Star Medical Device Engineer – Attitude

Engineering Department employees, 1962
Engineering Department employees, 1962 (Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives)

One of the best parts of starting a medical device company is the opportunity to build a great team. At Fractyl, I’m happy and proud to say that our team is truly awesome – talented, hardworking, committed, and fun. Putting together a great team is not easy – for every position, we’re always looking for a superstar. Somehow we’ve found them.

One of my best friends runs an engineering group at a major contract research lab, and we occasionally commiserate about the difficulty of hiring great engineers. Of course, number one on our list is technical expertise. Don’t knock on my door if you don’t have the technical chops. While technical competence is hard enough to find, my friend and I are both looking for more than mere technical brilliance. The number two attribute on my list of star medical device engineers is attitude.

In an effort to improve performance, my friend gives each of his engineering hires an article from 1999’s IEEE Spectrum: “How to be a Star Engineer” (or here).  It’s a great article that would benefit almost every engineer. The author, Robert Kelley, presents nine strategies that lead to better engineering performance. Attitude is critical.

Here’s the attitude I’m looking for:

Great engineers make things happen, rather than waiting for things to happen. My best engineers pester me to sign off ECO’s so we can get parts on order. They call meetings to clarify requirements and specs that cause them headaches. They don’t feel they have to solve every problem alone, but they take responsibility for finding the resources they need or asking for help.

Great engineers really want to win, know that it takes a team to win, and therefore are consummate team players. They know that winning means hitting milestones on a timely, cost-effective basis. They put in extra hours without being asked, to help the team hit its goals. They pitch in anywhere they can to move the project forward. While they’re always super busy, they’re never too busy to help.

Great engineers are animated by the mission. They aren’t just coming to work for the paycheck. Great medical device engineers want to improve the quality and cost of medical care. They want to bring great products to market. Like me, they just can’t leave their work on the desk at the end of the day.  They have a mission to accomplish.

Great engineers face the future with optimism. Great engineers have confidence that a strong team can overcome big challenges together. Rather than insisting that something can’t be done, they ask how it can be done.

Finally, great engineers enjoy their work and know how to have fun. Great engineers find personal satisfaction in Solidworks, OrCAD, LabView and Matlab. They enjoy running experiments in the lab, and even find ways to lighten the load of FMEA meetings. At Fractyl, our engineers have started “New Food Thursdays” and Friday beer nights. We work hard but we laugh a lot too. We spend a large portion of our life at work – great engineers make the most of that time.


5 thoughts on “Star Medical Device Engineer – Attitude

  1. That really nails the qualities you want. How to ask the right questions in an interview to know if some one has those traits and know that you’ve found the golden employee is still a major challenge.

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