June 26, 2018
The Theory: Medical Device Startups Fail Due to Leadership. The Lab? Embody LLC
This year, I’ve celebrated some milestones that I never would’ve fathomed I would enjoy.
- I found a purpose stronger than anything I’ve felt inside the military
- I get to work at a company that I enjoy more than any other job I’ve ever held
- I have the privilege of celebrating a workforce that is more dynamic, diverse, and hardworking than any other small team I’ve ever encountered.
Post military career, I was left feeling unsure of myself. I intrinsically knew I had value, I knew I belonged somewhere, but where? I was conditioned to a certain work setting that didn’t truly exist in reality. The setting I came from was a male dominated environment inside Naval Special Operations. I worked hard. I was good at my job. I identified with “outside-the-box” thinking, in a variety of different spheres, that allowed me to lend insight into problem solving scenarios which make up the majority of missions for Special Operations Forces (SOF).
When I started working for Embody, as the sole business development entity in a room filled with Ph.D’s and Engineers, I was bombarded with advice from “well-wishers” telling me to start wrapping my head around the idea that medical device startups rarely make a strong start en route to their eventual demise. One of the characteristics that I will claim from my previous small unit experiences working inside Naval Special Warfare is the characteristic of hard work. While this characteristic could means something different to others, for myself; this characteristic is defined by the ability to lower ones head, square the shoulders, set the jaw, and push against the problem with a clear line of thinking and thoughtfulness. This allows for solutions to develop quickly and efficiently so as to not lose focus, time, or motivation on the finish line. This type of thinking is very prevalent inside SOF, but I’d not yet encountered this outside the military, and I wasn’t sure how I would react when faced with a problem, or staff that wasn’t operating off the same baseline of training that I had. What I ended up finding was something I’d never have expected in any lifetime of education or training.
I found a small, diverse, and dynamic team of individuals who ignore, politely, the societal norms of academia, science, and startup culture. Lead by two influential leaders, Jeff and Michael, who are as different and alike as any I’ve had the privilege of serving alongside. Our R&D team of 14 is 50% female, radically diverse, and completely bought into the goals and beliefs of the leadership team. Our leadership intrinsically knew that creating success started with the team, and then the science, so they hired based on criteria that many might not have used. Myself as the prime example, I’ve no formal education inside bio-mechanics, bio-engineering, or the life sciences. However, I was offered a job based on the understanding and feeling that I was someone who wasn’t afraid to let up when the going got tough, and that my willingness to push boundaries would bring an eclectic and diverse subset to a team of people not content to simply win but to dominate. This mashup team has quickly become the gold standard for which I now weigh teamwork and leadership.
The quiet, firm and fair leadership of Michael, our Chief Science Officer and co-founder is a stark contrast from our outgoing, larger than life CEO, Jeff Conroy, who has spent 30 years inside the life sciences and tissue business. Both leaders play a very hands off role with the workspace but offer the firm guidance of seasoned profressionals when it’s deemed necessary for adjustments or changes in planning. The combination of these two personalities produced a great friendship, add some thoughtful leadership and the result is an eco-system of success that has key partners asking how we are able to do what we are doing.
This environment has created a slow burning passion, or purpose, to succeed that I have never felt inside the small units I previously operated within. Sure I was driven and had purpose to succeed, but it rang hollow at times. What I’ve encountered within Embody is an environment of rapid growth and learning that is readily translated into business success. There will always be naysayers, people who don’t agree with someone else’s game plan for success. What I would say to those individuals, is come and take a seat at our offices for a week. Watch our leadership team engage and adapt in a constantly changing environment in ways that most do not, will not, or cannot.
Embody will succeed where others have failed. We will pick up the slack, we will push the boundaries, and we will establish a new type of workplace culture that isn’t grown in the stereotypical settings of Silicon Valley. Rather, we will quietly articulate our success with quiet professionalism, often sought, rarely found.
Google started in a garage, Facebook started in a dorm room. These titans of their industry might’ve started slow, but they grew from the laser like focus, dedication of their team, and the flexibility of their leaders to move with the landscape of their respective surroundings. I am proud to call Embody home. I’m honored to work with this team. I’m thankful for them, and their impact in making this year an already remarkable experience.