Podcast: How Leaders Find Success in Medtech

by | Executive Search

Recently, I sat down with Tom Salemi of Healthegy for a Medtech Talk Podcast in which we discussed how leaders find success in today’s evolving Medtech sector. You can visit the Healthegy website to listen to the podcast and view the entire transcript, but here is one of my favorite exchanges from the interview (partial transcript).

Tom Salemi: We talked earlier on about the state of venture capital, and we can look at the numbers. We’ll have the numbers at the Medtech Conference. And they’re kind of steady compared to recent years. But capital is only one resource in the startup community. The other, of course, is people. What is the state of people in medtech? What is the state of the talent pool in medtech? Is it as strong as it’s been from your perspective?

Julie Allen: Do you mean in terms of –

TS: The number of people who can do good jobs, if there are a lot of professionals out there who are capable of doing a great job, or are we seeing a shallower talent pool for medtech executives?

JA: I think the market is really rich with a lot of really smart people that are doing great things, that want to continue to make a difference and have a lot of meaning in their careers in medtech. So I think that I’m still very impressed with a lot of the people that I meet. I think that where – and this is similar to what we talked about just a few minutes ago – I think that where people really come alive, though, truly, is when they get to a point where people draw them out. Because when people are at a point of deeper conversation about their background and their skills and their accomplishments, most people stay on the surface and generally say the same 5 things. So if you are looking at executive talent and you quickly make a snapshot judgment, you’re going to make a lot of assumptions that may or may not be accurate about the person’s background and their interests and their fit for a new company. And you have to, I think, really peel that onion back and really get to a deeper point. And people love that. People are oftentimes surprised when I might be working with a new company, and that new CEO might ask me about our approach. And he’s usually surprised to learn that I mean spend 6 or 7 hours with someone before I even present the opportunity that I’m working on. And I do that because I believe that time with people, if it’s done in a trusted, safe haven environment, that’s where really you learn about people. You learn about their values, learn about how they think about the world and their life, you think about how they interface with other people, you see their thought process, their critical thinking skills, what matters to them. And in that environment, it’s so easy, I think, to be able to evaluate them uniquely for the needs of the company based on that company’s stage of development, and based on the core interests and needs that the company has. But you’ve gotta dive deep with both sides in order to get to that point of being able to say this person is uniquely qualified for this company. And vice versa. So your question is very good, but I think it really just depends. You’ve got to get to that point of understanding. And then I think that every core position can be filled successfully with the right person if the right approach is taken.

TS: How do you get the person to sit down with you for 6 or 7 hours without telling them what the job is or what the company is? Is everyone willing to take the conversation that far without knowing sort of where the end zone is? Or are you just able to sort of give them enough information that they continue to meet with you? Or is it just, I don’t know, maybe they just want to meet with you because they know you have a wide array of connections and it could lead to something else?

JA: Well, if I were to disclose that, I’d be giving away our secret.

TS: That’s what I was hoping for here.

JA: No, I’m teasing. I think truly, Tom, I think I just take a different approach. I got into this industry 15 years ago after losing my father from congestive heart failure. I made a pivotal career shift and a total different industry because I believed in the concept of working with companies and working with and representing people. I love the concept of that. I think that comes back to my leadership at Disney. You know, I love telling company stories, and I love to be well read on what I’m doing. And I really enjoy the interaction with people. And I think as a side note, my dad had a PhD in philosophy, and so as a young girl, there were so many conversations around the coffee table about contemplation about life’s biggest questions. And I think that made a really big impression on me my whole life. And so when I meet with people, and I’m genuinely interested in getting to know who they are, the conversation just flows. It’s not a Q&A interview. It’s not a session that’s quick because I’m looking for an endpoint. And that happens. I see that happening all the time. It happened at the firm I was with in Chicago years ago, before I started this firm. And I saw that a lot of people were kind of treated like products for each other’s own gain. And I just rejected that concept. I mean people need to be valued; they need to be listened to and heard. And then you can draw great conclusions. And people like to talk about themselves, so if you can engage at a deeper point in a sincere, true way, and then give feedback, honest straightforward feedback, and say, Gosh, this opportunity that I’m working on, I don’t think it would be right and here’s why, and it’s credible. And people then trust you. Or if you spend the time and then present an opportunity, that’s also credible because you’re speaking exactly to the points that you’ve learned about them that are most important. And that is how, at least for us in a very brief way, we’ve been able to recruit people that have not been looking for change. But our focus hasn’t been with a motivation that has then a [feeder?] of a mindset. It’s truly about let’s draw things out to the point where it truly is a great fit for both sides. And I think that’s why we have not had failed placements, and I think people appreciate that personal approach.