By Rebecca Manubag
On December 6, 2021, iJOBS hosted a virtual site tour with Stryker, an American medical device company based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Stryker is one of the world’s leading medical technology companies, specializing in products like joint replacement implants, surgical equipment, neurovascular and spinal devices, and many other medical device products. At this event, students and trainees not only gained insight about the hiring process from the Senior Director of Human Resources, Jane Bastian, but the meat of the event was centered around experiences of some of the company’s PhD-level scientists. A major standout of this discussion was the incredible diversity among the employees.
Jane Bastian kicked off the tour by giving a company overview, emphasizing its mission: “Together with our customers, we are driven to make healthcare better.” She touched on the core values of Stryker, which included integrity, accountability, and performance -- each of which she stated guides employee behaviors. Principally, the main motifs seemed to be the customer focus, as well as innovation and globalization of products. In 2020, Stryker made 14.1 billion in global sales, had over 10,000 patents owned globally, and 43,000 employees worldwide. They have a large global footprint, with products sold in over 75 countries. Jane concluded with the sentiment that people are at the heart of what [they] do, and that they are committed to diversity, inclusivity, and growth as a company. Touching on the hiring process, Stryker utilizes Gallup’s assessment following online application and an initial interview. This is followed by an additional interview with the specific hiring department of the position, and the turnaround time is 4-6 weeks. It was also advised that PhD students begin looking at positions a few months before graduation. Overall, Jane stressed the importance of continuing to build your professional network well before joining the job market, which has been a common theme within the scope of iJOBS as well.
The panel discussion portion of the tour included five panelists: Emily Hampp, PhD (Principal Engineer), Dave Heard, PhD (Principal Engineer), Shikha Khandelwal, PhD (Principal Regulatory Affairs Specialist), Lewis Mullen, PhD(Chief Engineer and Divisional Additive Lead), and Lin Song, PhD (Senior Manager in Regulatory Affairs).
The discussion began with a brief summary of their educational journeys and concluded with how they landed their respective positions at Stryker and their general responsibilities. The most intriguing takeaway from their stories was the immense diversity in terms of education, experience, and expertise. For example, Dr. Hampp took a straight route from her undergraduate studies at The College of New Jersey in Biomedical Engineering, to a PhD at Princeton University, followed by joining Stryker as a fresh graduate. Although she was initially torn between academia and industry, she seized the opportunity at Stryker and has been with the company for over a decade.
Dr. Heard took a different path, hailing from Canada with degrees in Materials Engineering and Applied Science; he worked at an aerospace company before moving to Stryker, which he stated was an exciting transition to learn a new industry.
Dr. Khandelwal, a Principal Regulatory Affairs Specialist for 9 years, had some experience that likely resonates with many trainees. She was initially uncertain about pursuing her PhD after receiving her bachelor’s at MIT, and henceforth decided to take a gap year where she interned at General Electric for nine months. It was there that she was exposed to PhD-level research, which encouraged her to apply to UC Berkeley where she eventually studied tissue modeling. Dr. Khandelwal then took the postdoc route, followed by a fellowship at the FDA where she learned about regulatory science. Following this fellowship, she joined Stryker for a position in Regulatory Affairs.
Continuing with the theme of regulatory affairs, Dr. Song elaborated on the path that led her to her role as a Senior Manager in this department. Dr. Song was born in Beijing and received her bachelor’s from Beijing University in Biology. She moved to the U.S. where she completed her PhD at The University of Kansas. Following her PhD, she applied for industry jobs, but quickly discovered that her student visa would be an obstacle. She instead applied for a postdoc fellowship with the National Institutes of Health in orthopedics, where she did research on mesenchymal stem cells. Following her postdoc, she received her green card and the option for an industry position was more in reach. This led to her joining Stryker, where she’s been for over 15 years in various roles. Dr. Song’s experience is a great example of the opportunity and lateral movement that is possible within Stryker. She began with basic research, then through some company changes, landed in a management position in polymer development, which led to exposure to the regulatory affairs area of Stryker. In her current position, Dr. Song primarily ensures that new products are cleared in the global market and meet compliance, a critical role since regulations for product development and production are constantly evolving.
Aside from the diverse paths to Stryker, an overarching theme between the panelists’ experiences seemed to be the application of acquired PhD skills in industry roles. Dr. Mullen demonstrated an example of this, as his PhD career was sponsored by Stryker. Dr. Mullen attended the University of Liverpool and graduated with a degree in Engineering. He had perhaps the most distinct story of the panelists; he was planning on joining the Royal Air Force, until he was exposed to 3D printing which led to his PhD work with Stryker. After submitting his thesis in 2009, he jumped straight into an engineer position and has been with the company for 16 years now. Dr. Mullen reflected on both of his roles, as a student and then as an employee, and communicated that he received much support in terms of both personal and professional growth. This was mainly through available resources and strong collaborative efforts.
When it comes to industry, there is a plethora of opportunity in terms of services, products, and customers. Stryker is a great example of how industry ties directly into clinical work, and how scientists can still very much interact with who is being helped, rather than dwelling completely behind the scenes. The customers of Stryker primarily consist of doctors, and many of the panelists stated they speak directly to surgeons on a regular basis. For example, Dr. Hampp manages research of the products and works closely with surgeons in the form of meetings, visits to their workplace, and carrying out studies to understand product use and opportunities for improvement. Similarly, Dr. Heard has monthly calls with surgeons (talks to upwards of 40 per year) to discuss issues to troubleshoot product issues. To reiterate the policy of Stryker, quality comes first, and that seems to be reflected in their employees.
One last key point to be emphasized is the immense opportunity in terms of career growth. The panelists demonstrated that you don’t need decades of experience to work at Stryker, in fact, it seems that as internal changes take place and new needs arise, it’s preferable to have fresh new minds to take on these roles. So, to those interested in a Stryker position, or something adjacent, you should feel confident that the skills you acquire during graduate school will speak volumes.
This article was edited by Junior Editor, Brianna Alexander and Senior Editor, Samantha Avina.
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