Are You Reaping the Full Benefits of Mentoring? Three Industry Leaders Share Insights

Most successful professionals will agree that if there is a “secret to success,” it’s having a mentor. And that holds true for the medtech profession as well, judging by the results of our Diversity by Doing (DxD) HealthTech survey. As noted in our recent report, both men and women who had a mentor reported significantly higher job satisfaction than those who didn’t.

While knowledge is power, DxD is a “doer” type of organization that aims to put that power to work. That’s why this finding prompted an action, in the form of an inaugural DxD Virtual Speed Mentoring event. The dynamic format alternated short keynote presentations on mentoring and career development with brief, one-on-one breakout sessions with 15 mentors who rotated between 15 early-to-mid career protégés. The goal was to help them learn more about mentorship, build a network and realize the benefits of mentoring, both on a personal and professional level.

The event was organized by a team within the DxD group that included Annette Ewanich and Stacey McCutcheon from Stanford Biodesign, in coordination with the Fogarty Institute and other medtech leaders. Representing the Fogarty Institute were keynote speakers Allan Will, board member; Marga Ortigas-Wedekind, chief commercial strategy officer; and Corinne Landphere, strategic consultant; along with mentor representatives Gayle Kuokka, CFO; Mike Regan, CIO and DxD co-founder; and Greg Bakan, strategic consultant.

They were joined by Paul Yock, director of Stanford Biodesign; Maria Sainz, president and CEO of AEGEA Medical and DxD co-founder; Tracy Dooley, MD, venture partner at Avestria Ventures; Jen Fitzgerald, consultant at SPRIG; Shreya Mehta, co-founder and CTO at Zenflow and Ferolyn Fellowship graduate; Chris Pfaff, vice president of marketing at Cytovale; Garrett Schwab, consultant and former co-founder and CEO at Ziva Medical; Susan Stimson, executive in residence at KCK Group; and Raje Srinivasan, senior manager, software engineer at Intuitive.

Keynote presentation takeaways 

Here are some of the top insights our three presenters shared with attendees:

Allan Will: You can’t do it alone. No one knows that better than Allan Will, who credits teamwork with much of his success. With a remarkable track record of founding, running, building and selling medical device companies, Allan has spent the last 30+ years of his career as CEO of various Bay Area venture-backed startups. He also has founded or co-founded 11 companies and has been a prolific mentor to many CEOs and senior executives.

Building strong teams and leaders has been his signature and one of the most satisfying parts of his career. “I am a big believer that active mentoring is critical to high-performing teams and high-performing leaders.”

Allan joined Devices for Vascular Intervention (DVI) as CEO when the company had 16 employees and grew it to more than 600 during his eight-year tenure. He believes this success came from creating a powerful culture that focused on a common rallying point — helping hundreds of thousands of patients — augmented by collaboration, supportiveness and constructive feedback.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of leading DVI was helping build the careers of hundreds of employees,” he said. As a result of the culture he established, over 25 DVI employees became CEOs later in their careers, including the late Ferolyn Powell. His formula for building successful teams was also reflected at The Foundry, which he founded; Andrew Cleeland and Angela MacFarlane came out of the incubator, among many other well-known healthtech leaders.

“Seeing these successes gets to the heart of why I’m so active and engaged in one-one-mentoring and building teams, because of the incredible impact you can have on someone’s career trajectory.”

To find a mentor, he recommends identifying people you trust and admire, and asking them for suggestions of mentors. “Mentoring can take many forms, but what’s critical is that it’s based on honesty, openness, trust and a genuine desire for improvement. The key is for both parties to truly commit to making the time and effort.”

Marga Ortigas-Wedekind: With 30 years of experience in medical and health technology companies at a variety of stages of development, Marga Ortigas-Wedekind knows the value of mentors at all points in your career. Her belief in the value of mentorship led her to leave the for-profit sector to join the Fogarty Institute to give back to the community.

In fact, one of her favorite quotes comes from Benjamin Disraeli, the former prime minister of the United Kingdom: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his (or her!) own.”

While she shared that she has never had a “traditional” mentor/mentee relationship, she has benefitted from numerous people who came alongside her to reveal “nuggets” of her own abilities. One of these interactions was career-changing for Marga, when her former CEO pointed out that she seemed to have a negative reaction whenever a new idea was presented. She found this insight surprising, as she hadn’t realized that while in her mind she was praising the idea and just moving toward how to operationalize it, the part she said out loud only addressed the potential roadblocks. “This clarity completely changed the way I did things, and I am forever grateful to her,” Marga said.

And that’s the beauty of mentoring; it doesn’t have to be a “one size fits all” construct, but often is situational: Are you at a crossroads? Are you seeking advice on a single matter? Do you need ongoing motivational sessions?

One of the most effective types of mentoring, she says, is just those regular “check-ins,” episodic interactions you have over time. “These relationships can last from a few weeks to a lifetime. But most importantly, seek out someone who is experienced in your key area of interest, is a good listener, honest, supportive and patient.”

Corinne Landphere: Corinne built her career coaching and team-building consulting business after more than two decades in the healthtech industry, including an initial start as an ER nurse in a trauma center. In her consulting work, she has helped numerous companies such as The Foundry, Abbott, Ardian, Medtronic and Stanford University; and also lends her expertise to the Fogarty Institute and its startups.

Without fail, Corinne advises her clients that the key to a successful career is always being in career development mode, which she believes goes hand-in-hand with personal development. “The great side effect is that these habits also help you grow as a person, which is what we all ultimately want to do anyway.”

All too often, she sees people waiting for their manager to come to them with a career plan, but it has to start with regular self-assessment—whether through meditation, journaling or talk therapy—to see where you want to go. “While performance reviews are falling to the wayside, I’m seeing increased emphasis on one-on-one conversations, where managers and subordinates really lean in together to get vulnerable and have open, transparent conversations about how you can expand,” Corinne says.

She also recommends people develop “advisory boards,” as she feels strongly that you should have multiple mentors. “They will change from time to time as you change, as the industry changes and as your work changes.”

To that end, Corinne believes the most important element of any career is cultivating your network—on a weekly basis, she recommends—which will put you in contact with potential mentors. “Networking is a simple way to experience connecting through casual relationships. Among other obvious benefits, you can also practice your elevator pitch to see how people perceive you in these conversations,” she says, debunking the misconception that it’s about asking for something. “It should very much be a two-way relationship, but try not to keep score because it doesn’t have to be even to be effective.”

Hearing from industry leaders like this was a great catalyst for participants to review their own mentor strategies. For more information, the DxD web page includes a library of valuable related articles, including some published by third-party sources and some written based on interviews with leaders in health technology who have extensive experience with mentoring.

About Diversity by Doing (DxD)

DxD’s mission is to empower diversity change agents by providing education, expert voices and practical resources. These goals reflect the academic and hands-on industry expertise of its founders, Stanford Biodesign, the Fogarty Institute for Innovation and medtech CEO Maria Sainz. DxD is led by a steering committee of individuals in health technology.

The group focused initially on gender and is now expanding its scope to race and other dimensions of diversity.

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