How to Succeed as a Medical Device R&D Engineer


As I close in on twenty-years working in Med Device Engineering Recruitment and in Human Resources, I think it’s time to impart some wisdom to the career-minded engineers slaving away trying to figure it out.

Success is, of course, defined by your own goals. However, it’s likely your career goals fall into one of three categories:

· Become a leader

· Work on cool technical stuff

· “I don’t have it quite figured out yet”

In order to succeed at the first two potential goals, you must first achieve a reputation of technical excellence. After all, you are an engineer. If you’re in category three, I may suggest creating a goal of figuring out what you want to do. For more information on this topic, check out my podcast on career planning.

Let’s focus on the first two goals; becoming a leader or becoming an engineering guru. As stated previously, these both start with a sound track record of technical achievements. While a sound business sense, great communication, and a focus on leadership are all important, it’s engineering skills that separate engineers from other people. Honestly, I rarely face a search where the company can’t find a project manager or “business engineer.” I am constantly bombarded by companies who are desperate to find really strong, technical, and hands-on engineers who can actually design medical devices and get them through commercialization.

The real in-demand skill in the Med Device industry is for strong, technical, and hands-on engineers who can design, prototype, and build innovative products that create revenue opportunities for their employers. Beware of becoming a “research scientist” or a “paper pusher” engineer. What I mean by this is don’t get pushed down a rabbit hole by looking at very theoretical engineering ideas. Focus on working on products and ideas that you can help bring to the market. Furthermore, paper pushing isn’t a good career idea. If you’re working in a company where engineers have become research scientists or paper-pushers, it’s time to change jobs.

Being successful with your career goals is about building your value. To do this you must develop in demand skills, a track record of accomplishments, and a reputation for being someone who delivers. The first ten years of an engineering career (regardless of if it’s headed to high level technical focus, or if your sights are set on being a VP of R&D) must be filled with technical accomplishments. Once you build this solid foundation, you can be well positioned to expand your impact into either path.


Mike Adamo is a Medical Device Headhunter and author of several business books.

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Check out Mike’s business books on career management and recruitment:

This Book Will Get You Hired

Radical Hiring Success