The Changing Job Market & How it Affects Careers for MedTech Quality Professionals

August 10, 2022

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How is the changing job market affecting careers for professionals in MedTech? How can video storytelling strategies and techniques impact talent access?

In this episode of the Global Medical Device Podcast, Etienne Nichols talks to Joe Mullings, chairman and CEO of the Mullings Group companies, about finding true quality talent and celebrating excellence and hyper-competency to make lives better. 

Joe’s search firm is responsible for more than 8,000 successful searches in the medtech/healthtech/life sciences industry. DragonFly Stories produces attention and awareness campaigns for companies globally through TrueFuture. TMG360 Media utilizes the power of media and outreach in medtech/healthtech to move businesses and health forward.

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Some highlights of this episode include:

  • Quality of Outcome vs. Opportunity: Organizations are realizing that it’s much more expensive to lose and replace a good player rather than retain a good player. The quality and output of an employee’s work matters.

  • Networking should occur when you don’t need it. Be clever, bring value, give and not take, and create a brand around yourself.

  • The workforce and global economy has changed because of the worldwide pandemic. Things are starting to settle down, and it’s time to reset, re-define, and re-evaluate employees’ responses to work and fulfillment.

  • WFX: Where are employees willing and wanting to work—from home, anywhere, or in the office—and how does that affect organizations’ willingness when it comes to compensation, flexibility, and the networking process to retain talent?

  • Two-way communication between workers and employers needs to be created to find balance and reduce friction for healthy relationships. The catalyst for people switching or leaving their jobs is to make more money. However, top performers want to move forward in their career from their own developmental perspective and grow their skills.

  • The non-negotiables of working in the office or not depends on your degree and years of experience. If you’re new, it’s best to work in the office to learn and mimic others. Then, it depends on your job function.

  • The best way to represent yourself in the marketplace is based on your behaviors and how you package yourself when appearing in front of others.


Joe Mullings on LinkedIn

Etienne Nichols on LinkedIn

The Mullings Group - TMG Search

TMG360 Media

DragonFly Stories


Out of the Crisis

Greenlight Guru YouTube Channel

Greenlight Guru Community

Greenlight Guru Academy

MedTech Nation

Greenlight Guru

Memorable quotes from Joe Mullings:

“We are the #1 search firm in the world, first of all, in the medical device/healthtech industry with more than 8,000 successful placements over three decades.”

“Compensation, right now, is also being driven by supply and demand.”

“You’ve got better career choices now, and you’ve also got the ability to live, potentially, a better life.”

“Let’s keep a better balance of power in the workforce instead of it being futile in nature where the companies call all the shots.”

“The digital scales your idiocy as well as your competency equally.”


Announcer: Welcome to the Global Medical Device Podcast, where today's brightest minds in the medical device industry go to get their most useful and actionable insider knowledge direct from some of the world's leading medical device experts and companies.

Etienne Nichols: Hey, everyone. Today we're going to be talking with Joe Mullings from the Mullings Group. Joe is the chairman and CEO of the Mullings Group Companies, including TMG Search, Dragonfly Stories, and TMG 360 Media. His search firm is responsible for more than 8, 000 successful searches in the MedTech, health tech, life sciences industry with clients ranging from multi- billion dollar companies, to emerging tech startups worldwide. Dragonfly Stories, which produces attention and awareness campaigns for companies globally, is the media production company behind the award- winning video docu- series TrueFuture, of which Joe is the host. TMG 360 Media utilizes the power of media and outreach in MedTech, health tech to move businesses and health forward. In 2020, Joe is appointed chief vision officer for MRI Network. MRI Network includes over 300 search firms around the world where Joe guides the digital transformation of the organization, bringing video storytelling strategies and techniques for talent access, which he had innovated at the Mulling Group. Also, Joe is our keynote speaker at True Quality. If you want to learn more about the MedTech event of the year that's happening in beautiful San Diego, head to greenlight. guru/ truequality. Today's conversation is one of my favorites because you can tell that finding true quality talent is something that Joe carries deeply about. So if you've been paying any attention at all to the changes happening to the workforce and the global economy, then you're going to love this episode. I hope you enjoy it. We'll see you on the other side. Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the Global Medical Device Podcast. This is Etienne Nichols, your host of the podcast. Today with me is Joe Mullings from the Mullings Group. I'm excited to be talking with you, Joe. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your organization and what you got going on?

Joe Mullings: Sure. So I am chairman of the Mullings Group companies. We are the number one search firm in the world, first of all, in the medical device health tech industry with more than 8, 000 successful placements over three decades, and specializing primarily in the emerging technology sort of avenue platforms, if you will, on the device side. So depending on how long you've been in device world, we brought the drug- coated stent to the market, we brought structural heart to the market, we brought surgical robotics to the market. So if you just follow the leading indicators where investment dollars are going, that's our expertise. Also, we're the only search firm in the world with a full marketing and media company connected directly to it. And we use that proudly in order to share all the stories our clients have around their technologies, the entrepreneurs, and the emerging trends in MedTech. So there's my cliffs notes version of me.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. Well, that's great. I love that there are people like you out there helping the market, really helping to shape that market. So the topic we're talking about today kind of just as a general view is the changing job market, how it affects careers for professionals in the quality domain. We've seen a few different things changing. Well since 2020, obviously the world has changed. And now it feels like it may be changing again. What's your take on the climate right now?

Joe Mullings: Oh, gosh. Yeah, the world in general has changed since January of 2020. I remember was at JP Morgan and I came back and that was just the start of the ball of yarn unwinding. It was probably a reset for a number of reasons that were good, relative to the workforce. So one of the things that really had occurred, obviously we responded to a worldwide pandemic and I call it a punch in the throat. And at that point in time, we could only respond one way, right? Survival. But over the following 18 months, not much had changed. And to think that our initial response was the best response and didn't require an audit and an evaluation of what should we be doing now that things seem to be settling down, which is where we are just over... What is it? 27, 28 months later. We've got to believe that our initial response was not the best response. So there has been some resetting going on here and there. And primarily, I would say in the workforce, for the first time in the history of the world of work, the employee was in charge. The employee was in charge, no doubt about it. And all of the sort of responses from the capitalist market had indexed towards, okay, the worker now is saying," I want to work from home." And the worker now is saying there's more to getting a paycheck. It's really about fulfillment. And those things need to be defined. From home needs to be defined, right? So why does it have to be from home? Why can't it be from the beach? Why can't it be from my home in Colorado? Why does it have to be from home? So that has to be defined. And then the fulfillment side has to be sort of defined. People have checked out of careers that they've built for 20 years. People have checked out of employers who they feel have been draconian in nature. And people have checked out on accepting what was acceptable SOPs previous to January of 2020. But now what's happening is business models have to be reevaluated because we built these business models on before January 2020, the worker rightfully so pushed back against what does the world of work look like. But they also have to keep in mind that it's imperative that these organizations stay in business. So you can't just reflexively go from one side of the sort of seesaw to the other side of the seesaw and not expect at least some allegiance and alliance to be working together. But the worker has to be really careful not to punish the employer, but it also has to be really careful not to secede too much power back to the employer, if you will. So those are the struggles that are going on right now.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. So a couple things I want to dive into there, but one thing you mentioned, not having that balance. And so maybe if we're talking to the workers, what is the advice you'd give them as they work through that and kind of navigate that struggle?

Joe Mullings: You know, it's a relationship, so there's got to be two- way comms. There's got to be two- way communication. It's like any healthy relationship, there's always going to be friction. There should be friction for the good of relationship. The left and the right should always have a dialogue going on even if they choose to disagree. So the items that are up for grabs right now are what's going on from the WFX, work from anywhere environment. And then I do believe that there's going to be new categories of job descriptions coming out. I think also that you can't choose to work from anywhere and all the time expect to receive the same compensation. I think there will be people... I think on LinkedIn right now, you see on LinkedIn open to network. I think you're going to start to see people go open to come back to the office full time. And I think those people will be paid a premium as well they should be because-

Etienne Nichols: Interesting.

Joe Mullings: I think you're going to see that. I think people are going to put on their resumes," Willing to work from the office." And you're going to start to say 50% of the time, 80% of the time, 100% of the time. So that I think is coming up. And I think compensation right now is also being driven by a supply and demand. We have seen sort of compensation plans go up. Without any comparator to the past over my three decades to use, I've seen salaries jump dramatically built into by counter offers, built in by competing offers. When somebody picks up their head, they're usually looking at three or four opportunities. And they're looking at all the levers. They're looking at," What's my compensation? What's my flexibility? Obviously, how is this building my career moving forward?" And I don't think a lot enough people are looking at that. And I want to jump back into that. But I'm taking a job now based exclusive... Well, primarily on WFX and flexibility in my workforce. Maybe the job isn't the ideal one moving forward as I build a career. But right now in this place, I'm over indexing to what I was restricted to doing. That's what happens in all relationships, right? Whenever we break up with somebody, we typically go to the opposite end of what that past relationship represented. And we might not have wanted to go that far.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. So there's a couple things there you mentioned. So the networking is one thing that I want to talk about, but also just that fulfillment side and how you kind of establish what that really means. I don't know which direction you want to go with first. I do want to talk about also the companies themselves and how to handle that relationship with that person. And I'll just give an example from my background. So I was a manufacturing engineer, worked in product development. Wanted to be a project manager if an opportunity arose. Of course this was pre 2020. I took that job opportunity thinking this might be my only chance. That's different now. I don't look at it the same. And let me back up one more. When I went through that phase, I was networking with people physically. I was at conferences. I was at different things. Now with the WFX, the work from anywhere, you may not have that opportunity. How does that networking happen? What does it look like right now?

Joe Mullings: Well, historically, our choices in our work opportunities were driven by geography for the most part. So unless you were ready to upend your current area, zip code if you will, or what you were willing to commute to, especially if you're a manufacturing engineer, right? So if you're a salesperson, you still were landlocked because the region that you were willing to sell in was generally defined by geography. But in the WFX world right now, especially if you're a software engineer, certain categories of quality, certainly clinical and reg, and we're just talking about MedTech here for the most part right now, we're starting to see organizations that historically when we came back online, and these are multi- billion dollar organizations, said," We are not going to allow people to work from home. You have to come into the office." And as they realized that they could not attract talent, they said," Okay, come into the office four days a week." And then that started to go to two days a week. And now they've gone fully remote based upon, especially project management people is another function that allows you to work. Even if you're making a product, they are acquiescing to working from a distance. So you've got better career choices now. And you've also got the ability to live potentially a better life, depending on your definition of better life. Because if I can live out New Mexico in Albuquerque, but I can get paid Bay Area salaries, well, that dramatically changes my life because now I've taken a geographic arbitrage and then a salary arbitrage and worked them both to my advantage. And now I've all of a sudden assembled a better" life," depending on your definition of better. So that definitely has become a dynamic in the market that companies are still trying to get their arms around. And I'm not sure they're going to get their arms around. And again, this comes back to, let's keep a better balance of power in the workforce instead of it being futile in nature where the companies called all the shots.

Etienne Nichols: Well, companies are going to be. I mean, they're on the other side of that struggle obviously so that they're trying to retain talent. What does that look like for those companies? I've heard some things where maybe you see on LinkedIn too, where people say," I got a raise because someone else got hired in" and they weren't hired in at a higher salary, for example. And so the company just across the board said," Everybody with that job title also gets that raise." Have you seen that? Is that starting to be common? Or what does that look like?

Joe Mullings: Yes. Yes. So the evaluation's going on whether or not... So some of that depends upon the company size, right? So it's easy to do if you're a 20 person company or a 50 person company. But if you're a 20, 000 person company, that's really challenging to do. So you've got those dynamics. It's not that simple of a solution of cake for everybody, right? But the organizations that are saying," Listen, in order to acquire talent at that same pay grade level," which if we want to go off on that, I'll lose my mind, but" You fall within three to eight years BS degree, you're in that same level." So regardless of your skill, right? But you're in that same level. Which is just ridiculous. But that's another area I'm hoping somebody knocks the cover off the ball on that. But organizations now are responding, saying," We know we're underpaying. We know we have to change that. We're bringing people in" because they found they couldn't bring talent in at a certain pay range because other organizations that didn't have this level setting, based exclusively not on skills but based on sort of categories of number of years experience and degree, did not matter within that range how good of a player you were. So that comes back to a quality of sort of outcome instead of a quality of opportunity, which is a dialogue that needs to happen. Organizations now are realizing it's a lot more expensive to lose a good player and replace a good player rather than retain a good player.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. No, that's a good answer. And I like that you mentioned quality there. I mean the quality of the employee, the quality of his work, that matters. And sometimes we just look at years or numbers on a resume maybe, but yeah, the output of their work absolutely matters.

Joe Mullings: And they should be recognized for that. And unfortunately, I will tell you that as a headhunter, we're typically partnered with our clients to find the top two or three percenters, right? Candidly. We don't get our fee for bringing in somebody they could have gotten themselves. So by design, we are privileged enough to rub elbows with the top 3, 4, 5 percenters. And invariably, those top 3, 4, 5 percenters are not leaving for compensation. That is not the catalyst that's pushing them at the door. What's pushing them at the door is a bottleneck or a blockade for them to move forward in their career from their own developmental perspective. Now, once they decide to look, they of course are going to go down the top three or four boxes to check on comp, right? But I will let you know it's probably less than 3 or 4% that's saying," I'm switching my job because I want to get paid more money." So think about that for a second. Most people who switch jobs across distribution curve are more so looking for more money. But your top performers, almost without exception, are looking for a better opportunity to improve their skills and do something new. And therefore in that search, you're like," Well, I might as well have paid more too." But it's not the catalyst. It's not the primary driver.

Etienne Nichols: And that may be what you were talking about when you wanted to go back to the career versus just improving your money.

Joe Mullings: Yeah.

Etienne Nichols: What does that look like as far as removing those blockades? How could companies do that? Because it seems like that would be really one of the things that would benefit them the most.

Joe Mullings: Yeah. So first of all, selecting the right leaders, right? You always have to come back to that. Who are the right leaders? Are the right leaders going," Here. This is yours. Go make something of it. You go do this. I'm going to give you this to do. I'm going to give you all the support you want. You tell me how you want to do it. Let's go do it together"? Right? So there's a percentage leaders that are insecure that if the person that reports into them is going to outperform them, therefore it's a zero- sum game that there's only one job to be had. Realistically though, because of a capitalist society, thank God, that we live in, it's not a zero- sum game. It's a big enough, you can get a bigger pie. And if you pick the right people and you give them something amazing to do and you let them put their own voice to it within the bounds of what your organization stands for, then you have retention. And then those people attract people who are like them. And that's where you get the organizations that grow dramatically versus that you've got this hierarchy of power, not hierarchy of competency, that oftentimes people have to work within. And the really high end players see that very quickly and self select out to go seek out an organization that might be different for them.

Etienne Nichols: Interesting. That makes sense. I've worked for both types of leaders, I suppose. One who refused to hire someone who was better than that person, which was a tough situation to be in. And then one where it was just constantly," Wow. We're going to have to level up if we're going to have this guy in the room." It's kind of like my dad always said," Hey, don't complain if you got Michael Jordan on your team. Be glad you're going to win," right? And so that makes sense. One of the other things I wanted to ask about though, was that work from home versus the in- office. The differentiation, or maybe the difference in pay that you might see potentially. How can workers who either work from home or who are going into the office, what kind of numbers should they be expecting or thinking about putting or assigning to that work from home versus in office? Any thoughts there?

Joe Mullings: Well, it comes down to category if we're going to stay in our engineering world. You know, I was an engineer. I'm still an engineer. It's like you're born engineer. You don't become one. So I'm an engineer. We talked about it before we went on, I went to University of Dayton, Ohio. And if you're making stuff, if you're making stuff and if you've ever been part of a team that built a system, the EEs, the MEs, the manufacturing, the advanced manufacturing, the QEs, everybody has to stand in the room. And you've got to... My best learnings were my three years on the machine shop floor working with the guys who had nine and a half fingers because they were career machinists, right? And so that's where you learn. So I think what you're going to have is it should be mandatory in the first five to seven years of your career you need to go into the office because that's where you learn, right? We learned through mimicking others. That's how we learned to speak. That's how we learn to walk. That's where we learned all the manners in our house. That's how we learned our belief system. We mimicked others. So if you're coming out of university into the workforce and you're isolated and you don't have a chance to look at," What does great look like? How do they move? What do they say? How did they handle that curve ball? How did they handle that passive aggressive statement from that person down the hallway?" Right? If you don't get that baseline, I'm really worried about what your developmental pathway looks like moving forward for the next 20 or 30 years and what does that mean to the workforce longitudinally over the next 20 or 30 years? So I think that that should be a non- negotiable in the first five, seven years, because it's so developmental in nature. After that, I think it's going to matter on the function. I think it's going to be your conversation with the organization. And I do think some organizations will be known as more WFX sort of malleable and permeable than others. And that's fine as long as you know what you are signing up for. And then on the quality side or even just think about banking and finance, you've got compliance and security issues. There are going to be some jobs that you just can't do based upon technology and security and compliance as effectively from a cost perspective and true hardening of a target in office versus out of office. So I think we'll eventually find our way there and there will be different pay grades where we will pay you 15% extra if you're in the office five days a week.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah, that makes sense. And you kind of hit on this already. Manufacturing, certain types of product development and things like that, you'll have to be in the office. You have to be in the factory on the floor. Makes a lot of sense. However, I guess one of the things that I'd be curious about, and maybe the however is not the lead in there. But in addition to that, the MedTech world in general, what are some things that you see very specific to MedTech maybe as opposed to other industries? Are there other factors at play that are more specific to MedTech?

Joe Mullings: Oh, gosh. Well, I would say MedTech, look, patients are always first. And I believe that that's what's amazing about this business, is when somebody starts in MedTech, it's really rare that they leave MedTech and don't want to come back. The number of people that I've helped them in their careers, they left MedTech for a job and they're like," Gosh, this is not what I want to do" and they come back, because I think some of it has to do about the patient, some of it has to be about a higher calling, a fulfillment. Maybe there's something about keeping somebody alive because of the software you wrote about a surgical robot versus keeping somebody on Facebook for 32 more seconds, right?

Etienne Nichols: When you put it like that.

Joe Mullings: On a post, right? I mean, so there's a little of that. But in MedTech, we're keeping people alive or we're improving their life. And so we don't have as many variables as maybe if I'm making a car. And again, people who manufacture cars, design cars, are amazing people. But I think there's not many people at SpaceX that are working from home that are not working on the rocket. There's not many people in MedTech who are working on a left ventricular assist device or an Impella catheter out of Abiomed that is saving lives, and you can't be even wrong 0000.9% of the time. That collaboration that happens in person is non- negotiable. So I think there are certain categories, but then there's others. We had a client, I won't name them, but there're a big MedTech pharma company that we put together a big quality effort for them for contractors in Canada, in New Jersey, in Southern Cal. And I want to say they were, God, I think the whole project was 40 quality engineers, but all they were doing were paperwork. And so they could work from anywhere and they had to go up to Canada once a quarter or into New Jersey once a quarter, but they could still work from home. That opportunity would not have occurred, if not, but for the current WFX environment. So I think you're going to start to have in job descriptions, if not already, in the office four days a week, in the office three days a week, in the office two days a week. And I think you could also use that to negotiate your offer, candidly. And I will tell you that we have negotiated offers for individuals who said," If I have to be in the office four days a week, I want another 8% on the salary." And the companies are paying.

Etienne Nichols: Wow.

Joe Mullings: So keep that in the back of your mind as you're negotiating your offers.

Etienne Nichols: And that's a good lead into maybe some other aspects of this conversation. What would you say are some good tactics, strategies? I'm sure you've seen a lot of that during the interview process. What are some things you recommend?

Joe Mullings: So I had shared this with the market a little while back, and it's really this simple and you should start your interview process. Once you're past that first telephone interview and/ or Zoom and you know it's getting serious now where you're starting to move up the ladder to whether it's a VP you're interviewing with or a head of HR, whatever, use your cognitive senses. When you're getting to that point where it's offers should start to go on the table and they're going to ask you," What are you looking for?" And so do not answer," I'm looking for an increase of 10%." You say," Listen, there's a number of levers that I can pull on this before I give you my answer, because I'm interested in coming to a company who is aware of this. I've got a work from anywhere lever. I've got a base salary lever. I've got a bonus lever. I've got the ability to go to three or four seminars a year lever. I've got holiday lever." And then I've got," What does my career path look 12 or 18 months out? Can I get a six month early review, merit review, instead of sitting into this archaic one time a year where you're going to rate me? Those are my levers."" So right now in my life, I've got a four year old at home. I've got a sig other who can only go into the office two days a week. That lever needs to be pulled for me in these areas. That may change in a year, but right now this is what I'm looking at. So as I chat with you, not negotiate, as I chat and discuss with you the offer that I would consider, these are the levers. And I'm happy to make you aware of them as to make sure that this is a good fit for you and it's a good fit for me." That is the most adult constructive, powerful way to position the negotiations along the way and not have it be a Jack in the box at the end of like," Here's the offer letter." Base, bonus, report into, 401( k), and that's it. And then you've got to enter the salary and the rest of the compensation package conversation when the carrots are already cooked, not a good way to do it.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. This sounds like a different scenario than if someone is just blindly throwing out resumes into the universe. This sounds like the end of a," I'm assuming a proper networking process." And so maybe we skip to the end, but I wonder if you could talk to us a little bit about that networking process. Or do you have recommendations around the networking process, whether you work from home, whether you're in the office?

Joe Mullings: I think everybody listening to this only networks when they need it, which is the biggest mistake you made, right? So in the world, we tend to harden targets after they've been attacked rather than preemptively staying ahead of that. So your networking should occur when you don't need it. And that should be as disciplined as you wake up and have breakfast. And if you're not a breakfast eater, you're a faster, when you have lunch, when you have dinner, you should schedule your networking activities on a weekly basis and assign whatever it is, an hour, two hours, three hours of networking. Now, what does that networking mean? That networking means go out and identify 30 companies and 250 people that you want to get in their inner circle on. And there's this platform called LinkedIn if you haven't heard of it yet. Everybody lives their careers out loud on LinkedIn with relatively unfettered access that you can get into the inner circle of nearly anybody. If you're clever, if you're bringing value, if you're giving and not taking, and you're not asking for something, but you're creating a brand around yourself and potentially sharing something that uplifts your industry, MedTech, and maybe the subcategory of that industry, structural heart, peripheral vascular, neuro, whatever it is, you should be out there creating a brand which is really the networking. And so when you need something, you want to be standing in plain sight that when you do need it, everybody knows that you're either open for a new career or you can reach those 200 people and say, confidentially," I'm looking. I'm not going to HR, reaching out to you. Don't know if any opportunities occur." And if somebody's been watching you online and know you're bringing value and you're not spouting religion or politics or other silly things that people do to self- destruct themselves, they will say," Huh, I've been watching you. I might have an opportunity. Let's chat." That is networking today in 2022.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. Staying focused sounds like that true professionalism. And I wonder if we could go one layer deeper. I'm curious what your recommendations are like used to in the office. Say you're a product development guy, the guy who started dressing and suddenly he's dressing in button down shirts." What's going on here?" Suddenly he's being a little more professional. There's a little difference. He's presenting himself differently in the marketplace. Any recommendations? What does that look like now in 2022? How to represent yourself best?

Joe Mullings: Yeah. It's a good question. So that was an analog world, right? So when I started the workforce in 1984, I made sure that I had the right shirt on, the right tie on, all that kind of stuff, and how did I appear in front of others, right? Because your reputation is what precedes you before you get there and what is left behind after you exit. And so that, in an analog fashion, usually was based upon your behaviors and how you packaged yourself. It's not any different in the digital domain today. In fact, it's, you need to even be more precise about it because the digital scales your idiocy as well as your competency equally. And so what you've got to be super careful with, and I do this all the time when somebody's coming to work here at TMG or I'm working for one of my clients, I will go onto the social platforms and see how are they responding and how are they representing themselves and what value are they adding into the marketplace. Because it's a pretty good rubrics as to who somebody really is based upon what they like, what they support, what they put out in the ecosystem, how they respond to others, how they support others. It gives you a really good sort of window into who you're dealing with. And so you really need to keep that in mind as you represent yourself in the market. And you've got to be seen as a giver all the time, not a taker, right? And watching people agree to disagree on something is an incredible dynamic to study because then you can know who you're bringing to your foxhole. And vice versa. So all this advice I'm giving, if you're going to work for somebody, and let's say Sally Smith is the VP of quality at the company you're going, you need to go creep her and go back weeks, if not, months at a time on all of our social platforms, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, because you're betting yours and your family's future on that person being the gateway to what happens to you. So it goes both ways. If you're looking for a job, make sure you digitally imprint who you're going to work with and who is going to have influence over the outcomes of your career, ultimately, your life.

Etienne Nichols: That's a great point. You had mentioned earlier the 2 to 3% the upper echelon that you're talking about. Those are who you shoot for. Now, when you talk about the way to represent yourself positively in the marketplace, I like compare and contrast. I don't know if you want to do it too much detail. But that 2 to 3%, what's the difference in them versus I don't know, everybody else? The major distribution curve. What your thoughts there?

Joe Mullings: I would say the 2, 3% are constantly driving themselves to learn, are keeping aware of where the market's going to be five years from now and making sure that their career choices are being supported by the technology and the companies that are well positioned to that market that's expanding five years from now. They also are generally very active within their category. So if you're a design engineer or quality engineer or a reg engineer, typically they're going out to shows they're not active for the sense of being active, but they're taking their job that they're responsible for and trying to squeeze everything they can out of it. And then the people around them recognize the talent. So they don't have to hold up their own flag. You're nodding your head because you know those people. And you probably want is," I don't need to advertise how great I am. Let me just do my work. Let me bring incredible value to my employer and/ or the category I'm working in." And then the really sort of the people who are driving the category or the company or the industry forward, they see that. That's the best way to move forward in this world, is great leaders are always keeping their eyes open for over performers. And they'll pluck them out. You've seen it happen. They'll pluck them out and they'll say," Hey, are you interested in this?" And the great performer goes," Yep, absolutely. I'll take it." And then they put their head back down and they knock the cover off the ball. And then before they're done with that, they get plucked by somebody else and say," Hey, see this? I'm looking for somebody just like you to run this." As a leader, personally, I am always looking for people who are just absolutely crushing whatever it is they're working on. And they're the ones who get moved to the front of the line all the time for an opportunity, rather than the ones who are pulling their own flag up the post and say," Hey, look at me. Look at me." And as soon as I press against you and ask," What have you done? Give me your accomplishments," it's a resume loaded with adjectives and soft things and activities, but not outcomes.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. So if I just kind of... I don't know. I'm going to take what you said and put it in my words and you tell me where I'm missing maybe. I'll just say it my own clumsy way. But I've looked at my career and I've seen different people. And sometimes you wonder how did that guy get that job or whatever. But if you look closely, I can call one guy, his name's James Rogers. He's a design engineer. He's an engineer by trade, but he's also by hobby. His hobby and his passion, what he does for living. I just admire those people. And it's almost like a double edged sword. You can almost give the advice," That's what you need to be to really be the best. You need to have the hobby and your profession as the same thing. And so maybe that's a way to navigate to your professionalism." I don't know. What are your thoughts there?

Joe Mullings: I think you're onto something there. So we had just come back from... We had a keynote speaker who talked about Kobe and talked about Jordan. And he said," Those guys were not interested in winning championships. They were obsessed with it," right? So when you get into a career because it interests you, you'll make a nice living. You'll do fine. But when you get into a career that you're obsessed with, you could go over the edge. It's like everything. You could go over the edge, right? But when you were obsessed and that's all you think about and everything you see somehow or another connects back to that, this is where the genius occurs with these great inventors, is they look at everything analogically. They could look at everything and say it's like head hunting. So I am obsessed with talent. Obsessed. Bring it into my organization and fighting for other clients. Everything I look at, I put through how do I convert that to talent access for my company and how do I convert that to talent access for my clients. And that's why we're the only search firm in the entire world with its own production company and media company. We just won four more Telly Awards on around... Because everything I look at, I put it through the prism of talent, talent, talent. So I think you're right. I think there are people there who they're not interested in being an engineer. They're obsessed with it. They're not interested in winning NBA championships. They're obsessed with it. So I think that obsession within reason and without judgment as well, right? So people will say," That's all you think about 24/ 7." I'm like," Yeah, but that's my choice. That's my choice. You go do you. I'll do me. Don't worry about what my wife thinks. Don't worry about what my two kids think. Don't worry about what my aunt thinks," right?" Let me worry about me. I'll go do me," right? So I think you're onto something there in regards to, they're just not an engineer, they're hobbies revolve around it. Everything they look at is through DaVinci goggles.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. That's a great point. I'm not as obsessed, I guess, with talent per se. I have my own obsessions obviously. But when you see talent like that, it's hard not to admire it, even if you're not in the world of maybe your world per se, but it's something you have to admire.

Joe Mullings: We love great performances. Our entire culture is built around sports for God's sake, and awards, and trophies, and peace prizes. We celebrate excellence. And that's because those people are bringing more value to the world and keeping us healthier or keeping us smarter or keeping us safer. Right? And that's where it's really important that we continue to pursue this hierarchy of competency instead of hierarchy of power or hierarchy of equality, is we need to continue to celebrate excellence and hyper competency because it makes everybody's life better.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. Those are the ones who are going to push the edge. And those are the ones who are going to cure cancer. Yeah.

Joe Mullings: That's right.

Etienne Nichols: Exactly. One thing that we mentioned just kind of in our notes, kind of in our pre- show I guess, was the quality mindset and how to use that as a weapon and a tool across the organizations. And you've already hit on it a little bit a few times, but I wonder if you could maybe go into just a little bit more depth as far as that goes.

Joe Mullings: Sure. So one of my favorite books I read was handed to me when I walked into Loral Fairchild in 1984, Out of the Crisis, right? So all my quality people, that's probably the first book that you read or should have read out of the crisis. And what it talked about was designing quality or the behavior. I'll do the head nod to quality, but the behavior at the root cause of what you should be doing. And so designing quality into a process rather than inspecting it post process. So back in the day when I first started, the quality function was kept in a closet and then we take it out of the closet when we had to parade it through. And then we put it back into the closet. Until finally around 25 years ago, 20, 25 years ago, it really came out of when, again, the Japanese were kicking our butts in the automotive business, right? And then we finally got our arms around," Hey, here's an idea. Why don't we do it right in the beginning rather than try and just find the stuff that's right and slap that on and see if it all fits together?" right? And it's the same with human beings and it's the same with manufacturing thing and the same with process. And now we have Six Sigma and we have all these other sort of nomenclature we throw at this. But at the end of the day, it really comes down to best athlete at their post. Because almost all the problems I see in the workplace, almost all the problems I see in relationships, almost all the problems I see in the passing on of generational dysfunction comes down to the human being and who you pick. And so I'm getting a little ethereal here, but it really comes down to most of your quality issues go away. And I don't mean quality in the quality and the dimension of this mug. I mean quality in the output of the experience and/ or how do you impact the product, your company and the world in general, is pick the right people to surround yourself with, from a cognitive intelligence, from a conscientiousness, from ethics and morals, right? You put that package together. People who are organized, people who are smart, people who care, people who have ethics and morals. And now what you've got is no matter what comes out of that machine invariably is always going to be better than if one of those is compromised. And so when I think about quality, I don't think about it as the function in an organization. I think about it as to the carbon base and the impetus of every action that's going to come out of whatever it is I'm doing. If I'm raising my child or I'm cooking a meal, if the ingredients of that meal are subpar, there's no way for me to make that meal. If the ingredients centering around that table, putting the thoughts into the head of that child at 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 at that table are faulty, what do you think generationally is going to be passed down to that child? So these are the things I think about. When I think about quality, I think about the talent of those things. Again, conscientiousness, cognitive intelligence, ethics, and morals. I mean, those are all critical, critical items. And again, the obsession with something, right? You got to want to pursue greatness in everything you do.

Etienne Nichols: One other question about that. So with the consciousness, cognitive, ethics, morals, the obsession, I think we probably have a lot of people who are listening who probably possess a lot of those characteristics, I would hope. A certain amount of them anyway. Maybe not to the point of obsession. But you mentioned two different types of people, the people who are raising the flag saying," Hey, this is who I am. This is who I am." And everybody... If you really see that, it kind of is a turnoff. But what about the people who are doing it right? Not necessarily showing themselves to show themselves, but sometimes these people who are raising the flag, it could maybe just take a little bit of steering and pointing in the right direction, you could do this right. Any recommendations on how to go about showing yourself in the best way in that regard? Does that make sense?

Joe Mullings: Yeah. So make sure you're performing in front of the right audience, first of all. Again if you're putting on a killer performance out in the middle where nobody's listening or watching, well, did the performance even matter? So that's one, right? So are you performing in an environment that appreciates it? So that's really important to pick where are you going to play your game. I could be Yo- Yo Ma and one of the best cellists in last century. If he's playing some place where he's not appreciated, well, is he great? I don't know, right? That's a question.

Etienne Nichols: Great analogy.

Joe Mullings: Right? So make sure you're playing your game in an arena where the spectators are going to know game and where the culture and the intention of the leadership is not overly faulty. I mean, there's no perfect. So that's why you'll see great players sacrifice salaries on salary caps on sports teams in order to bring in other great players. That's why you'll see people take a lower salary to go work at an organization that they are going to be rubbing elbows with others who were as insanely obsessed and driven by them. And when you longitudinally track the outcomes of the fulfillment of that life, and probably likely the economic success of that life beyond a one to two or three year span, you take it out, extrapolate it out 40 years, I think if you make those decisions and you play in a field where people appreciate your performance and you're with teammates who appreciate the performance, the additional benefits will follow. It depends. Stop looking at the score at the bottom of the second when it's a nine inning game.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. That's great, great advice. I want to go back. I know we're almost out of time. There's one question I wanted to ask though. When you said early, early on fulfillment is one of the things, of course we need to define fulfillment, I wanted to ask you how you go about defining it. What are your recommendations for that? Especially in light of what you just said about those players being at the top of their game. Maybe not being for economic success, but for other aspects in life. How do you define fulfillment? How do you recommend that?

Joe Mullings: So it's a variable. It's going to change. I just turned 60 a couple months ago. And what fulfilled me at 21 is different than at 28 and different at 35, right? My responsibilities, my commitments, my maturity, my learnings, my education, my being mentored and mentoring others, that definition of fulfillment, while the spheres sit in the jar, they change in size, right? Sometimes it's me, me, me, me. Sometimes it's you, you, you. Sometimes it's them, them, them, right? So that fulfillment, I think you've got to integrate it on where you are and where you want to be a few years from now. I avoid the word happy like the plague because it's a cheap word. Happiness comes upon you and you don't even understand why it's on you sometimes. But fulfillment is so deep and stabilizing and non- negotiable. But happiness is it's like a piece of bubble gum. Keep it in your mouth for three or four minutes and you spit it out after a while because it's lose its jazz. So I would say take note of where you want to go. The tattoo you get at 20 is different than the tattoo you would've put on your body at 30. It's totally different than you would've put on 40. And sometimes the relationships you pick and the jobs you pick at 20 are totally different than at 30, totally different at 40 if you're constantly evolving. Know that you outgrow people all the time and it's not bad. Know that you grow into being somebody you never imagined before and it's not bad. Yeah, I think it's such a personalized situation, the definition of fulfillment. But also know that your job and your career, other than the person you pick to spend the rest of your life with, could be the most critical series of decisions you make as your six foot above ground. Those are the two things that you should not compromise within reason. No relationship is perfect. No job or career is perfect. But damn, if you don't get those two closer to good enough than not, you're going to be a miserable, miserable person. And maybe want to exit sooner than you should have. Huh?

Etienne Nichols: That's great. I've really enjoyed this conversation, Joe. Anything else you want to say to the audience? Any last pieces, words of wisdom that you want to... I mean, you've said it, but...

Joe Mullings: Well, no, I appreciate the opportunity. Your questions were really fun, which allows me to sort of riff back and forth with you. I really appreciate the opportunity and the thoughtfulness that went into this session.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah. Great. All right. Well, thank you so much. I'm looking forward to True Quality and getting to meet you in person in a few... I guess less than a week now.

Joe Mullings: Less than a week. I'll see you in San Diego.

Etienne Nichols: Yeah, this is great. Thank you for listening. Those of you who have been listening, you've been listening to the Global Medical Device Podcast. I hope you enjoyed this session. And we will see you next time. Thanks.

About the Global Medical Device Podcast:


The Global Medical Device Podcast powered by Greenlight Guru is where today's brightest minds in the medical device industry go to get their most useful and actionable insider knowledge, direct from some of the world's leading medical device experts and companies.

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Nick Tippmann is an experienced marketing professional lauded by colleagues, peers, and medical device professionals alike for his strategic contributions to Greenlight Guru from the time of the company’s inception. Previous to Greenlight Guru, he co-founded and led a media and event production company that was later...

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