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Great uncertainty brings great opportunities for growth...career growth. Currently, regulatory roles are one of the highest in demand in the medical device industry.
In this episode of the Global Medical Device Podcast, Jon Speer talks to Mitch Robbins, founder and managing director at The Anthony Michael Group.
Listen as Mitch shares his unique insights and perspectives into why there's such a high demand right now for regulatory and quality roles and how you can find your next career opportunity with the help of a regulatory affairs recruitment solution for employers and candidates.
“When this pandemic started to happen, as rapidly as it did, in March, I, as the owner of our business, like everybody else was pretty freaked out because I saw things start to shut down and shut down more and more progressively.”
“We had some searches going on that a couple had just finished up and a couple that were in the final stages went on hold—just pretty much overnight.”
“We have just been non-stop with organizations that need our help to place regulatory and quality talent. So, I would say that the market is on fire and demand is...greater than it’s ever been.”
“Be okay being uncomfortable—meaning, especially with hiring practices, so many organizations, never in their wildest dreams thought they would hire on a remote basis, let alone build a remote workforce.”
“People that are moving and adapting to what is reality are the ones that are winning. It’s okay to be uncomfortable, especially if you see a way forward to continue to innovate.”
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.
Jon Speer: Did you know that one of the highest careers in demand in the medical device industry right now is in regulatory? Who knew? There's probably a lot of reasons as to why that is, but I think it's really interesting to think about this as an amazing career opportunity for folks. And a lot of companies have a huge demand for regulatory professionals. Joining me on this episode of the Global Medical Device Podcast is Mitch Robbins. Mitch's with The Anthony Michael Group. Their firm does a lot of recruiting for employers, as well as for candidates who are seeking their next exciting opportunity. So he has a lot of insights and perspectives on this, and I hope you enjoy the episode of the Global Medical Device Podcast. Hello and welcome to the Global Medical Device Podcast. This is your host and founder at Greenlight Guru, Jon Speer. And excited to resume conversations with, hope it's okay I call you a friend Mitch, but I've grown quite fond of our conversations over the past, I don't know, year, year and a half, however long we've been talking together. But I guess to those listening, joining me today is Mitch Robbins. Mitch is the founder and managing director at The Anthony Michael Group. So Mitch, welcome back.
Mitch Robbins: Thanks Jon. How dare you call me a friend. I didn't know you were going to do that on air.
Jon Speer: It seems right. You and I have talked, well quite a few times on the Global Medical Device Podcast, but several more times just keeping a pulse on what's going on in the industry. And today is one of those topics of conversation that I think last time you and I spoke in some depth about what was going on, I can't remember if we were already in the pandemic or not, but obviously much of 2020, and even early 2021, we're still in the throws of that. And I'm just a little curious, I guess, on what you're seeing from the industry perspective, in your role at The Anthony Michael Group? Have things been slowing down, speeding up? What is your take, what is your perspective on things in the industry right now?
Mitch Robbins: Sure. Yeah. And first again, thanks for having me on again. It's always awesome to be with you and be on the show. And likewise, as far as our friendship, as far as what I'm seeing in the market, I guess I'll take you back real quick to when this pandemic started to happen as rapidly as it did. In March, I, as the owner of our business, like everybody else, was pretty freaked out because I saw things start to shut down and shut down more and more progressively. And then we had some searches going on that a couple had just finished up and a couple that were in the final stages went on hold, just pretty much overnight. And thought," Oh man, this is not good." And I could tell you that by late April, early May, from that time period, late April, early May, through as you and I are having this conversation, we have just been non- stop with organizations that need our help to place regulatory and quality talent. And so I would say that the market is on fire and demand is, I would almost go out on a limb and say greater than it's ever been quite honestly, especially in these functions.
Jon Speer: Yeah. And I think that parallels what I observed as well. I think there was that period of time of great uncertainty, not just in the medical device world, but just the world in general in that March, April timeframe. We were all trying to figure out being sort of forced, so to speak, to be remote and all these other things that were not commonplace for any of us. We were just trying to figure it all out. And I saw a similar thing from a Greenlight world and perspective that it seemed like, let's call it mid April or so, people were like," All right, this is what we're faced with. Let's adapt and evolve." And I guess that's encouraging to hear that you've seen the same sort of thing. And I know from our perspective at Greenlight, it's been, I hope this comes out the right way, a fantastic time for us to grow. We have, personally, we haven't let anything that's facing us, slow us down. We're like, this is a great time to invest in our business. It's a great time to invest in growing our business, adding additional key resources and so on and so forth. And it sounds like you're seeing similar sorts of things. Some companies, I'm sure there are still others that are still trying to figure it out and that sort of thing. I guess, any thoughts on that?
Mitch Robbins: Yeah, yeah. I guess a couple of things come to mind, the analogy of the stock market. There's people that when the stock market is not doing well, they get scared and they end up selling and then they kick themselves later when the stock market comes back because they lost the opportunity to realize those gains, but they got out because of the fear. And then there's others who see it as a great opportunity to buy on the dip, so to speak, and realize those gains, knowing that everything is cyclical. I would say the exact same thing has been going on in our marketplace within medical technology is organizations, exactly like you just explained with Greenlight Guru, who a lot of companies are seeing this as an opportunity to maybe be okay being uncomfortable, meaning, especially with hiring practices, so many organizations never in their wildest dreams thought they would hire on a remote basis, let alone build a remote workforce. And so I think people that are moving and adapting to what is reality are the ones that are winning, and it's okay to be uncomfortable, especially if you see a way forward to continue to innovate. And so I would say that the vast majority of businesses I've seen, some were very early to adopt and others kind of begrudgingly said," Well, we don't necessarily have a choice." And then there's others that quite honestly, I've seen continue to remain on the sidelines. I think the elective surgery business obviously was an issue last year, but that's coming back. I guess that's the analogy I would use as far as the stock market, because that's exactly what I've been seeing.
Jon Speer: Yeah. And I like the remote aspect of that because same thing that we were faced with it at Greenlight Guru. Suddenly, mid March of 2020, regardless of where people were geographically located, we were all remote. Now, granted we might be in the same area code, so to speak, but nonetheless, we're all remote. And that was, I think, a pivotal moment for our company is to realize," Oh, wow, we've got to adapt and evolve and figure out how to work remote." It was a lot of pivots, a lot of iterative collaborative sessions to just make it work. And we have a great team of people. And so we were all committed to make it work. And I think we've been thriving and very successful at that. And in so doing, we realized," Oh, wow, there might be some opportunities to add some amazing talent to our team," people that maybe aren't ready to move their family or relocate to central Indiana. But maybe they're perfectly happy in Austin, Texas, or San Diego, California, or wherever the case may be. So it's really, we really, I guess, reevaluated our hiring strategy and our workforce strategy. And it's still evolving today. I know a lot of our team is anxious to get back into the office and that sort of thing, but we're being cautious and making sure that we're monitoring the situation appropriately. But it's great to hear that other companies have realized," Wow, this is kind of a great time." The old model, you and I are old enough to remember the old model as you were expected to be in your seat at eight in the morning, and you're there to five and you take an hour lunch and that sort of thing. So sort of regimented as far as your day- to- day schedule, but it's a different world in 2021.
Mitch Robbins: It's definitely a different world. And I think that flexibility is one of the key drivers, flexibility and autonomy, as far as why people are interested or not interested in opportunity. And I think this whole pandemic thing has really caused leaders of organizations to have to look at things differently. Those who want to continue to move their businesses forward and grow and seeing that, wow, a lot of these scenarios that we were concerned about that wouldn't work in a remote environment are actually turning out really well. So on that note, I'm going to be curious to see many businesses actually continue this model and continue to grow their workforce this way, versus how many truly do come back on a full- time basis into an office setting?
Jon Speer: Same. I heard, I don't remember where I heard this, but something along the lines of, I don't know if this is somebody just being Nostradamus and prognosticating or it was actually an article or something, but something along the lines of the workplace, the brick and mortar workplace, as we know it today will be a thing of the past in just 10 years. And it's not inconceivable. A year ago had, had somebody said that to me, I would've been like" That seems out of the realm of possibility."
Mitch Robbins: Totally.
Jon Speer: But fast forward a little over a year later, it's like," Oh, wow. Yeah, I could totally see it."
Mitch Robbins: I was just going to say, it just amazes me how much innovation and how many thought processes can be changed when you're forced to change. Tony Robbins, I think is the one who said, people make a change when the pain is great enough. I think that by being forced to be put in this situation, so many ideas and ways of doing things have spun out of it because we didn't have a choice.
Jon Speer: Yeah, yeah. The other saying that comes to mind is necessity is the mother of invention. Right? And now all of a sudden, we're all wherever we are in the world and it's like, well, we still need to get stuff done. So what do we do about it? And it's just rolling your sleeves up and trying to be creative. I know, internally, as I'm sure a lot of companies were very reliant on things like Zoom. I just remember when I started my career in the late nineties to think that we would be doing video conferences on a routine daily, multiple times a day basis, that would have been like Star Trek. We would've never imagined something like that, but here it's like, it's what you do all the time, every day. And it's not perfect, it's not a substitute. Still that face to face live human interaction is the most preferred, at least for me. But I think it's a pretty good surrogate.
Mitch Robbins: Absolutely, absolutely.
Jon Speer: Obviously, there are some sectors, especially in med device and a lot of other industries where, especially if you're manufacturing something, there's still going to be the need to be in a facility to do that sort of thing. I guess I'm a little curious as well. You've talked about seeing some of the companies that you're working with, that have realized, okay, this is a new way of operating, we're going to change our hiring strategy and that sort of thing. Are there particular segments of the industry where you're seeing a lot of demand and growth right now?
Mitch Robbins: I would say that regulatory is number one, for sure. Are you asking the types of medical technology businesses or the types of functional areas?
Jon Speer: Types of functional areas.
Mitch Robbins: Yeah. I would say that regulatory is just the demand is off the charts, quite honestly. I always tell people who are in the process of trying to recruit regulatory talent, simply just go on any job board of your choosing and type in the term regulatory affairs, and you'll see all your neighbors vying for the same talent.
Jon Speer: Yeah. And I'm curious, what do you think is triggering that? Any thoughts or predictions or guesses as to why the demand for regulatory is so high right now?
Mitch Robbins: I'm still trying to pinpoint, but I guess if I had to say right now, I guess I'd say a couple of things. One, EU MDR is not going away. Whenever it does roll out, it's coming. So I think that's a big piece of it. I would say that there's unbelievable innovation and hypergrowth going on in digital health. And so these companies are realizing the importance of regulatory staff and not just consultants. I would say that the population, just in general, is continuing to age, which is opening up more opportunities. And I would say that as a sector, medical technology, there's more and more startups, it seems, every single day that are luring talent from the bigger players, which creates more and more vacancies that and there's just not enough talent in regulatory affairs to go around, which is why I think some of these budding programs that are, I don't want to go off on a tangent, but I do want to say this. There's these regulatory affairs educational programs. And if you talk to regulatory executives, like I have, many, many times, it's split down the middle as far as how they feel about it. Does it prepare somebody to come into regulatory from college? And how does the hiring manager feel about that or the executive of that functional area versus others who feel like,"Yeah, it's a great educational supplement, but it's not necessarily what you need to get into regulatory." And it's interesting because historically, regulatory affairs hasn't been an area of where you're in college and you say to yourself," I'm going to be in regulatory affairs." It just doesn't happen that way. Most people got into it, just like recruiting, most people got into it by accident. And so I think that as an industry, the more intentional we are as far as helping to educate those who are coming up, as far as the value and what regulatory affairs really is and how it could be a great career path, I think that's going to be truly important because like I said, there just is not enough talent to go around, which is driving this demand insane right now.
Jon Speer: Yeah, I totally agree. And I want to get back to maybe some tips and pointers for employers, as well as candidates, here in a moment. But I want to take a brief break. I want to remind folks, I'm talking to Mitch Robbins. Mitch is with The Anthony Michael Group. You can find out a lot more about their products and services by going to theanthonymichaelgroup.com, all one word, no hyphens, no spaces. Of course, we'll provide a link to that as well. And Mitch, when you and I were catching up prior to today's podcast recording the other day, you mentioned something about a new service that you're rolling out at The Anthony Michael Group. Do you mind maybe sharing with folks a little bit more about that program?
Mitch Robbins: Yeah, absolutely. So it's funny, there's two things that I would mention. One is what's called the Career Hunters and it's actually myself and a colleague of mine in the recruitment industry. And this idea of the Career Hunters specifically out of a conversation one day as the pandemic was starting to unfold. And in essence, what it is, is it's an online step- by- step program for professionals who are looking to continue to move their career forward in one way, shape or form, whether that's learning more about how to position yourself for promotions or more so, what it's based on is helping you understand how do you get yourself in front of the decision maker without getting caught up in the HR application dump, so to speak. And we teach you step by step the inside know- how of a third- party recruiter as if we were helping you with your search, but teach you exactly how to do it yourself. And so that's anything from scripting to marketing, to understanding the buyer's journey. The whole thing is laid out in a six week online program. So that's called the Career Hunters. And the other thing I would mention is the new show, the Med- Tech Talent Lab, where we talk about all things talent related with a variety of industry guests, which Jon, we're going to definitely have you part of. All things talent related in medical technology. So that's the other thing I would mention as well.
Jon Speer: Mitch, I am excited about both those programs. I mean, I'm going to dive in and consume, or at least learn a lot more about them. They sound like wonderful assets to medical device professionals. So folks, we'll be sure to provide a lot more information about those two exciting programs that Mitch just described in the notes that accompany the show. So let's get back into the scope of the conversation, and talking specifically about the demand for regulatory. Sounds like the demand is coming from companies. And to your point, there's a limited talent pool as you and I are speaking today, a finite talent pool, that is not meeting the entire industry demand. And I guess, where are you seeing the bigger opportunities? What type of employers? You mentioned a lot of startups are being successful at luring some regulatory talent to their initiative and pulling them away, in some cases away from larger companies. Are you seeing the larger companies with shortfall or is it startups or is it all of the above?
Mitch Robbins: I think it's definitely all the above. So a couple of things I would say, is recruiting has to change one way or the other. And the days of posting a position and hoping that the right talent shows up, does it work sometime? Yes, it does some of the time. But I've been on your show before and I can't stress this enough, which is why I'm going to bring it up again. It's all about the employer value proposition. What is differentiating, what is unique about the opportunity, the trajectory of the business, the scope of that position, what this person's going to be exposed to, and if they are successful in helping you achieve your priorities, what does their path forward look like? Because top talent, it cares about a couple of things, especially today. One is, does your organization represents something that helps save lives or helps improve the quality of life in one way, shape or form, and can you articulate how their job ties to that mission? Two is the opportunity basically to self- actualize. If they can come in and do exactly what you're asking them to do, how are they going to be rewarded? It's not necessarily monetarily. It could be the types of projects that are going to work on or the scope of responsibility. And so what I see more often than not happening is organizations are just very old school. And aren't necessarily thinking outside the box on how to attract this talent. They're putting up a job posting that says," You must have nine years of Class III medical device experience, you must have known how to," and then they'll put in all the hot button language, and they'll have a sentence about who the company is and a link to their website. I want you to ask yourselves this. When somebody is heads down, busy as can be with their current work, and they've got umpteen recruiters leaving voicemails saying they've got the greatest opportunity and they see these postings about an opportunity that requires nine years of experience, how is that compelling? How does that stop somebody dead in their tracks and make it a no brainer for them to think about having explored for a conversation with you? And so that's, I guess, my biggest message is you have to start writing as if you're marketing to a prospect and courting them. You can't just assume that because you have an opening, the flood gates are going to open, people are going to be dying to work for you. Some companies have that luxury, but I would say the vast majority don't.
Jon Speer: Yeah. I have jotted down a few notes to follow up on that, some things that. First thing, the classic job description, to your point, there's 48 bullet points of all the inaudible and the roles and the responsibilities and the expertise that are important and very little about the company. So I got to imagine that that the quote, classic traditional conventional job description, I understand it, I've written these job descriptions. You're trying to find a person that ticks as many of those boxes as possible, everything that you can think of, including the kitchen sink sometimes. But in doing so, I got to imagine that limits your talent pool down to a handful of people. And what is your likelihood that you're going to find those handful of people what product are you are offering them, that's going to lure them to you?
Mitch Robbins: For sure. And so think about this. The vast majority of who is looking at job boards maybe are sitting right now, they're frustrated by something and they want to browse. So that's mostly the people who are looking, right, on a job board is somebody who's not necessarily content with what they're doing right now and is curious about what's out there. So let's say that you want to capture that sector of prospective talent. When they go to the job board and they see the exact same posting with a different company's name on it over and over and over, it's like a sea of noise, nothing rises above that noise. Think about content creators on LinkedIn these days. There's so much noise on social media, let alone LinkedIn, how do you capture somebody's attention in just a few seconds so that they want to know more? And that's when I keep harping on the value proposition is instead of writing the posting about what's in it for you and what you need, think about writing it from the perspective of who's going to be joining your organization. And if you were on the streets or if you were working for a competitor, why would you consider talking to the company, or excuse me, if you were looking for an opportunity, what would be so compelling about your organization that you think it's a no brainer for them to at least explore it with you? And I think very, very, very few people, unless they're studying this stuff, are recognizing this opportunity.
Jon Speer: Yeah. And that kind of segues into another note I jotted down a moment ago. I think it's important to think about the workforce today, and it's right in front of us. It's the millennial workforce. I'm a gen X- er. I go to the meetings every Tuesday at 5: 00 PM. But anyway.
Mitch Robbins: Oh, that's great.
Jon Speer: But the baby boomer the gen X generations, when they entered the workforce, completely different than when the millennial entered their workforce. And I think the other thing that I've learned a great deal, because at Greenlight we have quite a few folks that are of that particular generation. One of the things I admire about the millennial workforce is they gravitate toward opportunities and companies that have a meaningful mission, and to your point, value. Not just from a career satisfaction standpoint, but that they want to know that the work they're doing means something to humanity and they want to align to that particular mission. I think that's really important.
Mitch Robbins: I'm so glad you brought that up because I would say, so before this conversation, you and I, I had asked my team, who talks to God knows how many regulatory professionals on a weekly basis, I said," As you talk to these folks and you're talking to them about their current career situation and their aspirations going forward, what is the number one driving factor why somebody would consider making a change?" What do they tell you? And the number one thing was the type of technology and the mission of the organization, is it life saving technology, or how does it improve the quality of life? And so that ties straight back to what you just said, as far as feeling like you're being part of something greater, and this was way above money. Money was number three, so I think you're dead on.
Jon Speer: Yeah. I think it's back to what you were talking about a moment ago. It's about value, but it's about looking at this through the lens of the candidate, what's important to them. And I think probably, and I'm speculating here and it's probably not a fair speculation, but nonetheless I'll make it anyway, a lot of people who are hiring probably are still of, maybe an older generation and they probably haven't evolved their hiring practices. And I think that's the big message that I hope folks take from this conversation. It's time to evolve and think about this a little bit differently and realize that the people that you're hiring are different personas, they tick differently than maybe people you hired five or even 10 years ago. So I think that's really important. The other thing that I think is important, especially about the regulatory side of things, and this goes also back to a point that you made earlier on in today's conversation, used to be regulatory was sort of a, not in all cases, but I would say in an overwhelming percentage, sort of an accidental career path. It wasn't necessarily something that the person sought out to do, it's just something that happened. They were with an employer, it was an opportunity for a promotion or a new job or whatever the case may be. And so they sort of stumble into regulatory. But what you've seen I think is really important is that people are seeking this out as an intentional career path right now. And I think that's a really a key factor to weigh in whenever employers are looking to add to their regulatory talent pool, that people are doing this on purpose now, it's not an accidental thing.
Mitch Robbins: Yeah. And my hope is that that continues to be a bigger and bigger opportunity for people to realize," Wow, this is something I can go directly into and maybe I was thinking about going to law school, but I don't want to do that. I'm really interested in the medical technology space. And maybe I do want to be part of this track they call regulatory affairs." And I think that the more tenured veterans in the industry can be part of outreach and explaining to folks who are going through school now, or coming up, the value of regulatory and what it can be as a career path. It's critical quite honestly.
Jon Speer: The other thing that, I guess through my 22 plus year career, I've done more than just dabble in regulatory. I think what really has fascinated me in the past couple of years is all, I guess, the nuances and the ambiguity that regulatory science presents. And I like to solve problems, I'm a fixer. When faced with a challenge, I like to figure out a solution. That's just how I'm wired. And I think if you have that skillset, I think that a career in regulatory affairs and regulatory science could be a really good career path, just to figure out a strategy, like a go to market strategy. Maybe you've got something amazingly innovative and unique and that sort of thing, but how do you bring it to market? Where do you bring it to market? There's so many different options and the other thing that's happening, you mentioned EU MDR. Yeah, that's going live here soon and there will be another change that impacts regulatory, I would bet a lot of money on it, from FDA or Health Canada, or some other market in the world that it's going to require somebody to learn how to navigate that sort of thing. And so I think regulatory affairs professionals have this awesome opportunity to make a significant impact on the success of their company. So I can imagine there's lots of things that, that would feel good about being in that career.
Mitch Robbins: Yeah. I think it's an amazing opportunity. It's literally the functional area that brings together R& D, engineering, marketing, sales all together to get a product onto the market and keep it thriving and keep it safe in conjunction with quality. So I think it's fantastic.
Jon Speer: Yeah. And the other thing, I'll date myself a little bit, I think within companies, a lot of times the regulatory affairs people were looked at as like," Oh my gosh, I got to do this because regulatory says so," blah, blah, blah, all these sorts of things. But keep in mind, your regulatory people, they're key to your company's success because they understand how to navigate and work with FDA and the EU competent authority and notified bodies and anywhere else that you want to sell your product. They're the people that are going to make that happen. So I think that's really important. Mitch, as we wrap things up today, any last minute tips and pointers, advice, that come to mind that you want to leave the audience with?
Mitch Robbins: I guess the only thing I would say is continue to think, especially when you're recruiting, continue to think, would this be something that would attract us as current employees of our organization? What we're putting out there, is that really compelling enough to get somebody's attention? And if it's not, I'd encourage you to think about how you can make it compelling. If you have any questions exactly how to do that, always happy to be a resource and answer. On the candidate side, I would say you're in a golden era, so to speak, as far as opportunities and regulatory. And just because you're happy with what you're doing now doesn't necessarily mean that you should close off your ears and eyes because you just never know the types of opportunities out there that may continue to be an enhancement. So always keep an open mind and be open to conversations. Those are the things I guess I would leave your audience with.
Jon Speer: Mitch, thank you so much. I appreciate your insights and observations and wisdom on what's happening in the medical device industry. So I appreciate that.
Mitch Robbins: Jon, as always, it's really a pleasure to be here and I'm appreciative of the opportunity to be a guest.
Jon Speer: For sure, for sure. Folks, whether you're an employer looking to recruit and find amazing talent to join your medical device company, including folks in regulatory affairs, or you are a candidate who may be looking for your exciting next opportunity, you're going to want to reach out to a guy like Metro Robbins at The Anthony Michael Group. Again, you can learn more about what they do and how they help and all the different programs and services that they're offering by visiting theanthonymichaelgroup.com. As always, if you need some assistance, if you're a medical device company and you need some assistance with your quality management system and workflows to bring your new exciting products to market and keep them there in a safe, effective, efficient manner, well then I would encourage you to learn more about the medical device quality management system software platform from Greenlight Guru. The only such platform that exists, designed specifically and exclusively for medical device companies. It's been designed by actual medical device professionals. We find that this is really important. Our customers find that this is really important, somebody who knows how to speak the language and navigate the path that you're on. So go to www.greenlight.guru To learn more. And we'd be happy to have a conversation with you about your needs and the opportunities and see if there might be something that we can do to help you. Again, go to www.greenlight.guru to learn more. As always, thank you so much for being listeners of the Global Medical Device Podcast, the number one podcast in the medical device industry. Continue to spread the word with your friends and colleagues, and look forward to chatting with you or sharing with you another conversation here real soon. As always, this is your host and founder at Greenlight Guru, Jon Speer, and you have been listening to 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.
Nick Tippmann is the Chief Marketing Officer for Greenlight Guru, a MedTech Lifecycle Excellence Platform (MLE) that provides an industry-specific solution to help medical technology innovators around the world use quality as an accelerator to move beyond baseline compliance and achieve True Quality. Tippmann is...