Career advice on skillset requirements in the MedTech space

By Pranat Bhadani
What crazy times are we living in! – Monetary tightening across the world has made capital expensive, company valuations (especially tech) have taken a severe beating, and with the next funding round circumspect, most cash guzzling companies have resorted to mass layoffs. One would have assumed that the only silver lining for founders would be easy availability of talent. Yet, founders seem to be complaining about the prevalence of ghosting by recruits. There seems to be certain roles, which companies simply can’t have enough of, and at-least for now, they seem to be recession proof. How does one explain this dichotomy?
Technology and market forces have deepened the divide between the opportunities for a skilled workforce as compared to that for the unskilled ones. Formalization of the economy coupled with technology driven automation across each industry is bound to eliminate the opportunities for the unskilled labor, but the skilled labor has (and most likely will continue to have) a problem of plenty.
A potential job opportunity is no longer just evaluated based on the size of the paycheck. The magnitude of the problem (read opportunity), the slope of the learning curve, the ability to make decisions, the organization culture and the chance to have a real impact are all very vital considerations for the new age skilled job seeker.
Start-ups bear a special allure on a lot of these points. Small teams taking on massive challenges basically ensure that every team member becomes important and has a key role to play in the success of the organization.
Pick any sector, you will find a few start-ups trying to address the inefficiencies across the value chain. Incumbents are often caught unaware of the changing industry landscape, providing a window of opportunity to a young disruptor. Further armed with funding from venture capitals (VC), the disruption cycles have accelerated across industries. Talk to any VC on the key reason for the success of any startup, and it is always linked to the people behind the company.
It is the team’s understanding of the problem, the aptitude to build a groundbreaking product and the persistence to navigate through the sales cycles, that ensure success in the long run. For better clarity, let’s look at the above for the MedTech industry
The problem and the solution: This often comes with years of experience, but there have been multiple cases where outsiders, with little-to-no experience have relooked at the industry unencumbered with legacy issues, and have redefined the industry for the times to come. For instance, Medtronic – one of the worlds largest MedTech companies, was started by engineers who ran a electronic repair shop
Product development: This is where the MedTech industry is fairly unique. For most other sectors, the product development team needs to excel in a specific skill set or the other (software, AI, etc.), but a successful MedTech product (ex. SigTuple’s AI100) needs to have strong resources across Hardware (Robotics, Optics, Manufacturing), Software (Engineering, Data Science) and even in R&D (Microfluidics, other latest technologies). Furthermore, it is not good enough to build a minimum viable product and go to market. We are dealing with people’s lives here, and hence the product needs to go through multiple clinical validations to prove its efficacy. It often takes years before the organization can expect paying customers for its products.
Sales: Having a high performing truly differentiated product is necessary but not a sufficient condition for success. The product needs to be sold in the market. One often needs to navigate through the tedious sales cycles with a firm understanding of what will the customer pay for? In a cost sensitive market like India, where there is little-to-no cost of misdiagnosis, there is little incentive for labs/hospitals to invest in quality alone.
Bottomline is that the investment should either generate incremental revenues or save costs, and hence the value propositions have to be positioned accordingly.
All the above being said, none of this is impossible to imbibe. If you are truly passionate about solving a problem, you will figure out what your market needs. I say that with experience – We have data scientists who know more about pathology than most MBBS graduates and lab technicians who have now mastered the art to sell!
The writer is President, Business Growth with the SigTuple.