Leading Engineers and Organizational Culture

November 17, 2023

We’ve launched our inaugural episode for a brand new podcast entitled Favorable Environments. Our first episode features a conversation with Dr. Tom Ulrich, a seasoned engineer and engineering manager with over 30 years of experience, a consultant, an Engineering Fellow at Tandem Diabetes, and an Adjunct Professor of Engineering at Biola University. He is also the author of ‘Leading Engineers,’ a book tailored for engineering managers that melds the wisdom accrued from his extensive career in engineering and management with insightful leadership theories from academia. This unique blend of practical experience and scholarly insight makes the book both relatable and trustworthy.

Below is a summary of our conversation.

Crafting Organizational Culture

Our guest’s journey in the medical device startup world began with a keen focus on organizational culture. “We’re making this company from scratch. Why don’t we try to make it a company we’d like to work at?” Dr. Ulrich shares. This principle is not just applicable to startups but is a cornerstone for any organization aiming for excellence, including research parks where interdisciplinary collaboration is key.

The Leadership Paradox

Leaders often find themselves in a self-deceptive cycle, attributing all successes to themselves and failures to external factors. Our guest candidly discusses this, stating, “As a leader, the news is sometimes our people do not succeed because of us. They succeed in spite of us”. This insight is particularly relevant for C-suite executives in the life sciences, urging them to cultivate self-awareness and humility.

The Remote Work Conundrum

The pandemic has forced organizations to adapt to remote work, but how do you maintain team cohesion in a virtual environment? Our guest had a straightforward rule: “You’re going to have your camera on”. Health tech startups, with their blend of remote and in-person work, can take a cue from this approach to foster a cohesive community.

The Art of Interviewing

Job interviews are often seen as a hurdle to cross, but our guest views them differently. “The interview is the beginning of a relationship, and if this person is going to work with you for ten years, it’s the beginning of a significant relationship”. This perspective is especially pertinent for research parks, where long-term collaborations can be the bedrock of groundbreaking innovations.

Servant Leadership: A Paradigm Shift

Our guest’s academic journey led them to explore Servant Leadership, a concept they find to be a “great paradigm”. This leadership style, focused on serving the team, aligns well with the ethos of research parks, where the goal is to create an environment that serves the broader scientific community.

This article offers a glimpse into our rich conversation with Dr. Tom Ulrich. For a comprehensive understanding, we invite you to listen to the full podcast.

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