One of the many lessons I have learned as an Army wife is that in the military, if you’re not at least five minutes early to an appointment, you’re late. So I had to laugh when Mike Dunford, senior VP of human resources at Covidien (Dublin, Ireland and Mansfield, Massachusetts), told me that in a room full of military veterans, “by 7:40 everybody was in their chairs and ready to go” for an 8 a.m. meeting Monday.
Dunford, a former Marine, is a mentor in the first Medical Technology Veterans Program (MVP) Boot Camp for Returning Heroes, which kicked off this week at AdvaMed in Boston. Veterans from all military ranks and branches from around the U.S. have spent the past three days learning about opportunities in the medical device industry and attending career development workshops that explore military skill translation, resume writing, networking techniques, and interviewing tips.
It’s that sense of work ethic and being on time, among other important traits, that make military veterans a good fit for careers in medtech, Dunford said. Each of the 25 veterans in the year-long program has been assigned a mentor. Like Dunford, the program mentors are all veterans themselves who currently work in the med-tech industry at companies such as Abiomed (Danvers, Massachusetts), Boston Scientific (Natick, Massachusetts), Haemonetics (Braintree, Massachusetts), and Covidien. The mentors’ role is to guide these veterans during their career transition.
The program fulfills an important need in this country as the latest jobs report shows a nearly 11% unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, that’s 50% higher than the U.S. average unemployment rate.
Dunford said another important character trait that veterans bring to the med-tech table, in his experience, is adaptability. In this industry, he says, “we’re changing everyday.”Those changes come both from within a company through acquisitions, as well as outside of a specific company, such as changes in the way new products are approved or reimbursed.
“Knowing that you can get folks into the organization that can adapt to their environment is important, not everybody can [adapt],” Dunford said. “This is a pool of talent that we need to leverage across the industry because they’re out there. That’s what I really want these folks to understand is that we want them as much as they want opportunity.”
Michael Minogue, president/CEO and chairman of Abiomed and an Army veteran himself, helped establish the MVP after speaking with wounded service members at last year's AdvaMed meeting. Minogue said he has also noticed many similarities between the military and the medical device industry. First and foremost, he says, is the sense of a mission and a dedication of helping and serving others, closely followed by the ability to constantly adapt to a changing environment.
The new program is designed to give military veterans an idea of how to package themselves so that they can get a full-time job after they separate from the military, Minogue said. Of the 25 veterans selected for the MVP boot camp, 25% are women and 52% are wounded or disabled.
In addition to the MVP boot camp at AdvaMed, another component of the program is the creation of a professional networking website, www.medicaltechnologyveterans.org, which Minogue says will be the industry’s version of LinkedIn for military veterans. “That’s going to be a huge win,” Minogue said, because it will have a broader reach than the boot camp.