Jorge de Freitas | Beer, Kenya and DIY Chemistry Experiments
Jorge de Freitas
Jorge de Freitas takes us on his journey in this episode of the Being an Engineer podcast. He worked at various brewing companies in Utah, transitioning from a chemist into an R&D engineering role. One noteworthy experience he shared today is when he donated his time to clinical labs in Kenya to scale up HIV prevention, care, and treatment efforts in their local communities.
EXPAND TO VIEW EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION
people, kenya, chemist, beer, laboratory, work, chemicals, role, develop, chemistry, projects, testing, process, r&d, material, glassware, specific, form, labs, barrel
Jorge de Freitas, Jorge De Freitas, jorge, Aaron Moncur
Aaron Moncur 00:14
Welcome to the being an engineer podcast. Our guest today is Jorge De Freitas, who started his career as a synthetic organic chemist. And then about three years ago stepped into the role of r&d engineer, Jorge currently works for a medical device company in Utah, where he manages projects supporting the company’s vascular access device portfolio. Jorge, what made you decide to become a chemist?
Jorge de Freitas 00:40
Okay, so I would have to say it is the the experience I had with my high school chemistry teacher. It was a subject I fell in love with because it was detail oriented and complex, it wasn’t a subject that everyone was comfortable with. And I had an amazing teacher who was able to walk us through those those complex topics and and really did it with charisma and made it exciting. And it really just captured my attention. His his classroom presence and the material are the two things that really got me interested in chemistry. And I wanted to carry that forward and pursue that in college.
Aaron Moncur 01:22
What are some of those complex topics that you’re referring to?
Jorge De Freitas 01:25
Just you know, like with chemistry and talking about atoms, talking about, you know, atomic models, how electrons and protons interact, what’s, what’s the nucleus made of a cell, those kinds of things, breaking it down to that level of detail, things you couldn’t see. Explaining what we can see in real life at a molecular level of I think, is what was very exciting for me. And understanding energy and things of that nature.
Aaron Moncur 01:55
The users can’t see the video that you and I can see right now, but I can see your face lighting up as you talk about this. I can see like the enjoyment and the passion. That’s really cool. For me, as a mechanical engineer, I have kind of the the tools of the trade that I use every day and as a mechanical engineer, that would be like CAD and excel some lab tools like Allen wrenches and force gauges. What what is the chemist analog for these tools? What are those tools that you just use all the time as a chemist,
Jorge De Freitas 02:27
Aaron Moncur 02:28
Jorge De Freitas 02:29
tell me more well, especially as a synthetic organic chemist, the round bottom flasks that we run reactions in the distillation columns where we’re purifying material, a lot of physical glassware that’s made of borosilicate glass, it’s it’s heat tempered, can handle drastic changes in temperature from hot to cold, which are required and some type of crashing out of material from solution. Just the glassware was what fascinated me in reality. And that, tell
Aaron Moncur 03:01
me more about that. What Why did the glassware fascinate you?
Jorge De Freitas 03:04
I’m like laughing at myself right now. I’m trying I’m trying to think of why it fascinated me. It was like an erector set. You piece these apparatus together, if I’m not even sure if that’s the appropriate term apparatuses,
Aaron Moncur 03:19
absolutely. Go with the flow here,
Jorge De Freitas 03:21
okay. And you piece them together, and they have a function, right? And so you want to and you’re running the reaction on the other end, you’re bringing water into cool the trap so that way, you could condense material back into the flask. So it doesn’t dissolve or not dissolved but evaporate completely. They have a specific function and the way you piece them together really matters. And and their use is its form and function. I think that that’s it’s a marrying of those two concepts very,
Aaron Moncur 03:50
you explicitly mentioned round bottom flasks, is that an example of the the form and function?
Yeah, so the round bottom flask is to be able to distribute heat evenly across the reaction. So you don’t have just like one hotspot, say if you have a reaction running on a hot plate, you’re trying to equally heat the surface that where the reaction is occurring. And so that that’s one of the purposes of that round bottom flask equal heat while stirring. So yeah, that’s one example.
Aaron Moncur 04:21
That’s interesting. I never would have even thought of the fact that the round battle bottom like actually plays a functional role and Okay, so, glassware, anything else that comes to mind?
Jorge De Freitas 04:33
Of course, you got your Excel spreadsheets when you’re doing some data analysis. That’s one of our computer assisted tools. And then, of course, the the diagnostic equipment, the NMR, or nuclear magnetic resonance, where you’re identifying some unknown chemical structure based on how the molecular structure reacts to magnetic waves. That so that’s an interesting tool that is more of a comp flex identification tool,
Aaron Moncur 05:02
not sounds like an expensive machine, extremely expensive.
Jorge De Freitas 05:06
It requires its own helium supply to keep it cool. You really have to super cool a lot of the samples and keep the machine and the magnets extremely cold and needs its own room because of the magnetic waves or the real Yeah, the force that could be distributed from from magnetic interactions. And then it’s a large machine on the same. So it’s an MRI, essentially, an MRI for molecular compounds is what an M and R is. And so you need all the same safety precautions of high magnetic fields that you would see in like a hospital setting.
Aaron Moncur 05:44
No credit cards around those machines,
Jorge De Freitas 05:46
no credit cards around those machines, they will be wiped out. Yeah. And that was actually one of the requirements and in the laboratory was to leave your wallet and your phone outside of the lab or else you wouldn’t erase your hard drive and Oh, my
Aaron Moncur 05:56
goodness or your credit cards. All right. So let’s see, for about two and a half years, I think it was you worked as a brewer first at a company called Epic brewing. And then at what I assume is a competitor, you into brewing company, is that the right way to pronounce it correct? Yeah,
Jorge De Freitas 06:16
you went up right.
Aaron Moncur 06:18
So I know nothing about brewing or the brewing process walk us through what that process is.
Jorge De Freitas 06:25
It’s a very linear process that starts with sugar starts with extracting sugars from malt, or barley, or malted barley, barley being the grain multi being the process of converting and roasting the raw form of the grain into a processable form of the grain. From there, you extract the sugar, you make wort. So with the sugar water, the extraction is called wort. You boil it, you add flavoring which is where you would add your hops for bittering. Traditionally, like IPA or an India Pale Ale would have a lot of hops added to the start of the boil. Because there’s a chemical conversion that happens there. There’s a heat assisted isomerization of a specific compound and hops that go from non soluble to soluble, then once they’re soluble, they can be adding bitterness to your to your beer, if you will, okay, but it’s not called beer until it’s in the fermenter. And there’s yeast on it. And so once you add yeast to then go in and ferment these sugars, now you have beer, and that happens on the cold side, or what we would call cold side, anything on that side is susceptible to infection. And so there’s a large need for sterilization and sanitation procedures in your vessels, because you’re competing with wild bacteria and wild yeast that could potentially ferment the sugars. And so you want, you want to make sure that your your process is extremely clean once you come out of the kettle, or once you finish boiling and enter into the beer world if you will. Because you have this living organism, this yeast molecule that is converting sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Aaron Moncur 08:05
I have never heard beer explained on such a scientific level. And as you were talking about it, it almost it made me think of my pool actually, we put a pool in not too long ago, and I’m still learning how to be a pool owner and learning that there are a lot of chemicals that need to go in the pool in very specific ratios and amounts and you have to measure the chemical level and adjust as necessary, you know, weekly if not more often than that was was the process of keeping the bad bacteria out of your you know, your vats similar where you’re constantly taking measurements and adjusting different chemicals and formulations or is it very different than that
Jorge De Freitas 08:51
different in the sense that it was a bit more straightforward than balancing your pool chemistry, I know really well more straightforward and more straightforward because you would use a caustic or something like sodium hydroxide to clean the fermentation vessel and that would destroy like any organic material that was in the in the fermenter from like some previous batch. And then after that you would expose it to some low acid or a low pH acid sanitizer. And so it’s really the use of two chemicals. You’ve got this caustic material to clean, very deep clean of the stainless steel fermenter remove all of that junk that could be living in there, and then thoroughly clean it, pasteurize it with heat and then sanitize it with some type of acid sin is what we would call it and then that would make sure that you have this environment that’s free of any type of microorganism that could potentially sour your beer.
Aaron Moncur 09:46
Okay, how long does it take to go from start to finish creating you know, this that of beer
Jorge De Freitas 09:52
depends on the style of beer. And it could be anywhere from two weeks to two years. You I have two years, right. And then I’m saying two years from like a barrel aging program where that became a very popular thing in the beer industry where you would take this young fermented beer and put it in a barrel and let it age and get some barrel characteristic out of it. And maybe it was like a strong stout, a very alcoholic 10% stout or 10% Alcohol. And then you just stick it in a barrel for two years and see what kind of flavors develop as this exchange happens at the surface of the barrel and the beer, the liquid form of the beer. So that’s the extreme, that’s the two year and then anywhere from like a, say, an IPA could take a month on aging and conditioning. Less hoppy beer that doesn’t require an extra step could take anywhere from three weeks to a straight month, and that’s packaged, clarified, ready to drink.
Aaron Moncur 10:53
Okay, for the longer. I don’t know if fermentations is the right word to use the longer process anyway, I think I heard you mention. You, you kind of put everything in the barrel, and then you wait and see what happens. Is the result in terms of the flavor? Is it very predictable over that long of a span? Or are you really kind of just, you know, let’s see what it tastes like in two years,
Jorge De Freitas 11:20
every barrel could be different. So you could put the same batch or the same lot of beer into 12 Different barrels, and the environment in that barrel. And what I mean by environment, it could be the different concentration of yeast bacteria, or anything that’s in the wood in particular, could have a different effect on on your beer. And so the process would be to take all 12 of those barrels that you filled and do a taste testing on each individual one. And if there’s one that is just completely off, because maybe the chemistry was off, or maybe there was too much of a concentration of a specific bacteria, that gives you an undesirable flavor. You would have to just throw that barrel away because that flavor was just not what you were looking for didn’t Wow wasn’t as controlled as you were hoping it was.
Aaron Moncur 12:10
After two years, that must be a big bummer. If you have to throw some of this beer away.
Jorge De Freitas 12:15
Yeah. And it has happened of course. And and I’m sure breweries have to deal with that every day when they’re managing these these extensive barrel programs. Yeah, but yeah, it’s kind of one of those you’re waiting to see. And hopefully you’ve done everything, all your prep work, all your planning, all your creativity that goes into the generation of that recipe. Hopefully all those things line up where after two years, you’re like, Okay, this is what we were looking for. It tastes good. We can package this and sell it to the public.
Aaron Moncur 12:41
Yeah. Okay. Alright. So from these breweries, you you made a transition to working at a medical device company. They seem like very, very different environments. But I don’t know, it was just something specific about medical devices that attracted you.
Jorge De Freitas 12:58
Not particularly medical devices. But the, the industry in general, right. Being in the medical field, or being a part of that medical industry was very exciting for me. And in all honesty, I was gearing up to be a pharmaceutical chemist, or like being a synthetic organic chemist and going through school and going through some training to become that person. I was gearing myself to be in the pharmaceutical industry. Again, it’s still attached to the health industry, right. But there was something inside of me that just was like, you can’t work for pharmaceutical industry, you don’t necessarily agree with their business tactics. And again, this is from having some experience in pharmacy when I was in college and working as an intern for one of the major pharmaceutical companies and talking to the chemists there and really having an idea of what their day to day was like. It just didn’t appeal to me after an extended period of time in grad school. And so
Aaron Moncur 14:01
can you share, what about that didn’t appeal to
Jorge De Freitas 14:05
a lot, a lot of spent time on specific molecules that could have some type of medical benefit. And you might never see that hit the market. So you could spend an entire 30 year career working on some type of analog of a specific compound, because it has been shown to have some type of pharmaceutical benefit. But because of the the testing process, the development process, you might never see that that product hit the market. And so for me, I need instant gratification, right? I need some concrete evidence of my hard work. And I felt as though I would be putting myself in a position with the pharmaceutical industry of just working working working to develop a drug that might never succeed and might never actually benefit anyone. And I like to I like to see that. That enjoyment on someone’s face of something that I’ve created, say like I like to cook, I like to make beer, those are things that I could put a lot of heart and soul into. And then at the end of the day, once the final finished good is available, you can see how that impacts other people as well as have some pride in this finished form and look at it and say, Oh, wow, I worked so hard to create this. And it’s enjoyable, it’s, it’s beneficial to people’s well being or experience, if you will.
Aaron Moncur 15:30
Yeah, that makes total sense.
Jorge De Freitas 15:32
Okay. And it’s did not see that in the pharmaceutical industry. Okay,
Aaron Moncur 15:37
well, the medical device industry is fairly fast paced. So I’m sure that that played into your decision. So you spent a few years as a chemist as a scientist working at a medical device company, and then you transitioned into an r&d engineering role. How did that transition happen? Was that always part of the plan or was that just kind of like, organically this occurred at some point.
Jorge De Freitas 16:01
So that to get into r&d was always part of the plan. I liked the aspects of research and development, the the problem solving the researching new topics, some innovative technology that could either be further developed, there was something always exciting about that. And so my entrance plan into the medical device field was to leverage my experience as a as a chemist, and do quality work in the laboratory supporting operations. So I was a QC or a QA chemist, really just doing some benchtop chemistry to approve the materials that we used in manufacturing. And so it was my my easy transition from being a graduate student to a to a brewer, and then into this medical device field was leveraging my my school and my experience as a chemist, and with the future goal of entering into r&d. And so when I had my opportunity to enter into r&d, that was four and a half years into my, my stint as a quality assurance chemist. And at that point, I was looking for any opportunity to get onto the development side or the research and development side of our business. And so when the opportunity came up to apply for a role that was for a compliance based project, I thought that that would be my opportunity to now leave behind QC, or QA and then enter into r&d.
Aaron Moncur 17:25
Cool. So the plan worked. It did it did work. Yeah.
Jorge De Freitas 17:28
So I found that opportunity that finally got me out of the QA lab.
Aaron Moncur 17:32
Nice and what what are you doing these days as an r&d engineer that you didn’t have the opportunity to do as a QA chemist,
Jorge De Freitas 17:40
so with the with the laboratory work, it was very, very stringent, very SOP driven, or standard operating procedure driven. And so that was, follow this recipe every day, don’t change it, and put out these results. And now, I get to leave this very strict, defined way of life, we still have to deal with regulations, we still have funny SOPs, but I’m allowed to be more creative on how I solve problems. And I think that’s the biggest win for me at this point is it’s leveraging my problem solving abilities, my creativity, my need to have an idea, develop it presented, communicate it, get some buy in. And then also if you know if it, if it’s a horrible idea, I get that feedback. And then I get to go back to the drawing board. And and try something new res in the world of QA chemistry in a highly regulated environment, or just QA work in general, all the assurance, it’s very by the book, you don’t change things unless you critically have to. And a lot of changes come from say like audit findings, as opposed to sitting down and thinking of a better way of doing something. It’s more reactive, less proactive, and I tend to lean towards more proactive projects and appreciate those more,
Aaron Moncur 18:58
I’m with you, if I’m not creating something new, I get bored really fast. I’ve gone through a few different roles, especially just here in my own company, starting out as an engineer. And you know, even when I started the company, as an engineer, I was I was a fairly young engineer, I was about 30. So I’d only been working professionally for you know, maybe five years at that point. And so I was still figuring out how to be a good engineer back then. And that was fun. And I got to, you know, a certain level of proficiency. And all of a sudden, I was hiring people. And now I was getting a little bit bored, to be honest of being an engineer. And the next challenge I had was okay, now now I need to figure out how to be a project manager. And that was new and creative in the sense that I was figuring new things out, right. I was developing new processes to use and using my mind in different ways, and that was a lot of fun. And then a few years later, I I never you know became like an incredibly perfect pro. IT manager but again, I reached a certain level of proficiency. And then I started to get a little dull again, I thought I need something new. And now I focus most of my time is kind of business development and leader of the company. And that’s been yet another challenge. It’s funny, I’ve owned the company for 10 years, but I feel like it’s just the past year or two that I’ve really been focusing on, on business development, and really leading the company that’s been a new challenge that has, again, allowed me to be creative. So I get what you say, I just, I have to have creativity in what I do to really enjoy enjoy myself at work.
Jorge De Freitas 20:35
And I think you said it best Aaron and I can totally relate to that. And I think that that’s what I was looking for. So I felt stifled, I needed some form of creative outlet. Like I, I draw, I write, I do photography, I bake, I brew beer, all those things, to me are creative outlets. And I feel as though like this, this nine to five structure, these 40 hour work weeks where you know, everyone’s deliverables are tight, you got to get things done. You don’t necessarily have these creative outlets, you’re being driven by tasks and project managers or some type of deliverable worksheet and you can lose the sense of creativity and feel like Oh, I’m just doing this for the sake of doing it. But I think humans in general just need that outlet, and they feel more, I would say satisfied with their work, they’re actually accomplishing something when they’re allowed to be creative.
Aaron Moncur 21:25
Absolutely so much fulfillment. I’ll take a real quick break here. Ensure that the being an engineer podcast is powered by pipeline design and engineering, where we work with predominantly medical device engineering teams who need turnkey custom test fixtures, or automated equipment to assemble, inspect, characterize or perform verification or validation testing other devices. And you can find us at test fixture design.com. We’re speaking today with Jorge De Freitas, who began his career as an organic chemist and has since moved into the role of r&d engineer. Before we jump back into some of the engineering related questions, Georgia, you mentioned just now that photography is a hobby of yours. What kind of photography do you do?
Jorge De Freitas 22:14
landscapes, mostly, my wife and I, we do a lot of backpacking, we try to travel as much as we can. And I always felt the need to kind of capture those those sunsets or that lake view that we sat by for an hour while we had lunch. And so yeah, yeah, a lot of the photography I enjoy is, you know, more of that wide angle landscape photography.
Aaron Moncur 22:33
Where are some of the most picturesque places that you’ve had the opportunity to travel?
Jorge De Freitas 22:40
Banff, Alberta, Canada, really half national park that we went there for our honeymoon and I like been dying to move to Canada ever since. And that was about seven to eight years ago. I’d say about eight years ago that we went there. And it literally it’s a town. It’s this beautiful mountain town in the middle of a Canadian National Park. And so the vibe there, the energy there was just great, great to be around. A lot of people want it to just be outside. And you’re surrounded by these large massive peaks in the center of this really happening like little Park City esque town. And if you’re at all familiar with Park City, it’s got that Western charm, you know, that’s yes, small, small meets three charm. And so even the downtown area was just just gorgeous to just sit there in the middle and look down the road and see the small Main Street vibe, if you will, and then surrounded by these gorgeous mountains in forest.
Aaron Moncur 23:37
It sounds incredible. I’ve heard very good things about them. So this is one more vote in its favor. I need to take a trip there. That sounds amazing. My my family we did a road trip off the up the West Coast several years ago, maybe five years ago. And we ended in Vancouver, British Columbia. And it was the first time that we had been there. And it was it’s I’m sure it’s not as beautiful as Bamp. But it was it was probably the best mixture of nature. And I don’t know what to call it just city very developed. The best combination of those two things that I’ve seen, this is just incredible nature all around it but the city. It was it was so walkable. And there were just like restaurants everywhere so many restaurants. And it was it was an incredible experience. I can only imagine how great BAMF was.
Jorge De Freitas 24:32
sounds the same here. They do some good work up there.
Aaron Moncur 24:36
Yeah, yes, they do. Yeah. All right. I’ve got another chemistry question for you. So we are recording this towards the end of July where you know, deep into the whole COVID pandemic right now. Most of us are working from home. And I know one of the challenges that that my wife has had we have three children is what to do with the kids all day. I wondered, are there any fun chemistry tests or experiments that that you can share that we can do with the kids at home? You know, using mostly household type chemicals.
Jorge De Freitas 25:12
Okay, well, there’s the quintessential volcano experiment, right with some baking soda and some vinegar. Perfect. Yes, do one of those reactions. And then there’s the popular elephant to toothpaste. I don’t know if I can’t list off all the ingredients off the top of my head. But it’s, it’s very similar to the vinegar and baking soda reaction where you combine two things. And there’s this exothermic explosion, if you will. And so, but it holds its form, it holds its shape. And so it looks like this long tube of toothpaste coming out of some cylinder.
Aaron Moncur 25:45
Really at a that sounds super cool. What’s it called again?
Jorge De Freitas 25:48
Aaron Moncur 25:50
elephant toothpaste. All right, I’m gonna look that one up. That sounds fun. And there’s you said there’s some kind of explosion at the end or
Jorge De Freitas 25:59
yeah, it’s just uh, you combined the last chemical and erupts into this exothermic reaction eruption. Yeah, eruption. Yeah.
Aaron Moncur 26:07
Okay, wonderful. All right, well, look for that with the kids tonight.
Jorge De Freitas 26:11
There’s this other simple one, where you can take some salt and some ice. And by adding salt to the ice, you’ll actually lower the freezing point of water. And so you can get water to be lower than freeze at lower than 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If you put a can of soda or seltzer water in there, in that salt and ice solution, it’ll super cool that can and as soon as you open it, the gas will escape and the liquid inside that the water that remains will will like instantly freeze. And so really, yeah, you could give that a try where you’re super cooling the the actual soda and then once the once the gas lit escapes the liquid, you could you could feel it freeze solid after that.
Aaron Moncur 26:58
Is it like kind of instantaneous within just a second or something that are freezing? Yeah. And
Jorge De Freitas 27:04
you can feel like the pressure in the can as the gas escapes, you could feel the liquid in the can start to solidify? Like, really?
Aaron Moncur 27:11
Yeah. So this is like a slurry of of ice and salt. And then you just put a can of soda in the middle of all
Jorge De Freitas 27:18
that. Yeah, ice, ice water and salt, ice water
Aaron Moncur 27:21
and salt. Okay, cool. I have had the experience. A few occasions where I open up the freezer, and we have like some Otter Pops, you know, in the freezer, and they’re still liquid. And I picked the otter pop up. And if I shake it or you know, handle it, it instantly turns into ice even though it was liquid, what’s what’s going on they’re
Jorge De Freitas 27:45
crystallization at a nucleation site at a
Aaron Moncur 27:48
nucleation site. And handling it is what kicks off that nucleus.
Jorge De Freitas 27:53
So that nucleation site is basically the seed from where all the crystals will then grow from. And so there could have been something in there may be the start of a frozen water molecule. And then by giving it some energy by giving it some force by picking it up and shaking, you’ve now transferred that that end that physical energy into the otterpop. And which will then promote this this crystallization at that one site that that you couldn’t see with your eye. So yeah, that’s awesome. It’s like instant crystallization.
Aaron Moncur 28:24
It’s like magic when it happens, you know, some kind of black magic, like magnets, magnets shouldn’t work, but they do. All right. You have spent some time working as a volunteer for labs for life in Kenya. Can you tell us a little bit about what is labs for life? And what was your role as a volunteer in Kenya?
Jorge De Freitas 28:46
Okay. So labs for life was a program that was funded between a PPP, private public partnership, so it was initially funded by the US government to help relieve the impact that AIDS was having in Africa. And so labs for life, that’s an actual, I don’t want to say a company, but it’s an organization that worked with our company, to get volunteers together to leverage our expert expertise and quality systems, to then take that expertise and go to a laboratory in Kenya and then improve their processes. And they needed to improve their processes because with highly communicable diseases, when these patients are going to the clinic and getting blood drawn, the results from the analysis of their blood was not inconclusive, but unreliable. And so if you know here we have these extremely dialed in processes in such a regulated environment where you know, we document everything, any any change, you can’t make that change without communicating it to a board and getting approval from five different people before actually implementing the change. All in Africa because they’re so Low resourced, and these laboratories, they don’t follow those rules, you know, they kind of fly by the seat of their pants, and they do as much testing as they can, but they don’t have any controls in place to guarantee that the test results are accurate. And that what’s actually being communicated out into the public is, is informative, and people could actually make decisions on. So you might be HIV positive, get your blood tested in one of these clinics in Kenya, and because of their lack of systems, you might get a false result, but in reality, be HIV positive and then go into the community and spread that disease, correct. Wow,
Aaron Moncur 30:36
it’s easy to see how that can be come a big problem very quickly,
Jorge De Freitas 30:40
right. And so initially, it was for HIV and AIDS, we’ve wrapped up or not wrapped up, but we brought in like tuberculosis, that’s another major communicable disease. And so there’s, there’s populations still struggling with tuberculosis, you know, it’s not an issue for us in the United States. But in Kenya, India, China, it’s still a large issue. And so same thing, these patients need to go get tested, and they need systems in place to make sure that their clinical evaluations are accurate. And so my role as a volunteer was as a laboratory expert in quality management systems. And I went there to do an audit of their current processes against a standard and ISO standard ISO of the international standard organization. So with their guidance, and what they would consider as appropriate controls for a clinical environment and laboratory testing, we would go in and audit the laboratory, give them a score, give them a ranking, and then implement improvement projects. So our first week was, what’s the current state, do an analysis, do a formal audit, second week was sitting down with the leadership of the hospital and the clinicians and, and discuss projects or improvement ideas that they themselves would implement, and then also educate the hospital administration as well as the staff on the importance of these quality controls. And so a lot of it was mentorship and going to these desolate areas in Africa and, you know, basically improving the their health system and trying to improve their their clinical evaluations of their patients.
Aaron Moncur 32:18
And how long were you there?
Jorge De Freitas 32:20
Three months each time, excuse me three weeks each time. So about a month each time, I’ve gone twice now. And I’m like chomping at the bit to go again. Is that right? Yeah, that is something that I’m extremely passionate about. And it’s something I’ve been fortunate to be able to go into the r&d world and step outside of quality. But because it’s something I’m extremely passionate about, I still have the opportunity to support that program through my company and through labs for life. And so once we were allowed to travel again, I’m looking forward to getting on the schedule there and doing another month in Africa.
Aaron Moncur 32:53
What what are the living conditions like there in Kenya,
Jorge De Freitas 32:57
it depends on where you’re at. So this is kind of great, because I had two polarizing experiences. The first time I went was to very eastern part of Kenya. And it was an arid desert. Extremely impoverished, very small community. The living conditions of for them, we’re I would consider still poor, even for an African standard for my first experience. Because I’ve landed in Nairobi, Nairobi being probably one of the larger capitals in the continent are on the continent. And so that’s, that’s bustling, that’s booming, it’s growing. There’s a lot of Western influence there. So you’ll see things like KFC, whereas, when I was at in the desert part of Kenya, there was more like wild chickens running around in the street. Everyone was outside, a lot of congestion of people, not necessarily vehicles, but there was only like one town center. And there’s a lot of congestion, a lot of activity at that one town center. But generally, it’s it’s relatively poor. And so that that was my first experience with that part of Kenya. And then my second experience was in a more touristy part of Kenya, which was at the base of Mount Kenya. And that was in Nanyuki, Nanyuki, Kenya. And this was old colonial English Kenya, where the majority of the influence in that region was still like, UK dominated and so many, many of the people you would see there were still white expats from from England or some other neighboring colony. And so that had more of like this different vibe, very different. It kind of made me feel like I shouldn’t be there. And I was I was happier in the isolated desert part of Kenya, where it felt more immersive into their culture, more of an understanding of what impoverished Africa was like. Whereas this highly touristy, affluent part of Kenya did not sit well with me. I felt I felt as though like I was not getting the experience I wanted out of it. If that makes sense,
Aaron Moncur 35:21
I can appreciate that. Sure. Well, the clinical workers there, was there a sense of resentment at all? You know, why did it where are these Americans coming in trying to tell us how to how to do our jobs, or what’s the opposite, and they were just very grateful to have the help.
Jorge De Freitas 35:39
Mixed Bag, it depended on who you spoke with, or how you approach them. I think, if anything, this experience I had was a big lesson for me and understanding that I had like two personalities. One being like the out of work fun, very social, I want to talk and get to know you, person. That’s the outside of work, Jorge. And then there’s the like, let’s get stuff done. This is serious. Let’s make sure that we do this, right. I talked differently, my body postures differently. So when I’m in a work environment, I’m more like, let’s get this done. I’m a business kind of guy. That would shut people down. Oh, okay. So I can be intense, right, I have a deep voice, I have a large posture. And so I could be intense to someone who is viewing me as an expert, right? Someone who already has this preconceived notion of, they know more than us, they’re going to treat us poorly, or, you know, they’re they’re going to talk down to us, they think we do everything wrong. So that would quickly shut them down if I took this very direct approach. And so what I did was I, I realized, if I wanted them to be less defensive, and appreciate that I was there to help educate them and help teach them that I had to bring in more of my my personal side, my, let’s let me learn about you, because I am genuinely interested in you. And so I got to put aside this, this need right now for the project, to get to know more about what you think about the project, or where we can get them to open up and communicate with us about being partners, and not necessarily like me coming in there to tell them you’re doing this wrong, go fix it. So yeah, taking that softer approach, I call it the softer approach, but it’s really just being more interested in them, so that you could get them to be a part of the team, as opposed to taking the direct leadership role of, okay, let’s get this stuff done.
Aaron Moncur 37:27
Were there any experiences or lessons that you gained in Kenya that you’ve been able to take back not necessarily like on a real technical level, but maybe more of a, I don’t know, like you were talking about soft skills, or people skills level that you’re able to take back and still use as your role here in the States?
Jorge De Freitas 37:47
And I think what I was just talking about was probably one of the biggest lessons was, you know, how do you get people to be effective? And how do you communicate to them that, like, I by no means do I think I’m better than anyone, you know, I’m an educated person, but I view myself as an equal to everyone in any room I’m ever in. And so how do I present that to people? How do I let them know that I’m, I’m here to learn, I’m here to be a part of this team. I’m not here to just give orders and directions. And so what I realized was like, it’s okay to let more of your personal side come into work, and develop those relationships. Like, I basically focused on ways to develop relationships with people I’ve either managed or had to work with as peers or as teammates. And then to be able to just build a solid foundation of trust and understanding that we’re in this together, we’re, let’s get this done. You know, we’re here to support the business, but we could have fun doing it at the same time. And so I took that as like, that’s the best thing I could do is people management essentially, or just not necessarily people management, but just relationship building was was huge.
Aaron Moncur 38:53
Yeah. That’s a huge insight. I feel like the older I get, the more I come to realize that everything we do is just about people, right? We can’t really do anything of any great significance without other people. And and thus, it is so important to develop those people skills, right, learn, learn to communicate with others, as opposed to just getting really good at the technical side of work, and life. All right, let’s see, I’ve got two more questions for you. What is What are the biggest challenges that you face at work?
Jorge De Freitas 39:32
I’d say right now lack of direction. Our projects very nebulous. Right now, again, I’m focused on the special projects for our sustaining engineering team. And they happen to be more compliance based. And so when a regulation changes, we have product that’s currently out in the field currently out in the market. We have a strong position all over the world for our products. And if there’s some type of change in a standard, we need to go reevaluate. So what the current standing of our product is? And how do we make changes or improvements or fix whatever we need to fix, do we need to do more testing is the material we’re using is that still allowed for the new regulation. So there’s a lot of this like taking what’s currently on the market, in a highly regulated environment, where making change is extremely difficult. And then developing a plan around identifying all the changes that needs to be made. All the projects and testing that needs to be done without impacting the current sales and the current status of that product in the field. Because these are high revenue generating products, and so if you mess with revenue, and you mess with money coming in, that’s that’s not good. And so in this sustaining engineering role, you obviously don’t want to do any of that you want to continue to keep that revenue stream coming in. And so how do you navigate that, you know, where you understand that there’s a lot of change that needs to occur quickly, without stopping current production. I think that that is the biggest challenge I’m facing right now. Because this is not a straightforward material change where some vendor who sold us a resin made some modification to their formulation, and we do an assist, like an initial assessment, is there. Is the change significant enough to warrant any new testing yes or no? If no, you’re good update documents good to go? If yes, how much testing is required? Who’s going to do the testing? How complex? Is that testing? And can we get this testing done before our license expires? Without stopping production? Yes. So it can be interesting, very interesting.
Aaron Moncur 41:47
I think that’s a huge point, finding clarity and what you’re doing. It’s easy to come up with a lot of ideas for things that you can do, I think it’s a lot more difficult to look at all the possibilities, you know, for you, maybe it’s three or four different material choices or something, and gain clarity on which is the best choice to move forward with. All right, last question, what’s the best compliment you have ever received at work?
Jorge De Freitas 42:21
This is more of like a tongue in cheek comment. But it was from a former manager of mine. And she mentioned to me that you are more influential than you realize.
Aaron Moncur 42:33
That doesn’t sound tongue in cheek. That sounds very genuine.
The way she said it, and the smile she had on her face. Like, what are you trying to say? Cuz she gave me some examples of when I was influential in a bad way and where? Where I can’t?
Aaron Moncur 42:53
Did you get everyone drunk? The brewery? No, no,
Jorge De Freitas 42:56
it’s just like, you know, if I was having an off day. And she was like, you know, that energy you could bring into a conference room before a presentation before you even start talking. you radiate this energy that people can pick up on. And based on that you can influence the room without even realizing it.
Aaron Moncur 43:14
And so goes back to your stature. Right,
Jorge De Freitas 43:17
exactly. And the way I carry myself and those were like, once she mentioned that, and I really started evaluating, like, how do I enter this room? What kind of energy am I bringing into this? If I’m trying to sell someone on something, this is a great idea. I can’t go in there and be like, oh, you know, this is a great idea. You gotta be like, gotta sell it can’t be all bothered by something else. Yeah. So I think that worked that paired well with the learning from Africa. And it really solidified to me to really start paying attention about the impact I was having on other people’s moods.
Aaron Moncur 43:50
That’s terrific. So well, with great power comes great responsibility. Yeah. And
Jorge De Freitas 43:54
so that that made me feel good, because it made me understand that I do have a position I do have an impact. And people are willing to either follow or or get out of the way, essentially. And I should leverage that to, again, do good and make sure that we’re driving towards business objectives, as well as personal objectives for growth. And then understanding that everyone has their own stuff that they’re dealing with. And it just says, I’m having a bad day, I do not have the right to put that on to everyone else. They also have their stuff that they’re dealing with. And so focus on the task at hand, and that’s doing good work, doing what’s right, and making sure that we are supporting the health, the health of the people of this, this world really giving them the right products. So that’s,
Aaron Moncur 44:40
that’s fantastic. Great advice. Well, Jorge, how can people get a hold of you?
Jorge De Freitas 44:45
I think LinkedIn would be a best, best option. Not sure if you’re going to be able to put up a link or if you want me to spell your name. Okay. Yeah, I’d say LinkedIn is your best option there. It’s got my my resume and my background there and I’m always willing to give more due detail around things that I’ve done in the past and have those conversations with with anyone who’s willing to reach out to me on LinkedIn.
Aaron Moncur 45:07
Excellent. All right. All right. Well, Jorge, thank you so much for spending some time with us. I know that you’re a busy man. So I really appreciate and I’m grateful for the time that you carved out of your day to just talk about your past and share with us some of your insight and wisdom. Thank you.
Jorge De Freitas 45:23
Thank you was great meeting you, and best of luck with the business you’re running. I appreciate it.
Aaron Moncur 45:31
I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please leave us a positive review. It really helps other people find the show. To learn how your engineering team can leverage our team’s expertise in developing turnkey custom test fixtures, automated equipment and product design, visit us at test fixture design.com Thanks for listening
We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Being an Engineer Podcast.
Help us rank as the #1 engineering podcast on Apple and Spotify by leaving a review for us.
Find us under the category: mechanical engineering podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Being an Engineer podcast is a go-to resource and podcast for engineering students on Spotify, too.
Aaron Moncur and Rafael Testai love hearing from their listeners, so feel free to email us, connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and subscribe on Apple Podcast and Spotify!
About Being an Engineer
The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical device and other product engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at https://teampipeline.us
You’ve read this far! Therefore, it’s time to turn your headphones up and listen now to this episode to learn all these. Don’t forget to tell your friends who might like this too!