Trey Bobo | Mentors, Ego, and Vulnerability
Who is Trey Bobo?
Trey Bobo‘s varied experiences within the product development and engineering industry have not only helped him become a gifted engineer, but also a charismatic manager. Trey currently works at Edwards Lifesciences.
Join our conversation as we discuss topics ranging from technical descriptions of manufacturing equipment to the soft skills of managing people.
EXPAND TO VIEW EPISODE TRANSCRIPTION
people, experiences, catheters, engineer, engineering, mentors, design, context, big, developing, edwards, trey, work, career, thought, medical device, life, understand, opportunity, challenging
Trey Bobo, Aaron Moncur
Aaron Moncur 00:13
Welcome to the being an engineer podcast. Our guest today is Trey Bobo. Trey has served in a variety of different roles throughout his career, and currently works as a senior manager of r&d teams at Edwards Lifesciences. In California. In addition to his corporate role, he has served in a variety of volunteer organizations as well, which we’ll get to but before we do, Trey, welcome to the being an engineer podcast.
Trey Bobo 00:40
Good afternoon. How are you?
Aaron Moncur 00:41
Very well. Thank you. So I’m curious. I’m always a little bit curious about this. When, when I invited you to be a guest on the show, why did you say yes? So
Trey Bobo 00:55
So one of the reasons is I like when people reach out over LinkedIn, it’s probably I’m not a big social media user in general. But LinkedIn is something that I’ve found to be a really good platform for connecting with people connecting with both like minded and also people that don’t necessarily do things in your field or around the same type of job that you have. We happen to have a kind of connection from an engineering standpoint, and I like when people reach out and have have something interesting to talk about, or in this case, you give me an opportunity to talk and I like to talk so why not?
Aaron Moncur 01:34
That’s a great answer. I like to talk. I’m just gonna take it right there. Okay, so you’ve, I’m actually not sure what what title to use for you, you’ve done so many different things like biology, chemistry volunteers, supervisor, manager, guest lecturer. When people ask you like what you are, as far as your your role or your title within a professional context, what what do you tell them?
Trey Bobo 02:00
Um, so I usually stick with what I’m doing at that moment. Because to your point that especially if you look on LinkedIn, I’ve done a lot of different things. You know, right now, what I focus on is I manage research and development teams that are focused on kind of next generation product development. So this is very early on very whitespace, very much focused on things that have not been done before. So true, kind of first, cutting edge innovation. And that’s kind of what I’m doing. Now, a lot of the experiences that I’ve had in the past, both in a in a work context or a career context, and also in a volunteering context, I think has prepared me and added tools to the toolbox, I guess you would say, that allow me to do my job more effectively. So I’ve done a lot of different things. But each one I think I’m able to draw on different, different perspectives, different lenses that helped me do my job better.
Aaron Moncur 02:58
Okay, so right now you’re managing r&d teams, groups of engineers, but you started your education in biology and chemistry, I guess you did a double major there. And then a few years later, you went back and you did a master’s degree in engineering, what would prompted you to go back for the engineering degree?
Trey Bobo 03:21
So I went to for my undergraduate, I went to a small liberal arts college in South Carolina, which was a big switch for a, you know, California boy, but it’s kind of where my dad went to school. And I was interested in seeing a little bit more than California and getting some experiences into different people and the way that they think and all that. And so I went to South Carolina, and they actually didn’t have a master or a engineering program that was particularly robust. They had a, I think, one major that was like an engineering science or something like that. But they did have a very robust biology and chemistry program that put a lot of people kind of as a funnel into on South Carolina, University of South Carolina and medical school, Duke Medical School. So they had a pretty strong program in that and so on. Because I don’t know I didn’t mention this before, but I’m a third generation engineer. My father is an engineer, my grandfather is an engineer, and my great uncle is an engineer. And so that’s literally all I’ve ever known from a kind of like context of what people do in life. And so when I went to college, I was like, I’m gonna study biology and chemistry, I really enjoyed that aspect of it. And we’ll, you know, we’ll decide and see what happens later on. And so, because of those unusual kind of connections and opportunities that I had to really start working very, very young in the medical device industry. I was I was, you know, basically working nearly full time all the way through college, doing contract work, designing, CAD, technical writing, all that kind of stuff. So I had a lot of unusual opportunities. And so I felt like you know, I had a lot of the end Engineering kind of principles and stuff that you do. And so I went into the biology and chemistry thing. When I got out, I got a job almost immediately with a startup that I had done a bunch of contract work with. And it was really cool to start in the startup environment, because you get an opportunity to kind of get your hands dirty see, really the the nitty gritty of some of the aspects of true innovation, where we’re really have a very clear problem that we’re trying to go solve as quickly as possible because we’re watching that cash burn. And but probably a year or so year and a half into that, some mentors were talking to me and it was became really clear that there were some different aspects of both engineering and also the medical device field that I just didn’t have as much of a grasp on as I thought I did as much as I needed to. And so that’s what prompted first of all, starting with a grad certificate at UCI for medical device product development. And that was just to expand my knowledge of, you know, medical device, it kind of as a as an industry, regulatory, so on and so forth. But then also moving that into a master’s in engineering just to really solidify and especially from a mechanical standpoint, bolster what I’ve learned, you know, a lot of on the job, but really take it to the next level.
Aaron Moncur 06:11
So your, your education has been a little bit more spread out than a lot of engineers I’ve talked to you had your undergraduate work 2004 to 2008, and then your masters 2011 to 2013. And then most recently, you did an MBA 2018 to 2020. was spreading it out like that all was part of the plan, or that just kind of organically arise over the course of your career.
Trey Bobo 06:37
You know, it was a little both, I think, on one hand, it was organic, in that I didn’t know exactly when I was going to do what but on the other hand, it was also I think, some some forethought and planning into kind of the way that I wanted some of my career experiences to go, I focus a lot on experiences, as I’ve made different moves in my career. I’ve made much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ve made decisions more than once to take positions that actually paid less. But I was interested in what I could learn at that new position. And I was interested in the experiences that I would have that I thought would help me do my job better as I had a broader responsibility someday. And so, you know, that’s, that’s been a lot of my focus, as I’ve looked at both education and experiences within my career, and even outside the career in terms of some of the philanthropic efforts. So it’s a little bit of both, I guess, I would say.
Aaron Moncur 07:34
So that leads me to another question. You mentioned that on occasion, you’ve taken positions that maybe resulted in a slight pay cut in order to gain experience. What’s what’s the end goal here? Like what what is it that you know, that motivates you? To go through these different roles? What I guess ultimately, what what what do you think that you’re trying to achieve?
Trey Bobo 07:56
Um, so I think on one hand, one is that I’m I’m somewhat intellectually curious person by nature, I like to learn, I like to figure out how to do new things. I’ve always, I’ve always enjoyed school, which I know not everyone does, I just happen to be lucky in that way. So I think there’s a little bit of that in there. I think another piece of it is that I strongly believe that in order for you to do your job, most effectively, as you take on a broader responsibility in any organization, the more that you have a insight into the work that the people who either work directly for you or adjacent to you, how they think about approaching their work, how they, what is important to them, and going about doing their work, the better you can influence and lead in that organization. And so that was an insight that, you know, I think there was a combination of mentors, who helped me kind of formulate that and so that has definitely driven a lot of the movements and some of that’s kind of, you know, higher level perspective than just, you know, the, the cash that’s in front of you, or any of that kind of stuff. I think a third element is, for me, I am very much attracted to medical device. Because of the, the the work that we do and the lasting impact that it makes. That’s something that is personally very satisfying. To me, it’s a piece of kind of like if you were to put a term on it purpose for in terms of why I go and do what I do. And if if I’m interested in in doing that to the best of my ability, and I believe that having a broader perspective is going to allow me to do it better, then I’m gonna go get a broader perspective. And so is that kind of makes sense that that that flow?
Aaron Moncur 09:43
That makes total sense. Let’s let’s dig into that little that last piece a little bit more medical devices being particularly purposeful for you. Have you had I’m sure you have but can you share maybe an experience or two were working In the medical device industry, you you, you know, saw in some kind of what’s the word I’m looking for some kind of tangible way that an effort that you had a hand in resulted in, you know, some kind of direct benefit or positive outcome to like, you know, a person or probably a lot of people out there. But are there any specific examples you can think of?
Trey Bobo 10:27
Yeah, so I can think of to one, you know, I think is very personal, because I was working for a startup and during design work, you know, in the lab, developing new products, and it was, it was basically a device that was utilized for monitoring traumatic brain injuries for people that had been in car accidents, or other types of situations where they’ve had to hit their head really hard. And so we developed some technology that was utilized to to help these people and, and, you know, I wasn’t, I was an r&d engineer, I thought I knew how those fields worked. And I’d seen it enough. And I designed these things, and I was really happy with all of my designs, and, you know, the intricacies of it, and, and then they came in, they asked me, Hey, you know, we need some help in the field, we’d like you to take a position where you kind of, you know, kind of rotate in and out of the field every three weeks. And I was like, okay, you know, that sounds like an interesting experience. And what it ended up being was probably one of the more foundational experiences in terms of expanding my understanding of what it really meant to design a product and to understand how the product was going to be used, and, you know, intended use and design requirements, and all these things that, you know, I think a lot of engineers learn about early on in their career, but necessary, but don’t necessarily get a really, really good opportunity to see it in practice. And so I went into the field and where I thought we had done a really good job thinking through simple things of how the nurse would interact with this device, once it had been implanted was completely turned on its head, when I had an opportunity to see, you know, assist with a doctor, you know, after you know, being trained by basically the VP of Sales and Marketing and then being thrown into a case having never, you know, been in you know, even in a scrub down situation ever before in my life. And what I had to go work with the doctor on that it was revolutionaries, my understanding of what I thought I understand Stuart and what I had designed to, to what actually was happening and so on. I think what was really poignant about that was a, the growth and the knowledge from an engineering standpoint, but the B was the humanizing factor, the fact that I was there with a patient and I had the either I’m not sure if it was fortuitous, or somewhat bad situation of one of the first patients that I ever had to deal with was actually a paediatric situation, where, you know, we’re trying to save someone’s life, who was not an adult, they were not an older person, they were someone who was younger than me in their life. And seeing that and seeing how, you know, and thankfully, that went, well, person recovered. And, you know, it was it was a success story. But at the same time, I looked at everything that could have gone wrong, the things that we had not thought about from an engineering context, but then also, the just the, the realness of seeing a real person on the table, who, you know, what we were doing was going to save their life or was not going to save their life was very impactful for me. And so having that experience of going into the field, working in a clinical context, I spent the next two years, two and a half years traveling the United States and selling this technology to hospitals, you know, high volume neuro trauma centers, and working with them, teaching them how to do it, working with our internal teams to tweak some of the designs, it was incredibly impactful for me. And again, on those kind of two sides, one on the engineering and then also on really having a human face of like, okay, this isn’t just like an esoteric like, Okay, we’re going to help someone. No, no, I know exactly who I helped, because I was there when we were doing it. And I think the second one for me is something that I’m very proud about is when I joined AdWords six and a half years ago, I joined the transcatheter heart valve business, and it was kind of in its, I guess, you would say, middle point of its growth of the the th v the transcatheter valve market, which is now you know, just an amazing success story, something that, you know, when you look at cardiology, in its in its growth over the last 30 years, you know, there’s a few points that you pick out and one of them is is transcatheter heart valves because we were basically able to take a technology that basically every surgeon said was impossible, and even a lot of interventional cardiologists said was impossible. And we’re able to take, you know, an incredibly painful six months now And among the recovery of your chest being cracked open to have your valve replaced. And, you know, I was able to be a part of the team that launched the first kind of modern iteration of the devices in the United States with sapien three, and then continued to work on a number of iterations of both catheters and valves, to the point where, you know, today, you can have your aortic valve replaced in approximately 20 to 30 minutes and a very routine procedure that you go home the next day, and to see where that has come even in the last six and a half years. But to what it was before THP, before transcatheter heart valves existed, it was just amazing. And so that’s, that’s one of the things that I’m most proud about in terms of leading, leaving a lasting impact, not just in, you know, medical device, but in, you know, 1000s and 1000s of patients, including my own family, my grandmother actually got an aortic valve replacement last year, with a product that I helped develop and get approved and designed.
Aaron Moncur 16:02
Wow, that’s huge. What a sobering experience, that’s got to feel incredible. Yep. How? So you’ve had these experiences, I mean, that the one that you talked about where there was, I guess it was a kid who was in bad shape ended out going Well, luckily, you have this very visceral set of experiences now that you can draw on? How do you help your team to understand like, the stark reality of what what the products they’re developing? Actually do?
Trey Bobo 16:42
It’s a good question. It’s a very challenging one, it’s probably one of the things that I’ve found to be more challenging in a big company like AdWords, and it wasn’t a small in a startup context. Because in a big company like AdWords, it’s, it’s relatively easy in any large organization, right to be kind of become parts of a, you know, compartmentalized wheel situation kind of thing. And so that’s, that’s one of the reasons I really like what I do now. Like, I basically work in the startup world of a big company, like we’re sequestered off to the side, you know, we’re a nice big write off from an r&d business standpoint, we’re trying to go do crazy things. And that’s one of the reasons I like it, because it draws on, again, those experiences that I have of working in the startup world. And so one of the things that I do is I push them really hard to have an understanding of the other products that we have at Edwards, when I have new engineers that come in, straight, you know, new to Edwards, I have just a standard list of people, okay, this is we’re gonna go talk to, you’re gonna go learn about some of the standard products that we have some of the innovations that’s going on elsewhere in the company, and you’re gonna go see some cases. And thankfully, over the last couple of years, we’ve been able to develop some programs within AdWords that make that a lot easier than it once was, where we can basically, you know, as a senior manager, I can say, Okay, I want this person to be able to go have this experience, and we have a number of hospitals that, you know, other groups manage the relationship, and then they can go and have that have that experience to go see a case, because there is nothing better to really humanize what it is that we’re doing to take out that kind of, you know, sterile factor that maybe can come in if you’re just staring at the engineering, because that’s what it’s all about. And it’s even a big piece of the way that Edwards looks about our mission statement, you know, serving patients is our life’s work and life now is how that that whole mission statement ends. And that’s is not just something that’s written down on a piece of paper on the back of your badge. It’s something that, you know, is really ingrained in the way that we think about making decisions. And one of the ways to bolster that, to move it forward is to have people going and seeing those cases. So that’s one of the main ways that I do it. In addition to telling my stories, also, I tell stories,
Aaron Moncur 19:01
love stories that people communicate through stories, right? If you can come up with a good story for something so much more impactful than just you know, saying it. Right. Well, this this seems like a good time to take a real quick break here and share with our listeners that the being an engineer podcast is powered by pipeline design and engineering, where we work with medical device engineering teams who need turnkey custom test fixtures or automated equipment to assemble, inspect, characterize or perform verification or validation testing on their devices. And you can find us at test fixture design.com. So Trey, you even when I was reading through your LinkedIn profile, you you come across as a really upbeat guy with a lot of energy. And it seems like you can just plow through just about any challenge that life or your employer throw at you. I have to imagine though that on occasion, you get frustrated Did you get discouraged? Just like the rest of us? What are some of the strategies that you’ve used to kind of raise your mindset back into the productive and motivated headspace?
Trey Bobo 20:11
It’s a really good question. And I am, I am human as the next man, I definitely struggle have my struggles. And I think one area that has been a challenging one for me, and that I don’t mind sharing is really around what I would call bureaucracy, if I wanted to say from a negative context, but from a positive context, I would say, you know, control or, or maybe organization, I guess, is another positive way of saying it, because it’s two sides of the same coin. And a lot of it comes down to, you know, how you how you view it. And when I’m went to work for AdWords, I, you know, I’ll be honest with you, I thought, this is a three year thing, I’m gonna learn what I need, and I’m gonna get out. And here I am six and a half years later, and I’m still working for AdWords. And I’ve had a number of people ask me, you know why that is, you know, you definitely have a strong affinity for the open, you know, kind of Wild, Wild, Wild West Plains, you know, you cut your teeth in the startup world. And, you know, I’m not someone who stands on a lot on a lot of ceremony or pretends like, I’m extremely fast moving, you know, what you see is what you get, you know, somewhat blunt. But being able to work at Edwards has has also tempered that I think in a good way, where I’m able to understand a little bit better of, you know, there are aspects of organization that are important and are necessary and are actually good, even in the context of some of the things that I do. And it hasn’t always been easy for me to kind of cerebrally work through that. It’s definitely not something that’s come naturally, some of the some of the techniques that I’ve utilized, in order to get some of that perspective, some of that elevated perspective, has been mentors, actually, I think I mentioned it earlier, in the in the story, as we were talking through things and in one or two contexts, but mentors have been something that have been extremely centering, both in my career, but also in my life. People that have been willing to, you know, have a conversation, sit down, give perspective, maybe even give hard feedback, if they’re if they’re in a position to do so. And I’m incredibly grateful for those people. Because what I realized pretty early on in my career is that if I could find a few people that knew something that were willing to teach me about that. And because they had made a mistake, and if I could prevent making, you know, one or two mistakes, it’s probably worth it. And so, I got really comfortable with being kind of vulnerable and saying, Hey, I need help. And I’d like to learn from you. And can we can we go with this. And I’ve been very fortunate to have a number of people that, that were willing to sit down with me and honestly, you know, we were talking at the beginning, why was I willing to do this? One of the other reasons that I was wanting to do this, and because I like people reaching out is because I like yes, talking but I like giving back. Is there an opportunity? I mean, AdWords and even beyond Edwards, from a context standpoint, I’m happy to talk with people. One of the reasons I do the, you mentioned earlier, one of the reasons I do the guest lecturing down in San Diego is for a buddy, who’s a, who’s a professor, adjunct professor down there, one of the reasons I do it is yes, I get to tell my story. Yes, I get to talk about innovation. Yes, that’s fine. What Edwards has done, that’s all great. But at the end of the day, the best part about it is the five or six conversations that I have on the back end of people who reach out to me through LinkedIn, to set up a time and we just have an opportunity to get to know each other. And sometimes it’s one conversation, sometimes it’s two, sometimes it’s, you know, nothing comes of it. But who knows, but I don’t know exactly how I’m helping them. But if at all I can, I will. And so, you know, going back to your question, the mentorship thing has been huge. For me, it’s played a big, big part in my life, because where I’ve been tempted to maybe respond negatively to certain situations to kind of fall into that or maybe out of my natural, you know, kind of positive, upbeat, I’ve had a lot of mentors and people that have breathed a lot of insights into into me and helped me with that perspective. And so I want to play that forward.
Aaron Moncur 24:24
I think that’s like a million dollar answer right there as far as like, how do you? How do you avoid the pitfalls of getting you know, down on yourself or whatever, having mentors that can help you kind of see the blind spots, right mentors or coaches or just people who know more than you that that can contribute to your growth. And oftentimes, you know, people might think, well, especially, especially if you’re talking about kind of like the coach aspect or professional coaches out there, right, executive coaches or life coaches or whatever, and that can be explained So but having a mentor doesn’t need to be expensive. I think oftentimes it’s probably free, right? You find people like yourself that want to give back. And and then the second thing you said was equally important, which is you have to be vulnerable. You can’t be like, I’m the man, I know all the answers, you know, and I’ll be honest, it there. There was a time in my past when I started kind of getting into that managerial level. And I didn’t want to say, I don’t know, to something right. Like, I have to know I have to have all the answers. But that’s, that’s not a good way to, to work with people I found in being vulnerable. Just be like, I don’t know, you know, this is a tough question. I don’t know what the answer is. Let’s let’s put our heads together and see what we can figure out. But yeah, being vulnerable, having mentors million dollar answer,
Trey Bobo 25:48
I love that incredibly empowering to get to that point, because and I work with a lot of young managers, I have mostly managers who report to me, as opposed to, you know, individual engineers, mostly in the engineers report to my managers. But working with them on that is probably one of the biggest things that I spend my time on. Because, like, the reality is, when I have someone come to work for me, the first thing that we talk about is, look, this is what I’ve done. This is what I like to do. I know I’m good at a few things. I’m bad at a lot of other things. Like, if I mess up, I’ll probably realize it and say I’m sorry. But if I don’t, what I’m asking for you to come talk to me. Like we need to have a conversation. I’m not perfect. I’m going to make a bad call. I’m going to make a dumb comment. Let’s let’s let’s work through that. Like that’s the reality. I’m human. And I it’s funny, because people are just like blown away, because they’re like, Oh, my goodness, like who says that? And it’s not. It’s not a matter of pride. It’s a matter of practicality for me at this point where it’s just like, let’s just get past this is the reality, I’m doing my absolute miserable best. You’re doing your absolute miserable best. Let’s learn and figure out how to go tackle this problem. And the reality is, we may not have everything within our own brain. So let’s leverage whoever else we need to attend to get there.
Aaron Moncur 27:00
This reminds me of an experience is kind of tangentially related, but it was so interesting. I want to share it with everyone. This happened probably, oh 1518 years ago, as a long time ago. I was in my early 20s. And I was driving on the road somewhere and I changed lanes. And I did not realize that there was a motorcyclist, like right next to me, you know, I almost hit this guy. I didn’t even realize what had happened until the motorcyclist he pulled up next to me, there’s stoplights. So I was stopped, and he pulls up next to me. And he starts like waving his fists and yelling and cursing, you know, just cursing me out. And I rolled on my window and realize what had happened. I was like, I’m so sorry. I was my bad all my bad. I’m so sorry. Are you okay? And I think he was kind of expecting a fight. But I didn’t, you know, I was like, I screwed up, I’m really sorry. And defuse the situation, like, immediately, you know, just gone just like that, you know, it’s I don’t worry about it, I get it. It was an accident. And it just wasn’t a big, big deal after that. But, you know, being vulnerable like that, hey, I screwed up, I’m sorry. It just it opens the lines of communication, so much better than pretending like, wasn’t my fault. You know, that guy’s fault. This happens. So I’m not justifying, whatever.
Trey Bobo 28:22
It’s a great, it’s not just tangentially related. It’s directly related. It’s a fantastic example. And if you were to ask me what I think one of the largest problems for product development, and innovation is its egos, happens all the time. Interesting, absolutely destroys teams. And a lot of times, it’s the people at the top, you got a bunch of, you know, people that are lower down in the trenches doing their work, but you just got a lot of ego at the top. And sometimes the ego manifests and they’re always right, sometimes it manifests and they’re unwilling to be honest with kind of upper upper management’s on the status of the project. But a lot of times it just comes down to ego. How do you combat that is really, really frustrating. To put that in, like a second category from bureaucracy. Is that the ego? Yeah, I think I think, you know, one way is to make sure that you’re setting a good example, you know, we’re kind of talking about being vulnerable. I think that’s a good place to start. But even if you’re thinking about being vulnerable, it’s easy to fall into that. I mean, we’re we’re generally intelligent people that do the things that we do and there is, you know, a pride to that and some of that pride is good, we’ve worked hard, we’ve learned a lot we’ve had some experiences, but at the same time being able to step away from that and say, what is best for the business what is best for this project? What is best for us to move this along? What’s going to be you know, the right combination for everyone involved? is an important thing to do. So I think it starts with you know, each of us as leaders and doesn’t matter how high you are up in the in the organization, leadership has nothing to do with your your time. Have nothing to do with your title, you can lead as anyone you can lead as a senior director, and I’ve seen opportunities for for both levels to either lead or do a really bad job of it. And, and so I think it starts with you, but I think also being able to, you know, speak up and be honest and be like, hey, is this really the right way that we want to be, you know, displaying our values, you know, is this is this a is this, are we thinking about this the right way, and that can be a very uncomfortable conversation, especially when it’s with your boss, which I’ve had happen before. But, you know, it’s when it’s, you know, you have to be willing to have because I think a lot of personalities that are probably more focused on engineering might struggle with some conflict, but there’s a level of conflict that is very appropriate to one in, in beating things up. So in order to make sure you have the right perspective as you’re developing, but also in speaking up when things are not proceeding from an organizational standpoint, in the direction that’s most conducive to the project being successful.
Aaron Moncur 31:02
Yeah, and I’ll say, as a business owner, if not a leader, that I would much rather my team tell me when that they think I’m in the wrong than just go along with it, because I’m not always right. And that that feedback is so important. I worry sometimes that you know, people don’t want to don’t want to give feedback if they if they think it might be in opposition to what, you know, the boss thinks, but I would much rather hear, hey, I think that we should consider another idea or you know, instead of just going along with things, although it is vital. Yeah. Another point I wanted to make, or just a thought I wanted to share in terms of how do you combat that ego. I read a book by Malcolm Gladwell recently called talking to strangers. Such an interesting book, and in the the examples that he uses to make his point are, are kind of horrific, tragic examples of like rape and murder and suicide, and you know, like, really, really dark are tragic things. But the point he makes is that we as people, even though like, you know, you speak English, I speak English. So of course, we can communicate, I know what you’re saying, You know what I’m saying? But that’s not the case. You know, so often, we don’t really understand what the other person is communicating. So being being open to the possibility that maybe I think that my boss is being a jerk and his egos getting in the way, but maybe I just don’t really understand where he’s coming from and what he’s saying. So getting to that point, where instead of just being like, Dude, you’re wrong. And instead asking, well, maybe can you help me understand your your, your viewpoint here? Yeah, right. Use those questions. Absolutely. It’s
Trey Bobo 32:50
a fantastic point. It’s, it’s very important. We’re way too quick to talk and way too slow to listen and to listen intentionally.
Aaron Moncur 32:59
God gave us two ears and one mouth, we should use them in that proportion. All right, well, let’s see, what else do we have here? You’re okay, so your day to day right now, as as an engineering manager, you mentioned that there are things you’re good at, and maybe things are not so good at? Tell me what what’s your day to day, like, as an r&d Manager? And what are some of the things that you really enjoy, and maybe some of the things that you don’t love as much?
Trey Bobo 33:28
Um, well, I can start with a don’t love, I don’t love anything that has to do with bureaucracy, or what I perceive. So if someone comes to me and is like, Oh, this is a new plan for this lab, and whatever, and I go, Yeah, that doesn’t make any logical sense for what we do. So we shouldn’t do that. That’s my natural inclination, but instead I go. So why do we think that this is the best approach?
Aaron Moncur 33:52
Yeah, right. share with me what your
Trey Bobo 33:56
that’s one of my least favorite parts of my job. And in terms of you know, what my day to day looks like, one of the things that I love about my job is that my day to day is incredibly varied. It really depends on what’s going on with my team’s projects. Sometimes I have projects that are in the throes of the lab time, I guess, you would say where we are just absolutely, you know, throwing everything we’ve got at the design and beating it up and understanding and iterating and all of that kind of stuff. And then other times I’ve got projects that are kind of in that early human feasibility stage where we’re spending a lot of time or I might be spending a lot of time in hospitals overseeing cases helping with cases working with doctors. Sometimes my day to day is, you know, as varied as you know, a combination of one on ones with my employees to a design review, or I’m an independent reviewer for a different Project to working with my team through a very kind of nuanced technical issue on on one of our projects, so that’s one of the things I really appreciate about my job, I have a lot of different things that I get an opportunity to do some of the things that I enjoy the most. I engineering manager is an interesting term. So I absolutely love both parts of my job. And it is two parts of a job. And there’s the engineering side of what I do the technical the problem solving the the working with the engineers to get perspective, the pushing back the all have that aspect, but then there’s also the managing part of it, the really managing people, and I love doing that I love talking with people, I love learning from them. One of the other things we’ve talked about mentoring before, one of the reasons I also like to get back is that I get to learn, I have opportunity to talk to a bunch of young engineers that are out of college. I mean, I’ve been in college for sorry, 12 years, or I can’t remember now. And I get to learn from these people, they are their cutting edge the things that they’re doing, it’s amazing. Like, I’m like, oh my goodness, why couldn’t I be doing that to college like that would have been so cool. And I get an opportunity to learn and at the same time I get to, you know, maybe help them with a little bit of perspective. And so I really like people, I really like that aspect of my job. I’m interested in listening to them understanding what is important to them understanding and helping them even to discover what’s important, because more often than not, I find that people are, don’t necessarily have spent a lot of time or haven’t necessarily spent a lot of time kind of developing that in their own mind. So working with him on that. And then I think just on a on a holistic standpoint, I like I like creating products, I like developing products that are going to hopefully do something and if they’re not going to do something, hopefully killing them as quickly as possible. So I can go on to the next thing.
Aaron Moncur 36:51
Right. Okay, so speaking of developing products, you might have a good insight into this as an r&d Manager, is there a tool that you can think of that doesn’t exist that you wish existed that would help your engineering team in their r&d efforts, some kind of tool or machine or process?
Trey Bobo 37:14
Yeah, I do, actually. So I think one of the most challenging things that we have to deal with is not you know how to apply mechanical designs or how to, you know, even come up with innovative ways to develop catheters or get to certain parts of the body, the most challenging thing that we have to deal with, is taking the physical, very complex human body and applying that to something that I can actually test in the lab. And so really coming up with, it’s a combination of both fixture and test method development, where it is very, very challenging, you think about catheters as an example. So I have a lot of catheter design background. One of the common things and catheters and it’s a standard out there is you want to understand the kink resistance to your to your catheter, like, you know, and this is practical, right, let’s say you’re, you’re going in a, in a transcatheter heart valve standpoint, you’re going up the femoral artery. And you want to make sure that your catheter is going to, you know, deliver this valve the way that you expect it to. And so it has to go through the femoral artery up in all the way into the aorta around the aorta and drop into the aortic valve. And so, you know, we come up with, okay, how do we how do we start specking this out? How do we understand how much of a radius or a kink, you know, type of of spec would be appropriate, and it is incredibly challenging to take CTE and turn that into something that I can actually test on the bench in order to test out my prototypes. Now, there’s gross ways to do it mechanically, you know, there’s, there’s lots of features that are out there for mechanical standpoint of like, well, you know, okay, I’m gonna do some deflection testing. And that’s going to tell me about my stiffness of my material, or, you know, there’s some of that kind of stuff out there. But those are very gross, kind of evaluations of your designs. There isn’t, there’s a lot of challenges right now, as we were getting more and more sophisticated, both in where we’re trying to get into the body, like think of, you know, 10 years ago, Everyone kept saying, to me is not possible, you can’t get you know, even that’s easy to get to the aorta right now possible to do but it’s easy to get, you already got a massive highway from your leg all the way up to your aortic valve. And now we’re doing it with the mitral valve, which is way harder to get to not a massive five way got to go across the septum, through the venous system, so on and so forth. But we’re figuring out how to do it. And so as we get to these more sophisticated and also less invasive procedures, really understanding how the complex system of the human body in terms of the aspect that you’re trying to get to anatomically and how that needs to apply over to the way that you design your catheters is a very, very challenging aspects of the work that we do right now.
Aaron Moncur 40:05
So you’re saying having some kind of phantom anatomy that accurately simulates human anatomy, that that kind of tool would be hugely valuable.
Trey Bobo 40:15
Yeah, and a lot of people have tried a lot of different things I’ve seen. You know, over the years, I’ve seen companies try a combination of like ballistic gels and unusual silicone, silicone blends and different things to mimic tissue. And it’s getting better, like it’s moving in the right direction, especially with the just the explosion of polymer chemistry and kind of materials engineering that I’ve seen over the last, especially like, probably 10 years or so, that’s more focused on medical device, because before that, it was more focused on like consumer products, like, you know, I want to better rubber for my shoe or whatever. But now you’re seeing applied over more to medical device, and you’re seeing, you know, some some real growth in those areas. But the the models are still rough, it’s still really challenging. And we do everything from you know, you know, kind of like building models based on CTS and stuff like that. But it’s pretty challenging to really simulate or really effectively simulate. And I mean, there’s other ways to do it, there’s, you know, there’s other models you can use, whether it be cadaver, or animal models and stuff like that. But those are expensive and want to be thoughtful from a humane standpoint. And if there was a way to really translate that and challenge it on the bench in a very repeatable way, that can be a really big game changer.
Aaron Moncur 41:33
Very interesting. Well, Trey, if people want to get a hold of you, or a hold of Edwards, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Trey Bobo 41:41
On Edwards.com? If you’re interested in Edwards, for me, I’m on LinkedIn, I’m happy to connect with people happy to have a conversation. I’m pretty pretty active on LinkedIn, for the most part. Send me a message. And yeah, I’ll definitely get to you at some point. And we’ll we can have a conversation if you have questions. And that’s the best way to get ahold of me.
Aaron Moncur 42:03
Awesome. Is there anything else that you’d like to share? Before we end?
Trey Bobo 42:07
I’m just that this was a lot of fun. I didn’t necessarily know what I was completely signing up for but it was a lot of nice. Yeah, you know, it was it was a lot of fun just to have the conversation. And I think I, I learned some things through this. And just the opportunity to share a little bit of of my story. And, you know, if it’s if it’s helpful to people great, and if not, well, it’s still fun for me to do and hopefully, hopefully, I was engaging enough for your typical podcast.
Aaron Moncur 42:35
Absolutely. Well, Trey, I know you’re a busy guy. So thank you. I really appreciate you taking some time out. And yeah, best of luck moving forward. Thanks again for being on the podcast.
Trey Bobo 42:48
I appreciate it. Thank you, sir.
Aaron Moncur 42:52
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 testfixturedesign.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!