Alec Hadley servicing medical equipment at work, building gaming computers for fun
Alec Hadley shares the connection between his hobby and his work – it’s the ESD!
He recently moved from Tennessee to Illinois to become Midwest Biomedical Director for ReNew Biomedical Services.
The path to Biomed
Could you briefly describe your background and what led you to study and work in biomedical technology?
When I was in college studying to earn my Associate of Science, I would pass ReNew Biomedical daily. On my lunch break one afternoon, I stopped by to interview for an entry-level tech position. I felt confident applying for the role; I have experience with computer hardware and coding. So, taking things apart was always an interest of mine.
Were you interested in science and engineering when you were a child?
In the afternoons after grade school, I would visit my grandfather every day. He had a mechanical mind and was always building things for us at his house. Being around him sparked my interest in understanding the service and engineering side of technology.
Do you have any hobbies or interests which are technical or involve using your hands for detailed and precise work?
One of my favourite hobbies is building gaming computers. I build and troubleshoot tons of gaming computers. I enjoy the process of acquiring and assembling all the hardware, then benchmarking the new build.
You like building gaming computers. Does this help in any way with your day-to-day work?
Yes, they are virtually the same. You need to take full electrostatic discharge (ESD) precautions to ensure the safety of you and the board you are handling.
Has there been a particular person who has inspired you?
Neil Davidson, Kyle Bryant and Joe Daniel were great leaders early in my career. These mentors set a very high standard for us in the Biomedical Field. They ingrained in us the significance of our work and emphasized our motto:
“Saving the lives of life-saving equipment.”
How has becoming Director in the Midwest changed your life and work balance?
Early this year I made the decision to move eight hours from everyone I know to start a new chapter of work in Chicago.
I think is has been one of the best choices I could have made because, it built great workplace and decision-making confidence. This move has opened a few great opportunities for me. One is the new big city life. For work it has offered me a handful of new continuing education certificates in the biomed field. I moved to better support one of our customers and due to that a great relationship between the companies has been formed. Moving from small town Tennessee to massive Chicago is something I do not regret. The job has also helped me build my leadership, scheduling, and troubleshooting skills all around. I once read about a term “Duty of care” and that means the responsibility for your own performance and behaviour along with each colleague’s performance and behaviour on your project. I keep this in mind when working with my fellow field techs because I have to keep their wellbeing, mental morale, and motivation at a high level.
How are you settling into life in Elmhurst?
When starting a branch in Elmhurst became known, I told myself “It would be better to try than not try and never know what could have been”. I daily miss my family and friends, but they are always a call away. My family and friends have given me great support to make this move and it now feels like home to me. I have found my favourite food places, gyms, and entertainment.
What’s your typical day like?
On an average day for me, while on site, I service and troubleshoot:
Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)
Could you tell us some more about the challenges of each one?
Automated External Defibrillators – AEDs
These are very small compact units. This means the device is really light weight and the main challenge I find is the cosmetic damage these devices take.
These are my bread and butter. The challenge I have found with defibs is that there will always be an error that comes up that you have never seen before. It doesn’t matter how long you have serviced that brand of device, there will still be new errors. With defibs I learn new thing all the time.
A key piece of equipment due to the nature of the device. This device requires great calibration and maintenance to ensure the safety of the patient. At times, these devices come down to specific transducer calibrations to perform certain modes.
The challenging feature is having to find a leak when the device acts like it has one.
These become challenging during service because you are usually working in a small tight place.
Have you ever serviced a machine and thought: “this has been brilliantly designed”?
The Philips MRX Defib in my opinion was a device that was manufactured with the idea of future service. The inside of the device looks like the designers worked with service techs to make it easier to repair if needed.
How much of your time is spent on-site with customers, and how much with admin and other tasks?
100% of my job is fieldwork.
I spend most of each day with my customers working on devices, scheduling on-site projects, or ordering parts. These personal interactions build excellent, trustworthy relationships between customers and vendors. All my customers have my work cell phone number and are free to call or text whenever and even after hours. This field requires an outstanding commitment to the common goal of keeping people safe when on a medical device. This mindset keeps me grounded and present during the workday.
Which other parts of the organisation give you support?
I know each employee at ReNew Biomedical has my back. We have great specialty techs on-site and at our depot, and a great leadership team that will not miss a beat to help me out. Whether it be tech support, parts ordering, or logistics, my colleagues assist me.
The most challenging part of the job
What do you find most challenging when you work – technical side, people/customers, or logistics (travel, etc.)?
The most challenging part of my job is large-scale Preventative Maintenance projects that our travel team takes on. The sheer number of units is what makes the larger PM projects so difficult.
Have you ever arrived on site and found that it was much easier than expected? For example, did you ever need to simply switch on a machine?
Yes, it has happened on a few occasions. I once went on a service call because the Vital Signs Monitor (VSM) would alarm high Oxygen Saturation (SpO2) readings on standard outputs.
I arrived to find that the alarm limits had been set up backward!
Making a winner
What makes the type of engineer who is tomorrow’s senior engineer or team leader?
Engineers see this job as saving lives from a distance and take pride in what they service. When we see a tech who will follow the service manual procedures and has exceptional attention to detail with their work, that’s who we want as a leader in the biomedical field!
How critical are people and communication skills?
Communication skills are essential in all jobs. Communication skills include not just the ability to speak and write. It is also a combination of listening, body language, confidence, and respect.
How necessary is ongoing training?
Continuing education in this field is vital. It’s great for a tech to continue learning the newer equipment, as well as constantly getting a better understanding of end users and the service side. This also exposes the tech to innovations in the other areas of medical device technology.
How key is having a mentor and a good team supporting each engineer?
When you have a congruent, like-minded team that respects each other with a common goal, anything is achievable. When a leader or mentor can express the importance of medical equipment service and attention to detail, it builds the confidence of young technicians.
New field engineers
What advice would you give to someone who has just started their first job as a field engineer?
Be a sponge! Ask every question you can, and truly listen to and learn the answer. Be open to stepping out of your comfort zone to learn new things. Keep a notebook and carry it daily at work, taking notes about the equipment you service. The Biomedical Service field is full of great opportunities worth chasing.
Apart from a solid technical background, what are the most important skills to have?
I believe the most essential skills in this field are:
Attention to detail
Further reading here:
Well done Alec, and congratulations on your new posting. It seems you were mentored well, and have taken those lessons with you to Chicagoland. I look forward to reading of your successes in the future. Thank you for being a positive influence on our shared career field.