This article shares the career and advice of Juliano C Ferreira and his work as a Field Service Engineer servicing and supporting robotic assisted surgery equipment.
Juliano C Ferreira is an MBA qualified engineer and has over 10 years of experience of technical support of medical devices and industrial equipment. His current role is for CMR Surgical who are based in Cambridge in the UK. Juliano is Brazilian and speaks Portuguese, English and Spanish.
Medical Field Service Equipment Engineer for Robotic Assisted Surgery
Could you give a brief description of your background and what led you to study engineering?
I chose engineering very early in my career due to an opportunity, as assembler, in manufacturing. There I had my first contact with electrical engineering, and I found transformers and magnetism theory impressive.
Then, 6 months later I enrolled onto a technical course. During my technical course, I “met” industrial automation. I was amazed how endless that world was and decided that it was my thing.
Were there any childhood interests which were a factor?
Certainly, my childhood has impacted my professional career, but it doesn’t directly relate to engineering, but definitely does for field service. My father had a one-man business. He used to sell/deliver building materials and grading services. Since the age of 12, I remember joining him in his work, after school.
From that time, I learnt the basis. For instance, how your decision or action today can impact your career or business in the future. I learnt what an NPS (Net Promoter Score) was. My father only had a primary school education, but he knew that the best advertising was generated by the customer. So, he taught me how you can genuinely practice empathy towards a customer’s demands, mainly with those last-minute calls, and then benefit from it.
As a result, you will be creating a relationship based on trust, and will let the customers know that they can count on you. Maybe you will charge extra for the last-minute calls, but you will be there saving their day.
Has there been a particular person who inspired you in your early career or childhood?
My father. Today, after many years in the field, after studying for an MBA, he is still inspiring me as a professional. His example shows how you must bring your personal values into your career or business. As well your personal values will help you to make good deals with valuable partners, and so establishing partnerships with mutual benefits.
Who do you think is a great engineer?
Well, I’ve been surrounded by so many good professionals during my career, from teachers to colleagues and trainees.
It is hard to pick one. But I must say that CMR’s engineering team is by far the most brilliant team that I ‘ve ever had the opportunity to work with. I’m delighted to work with them!
Cultures and languages
You have lived in Ireland, now work remotely for a company in the UK and speak three languages.
What are the positives of living in a different culture and how does this transfer into your working life?
It is a very good question. This experience changed my life, gave me another meaning for the word “boundaries”.
The experience of living abroad not only made me see the world as smaller, but it also highlighted the importance of values such as: humbleness and compassion.
I had never left Brazil before moving to Ireland, so many things impressed me about the Irish culture. I found a very welcoming community in Cork. They were keen on understanding your needs and also understanding and learning about your culture. I felt really appreciated.
Living in Ireland also made me see that we may be culturally distinct but there are also many similarities. It made me notice that, generally, our goal is to go home after work and tell our loved ones our achievements from the day. We all want to make our loved ones proud of us. It doesn’t matter in which role you’re working in.
Learning language as an engineer
What is your advice to other engineers about learning languages?
As a Brazilian, my mother tongue is Portuguese. The first language that I chose to learn was English, since it is the business language. It is a requirement for many good professional opportunities, even in Brazil.
Speaking Spanish is a requirement of our market. Brazil is the largest economy in South America, and the second largest in Latin America. We work with many Spanish-speaking countries in the region and, therefore, speaking Spanish allows us to better support them.
Learning English is a lifelong journey, but it is worth it. Personally, I can say that it was a game changer to me. As only around 5% of the Brazilian population speaks English, the law of supply and demand works favourably in my case.
I believe that engineers must divide the journey of learning foreign languages into steps. First, we must be able to communicate in English, immersion is the easier and faster way to learn it – in my humble opinion.
Then, you must research the market that you want to work in, to figure out if there is any other language that could help in that region.
Communication as an engineer
How has living in different countries and speaking three languages made you a better communicator?
Speaking multiple languages makes you more resourceful, not only in terms of finding the most appropriate word, but it also makes you more comfortable to speak in challenging situations.
Furthermore, you tend to become a more careful communicator. As a speaker, you want to make sure that you are delivering a clear message, free of ambiguities. While, as a listener, you become more aware of the context in which the communication is happening and how to better interpret it.
But communication is not only about speaking, it is based on a bunch of skills. As professional engineers, we need to develop these skills, in order to deliver as expected for our company and ourselves.
Studying for an MBA
Why did you decide to return to studying?
This decision was made due to a professional opportunity in the previous company that I worked for. I was one of the most experienced technicians when I was invited to become their technical support manager and I accepted.
Even though, it was a small team (8 people), in a local company, I knew that I should develop my skills, to perform and deliver as expected, as I’d never been in a leadership position before.
How did you balance working and studying for an MBA?
It was a challenging period, in terms of time management, as I used to travel regularly to customer sites. But it was also a great opportunity, a period in which I could learn and apply almost instantaneously what I was learning. In small steps, I was able to implement few business administration tools and understand myself as a leader.
Lessons learnt as an engineer from studying an MBA
How did your work experience help your MBA studies and how did your MBA help you in your role as a manager?
When I started my MBA studies, my previous professional experience was all related to technical service/maintenance activities. Additionally, there were experienced people on the MBA programme. Professionals who had been managers for few years, in national companies, for instance. This combination made the MBA classes quite challenging, as the level of discussions was high. I really appreciated the course. I’m thankful for it because I feel that I became a new professional. Learning about subjects such as: business culture, mission, commercial strategy, financing, human resources, legislation, among other topics. As well I learnt not only from the teachers and lecturers, but also from my colleagues.
The MBA had a substantial importance while I was managing our business. Surely, I wouldn’t be able to achieve all the results that I achieved if I hadn’t dedicated myself to the MBA. The MBA provided me many tools and insights, which I could develop, adapt, and apply into my scenarios. All the changes that I implemented in the company led it to double its revenue within a 2-year period.
Typical week as a Field Service Engineer for Robotic Assisted Surgery Equipment
What exactly does your role include and what’s your typical week like?
We have an interesting mix of tasks, there is no monotony at all. The role includes:
servicing the system and supporting surgery in the field;
remotely supporting FSEs in the whole Latin America region;
attending training courses and meetings;
and providing feedback to our HQ team about our system and/or processes.
I believe that when an engineer adheres to the company values and gets involved in many different aspects of the company, even superficially, the sense of ownership is naturally built.
It is the reason why we are such a passionate team!
What are the additional challenges of working remotely with a company in Cambridge in the UK? How do you stay up to date as a field service engineer with any changes to the technology of the robotic assisted surgery equipment?
Well, I don’t feel many challenges while working remotely with a company in the UK. In my opinion, the company’s HQ location doesn’t change too much for an engineer, when you work in the field. Of course, it is only true if the company has a well-established supply chain and communication channels.
How much travel do you do within Brazil and how do you maintain a work life balance?
Firstly, it is good to mention that working as a field service engineer requires your flexibility. Then when you work with a company that understands that work life balance is important, it becomes much easier to manage your free time.
How commercial do you need to be in this role?
A good commercial approach is always welcomed, while dealing with customers, mainly on their sites. To deliver it, we must have a good understanding around the company’s commercial policies, culture, and values.
Most challenging part of the job
What do you find most challenging when you are working?
From experiences in previous companies, I’ve found the most challenging aspect is to deal with customers’ expectations around time to resolution. If a company doesn’t set clear Key performance indicators with the customers, it usually generates pressure on the FSE in the field.
What has been your most challenging issue to date? (could be from any of your jobs)
The most challenging issue that I faced was in a formaldehyde steriliser, as it took me 2 days.
The steriliser was aborting the cycles due to temperature (low or high – I can’t remember). Usually, it would be related to a damaged temperature sensor, chamber leakage, inlet steam speed, or vacuum pump efficiency. But in this case, I tested all the subsystems, and they were working well. I couldn’t solve the issue, so I requested support from the manufacturer’s engineering team.
The manufacturer support confirmed that all the subsystems were working well, and that the problem was a known software issue, which would need an update.
What do you do when a problem seems unsolvable? (What is your method for tackling it?)
My method is divided into three steps.
Understand how the system works
The first one is basically understanding how the system works, what and how the information flows through the system, and what are the system’s criteria for evolving its process.
Check the subsystems
Then, the second step is to make sure that all these subsystems are working as expected.
Act on root cause
The last one is to make sure that you are acting on root cause and not on the side effects.
New field service engineers in robotic assisted surgery
Why would you recommend working as a field service engineer for medical robotics?
I recommend working as medical robotics FSE because it is an inspiring position. You can feel that you are adding value into your community, delivering a cutting-edge technology, which will benefit many patients.
What is an ideal background for this type of role?
In this field the first advantage is speaking English, as you must be able to communicate in English, Then, if you are keen on following processes, it also matches with the profile. Then, it requires basic skills on using computers, and as well, basic knowledge in mechanics and electronics are a must.
Last but not least, is that it is good if you are a customer driven professional. An engineer who can balance the customer’s and the company’s needs.
Progression and opportunity for new engineers
How much progression is possible for medical engineers, and can it lead to other things?
I think the characteristics that a good professional carry in the medical engineering field is vastly requested from many other markets. The sense of ownership and responsibility that a professional in this field is required and recognized for, can be replicated in any other market.
Within the medical engineering field, the career progression is also endless, because the systems in this field are continuously developing new and improved capabilities.
Apart from a sense of serving the community, what are the other benefits of being a medical FSE?
Another benefit that I can see as medical FSE, is that we can develop knowledge about medical subjects that originally are not part of our duty but will help us in developing our daily routine.
How accessible is the career to people with a disability?
Sincerely, I don’t find FSE an accessible position at this moment. In my reality, people with disability would face many challenges while moving between customers or even in a customer’s site; for example, usually, the “maintenance area” in the customers site doesn’t have much investment, to make it accessible or of an appropriate size.