Paul Camidge Senior Regional Service Manager Northern Europe at Cepheid
Paul Camidge is an experienced healthcare business manager with a background in technical service and support as well as medical account management in blue chip healthcare companies. He is Senior Regional Service Manager for Northern Europe for Cepheid.
Cepheid Biotech Research is part of the Danaher Corporation.
What attracted you to working in the medical industry?
I fell into it almost by mistake.
I started in the car industry and disliked my job so applied as a biomedical engineer for a hospital…. The rest is history!
How important is it to you that you have been supporting products and equipment which are beneficial to people?
In my experience the vast majority of people working in the medical industry do it partly due to what we do and the impact it makes on others. There are not many roles in life where, as an engineer, you can say how many lives you have improved just by going to work.
Could you give a summary of your career and how you have seen things change?
As I mentioned I started as a control engineer within the car industry and fell into the world of biomedical engineering working in a hospital. What a fantastic place to start, you get to see amazing things (providing you are not squeamish). From the hospital I moved into the private sector working for manufacturers, firstly as an engineer, then I moved into the sales team. As with the move into medical, I didn’t plan it, the opportunity came up and I took it.
I loved sales and would probably have stayed there except the company I worked for wanted a new service manager who could understand both the needs of the commercial organisation as well as the challenges these posed to the service team. So, that’s when I became a manager.
Since then, I have managed big teams, small teams and even teams where I had no clue what they actually did. All the roles have been within this constantly changing medical industry.
What’s your typical day like?
I don’t have a typical day!
That’s the beauty of working in this industry. One minute I am working out how to deliver service to customers, then performing team calls or working on the many projects we get involved with.
How much of your time is spent managing your team, and how much on other things?
Ahh.. the first rule of management. It’s the only job you will ever do where it doesn’t matter how well you do… only how well your team does.
So, in answer EVERYTHING I do is related to managing the team, either directly or indirectly through strategy or planning.
How much of the team’s training are you involved with?
I’m no longer technically trained on the products so I don’t perform direct training, but that’s only one part of training. Organisations are like sports teams; they require good coaching and that’s where a manager comes in.
Which other parts of the organisation do you work with?
We get to work across the entire organisation from feeding back to designers and developers through to the actual customer working with them to get the best from our platforms.
You’ve been hands on in different roles. How critical is this to your management and team leading style?
Often being able to do the job of your team is detrimental to being a good manager for two reasons.
Firstly, you tend to focus on how they are doing the activity rather than on what you can do to get them to do it better.
Secondly you tend to interfere rather than let them get on with it, then you are not doing your own job.
Sure, being an ex-engineer is a help with credibility. However, I have seen plenty of excellent managers supporting teams they have absolutely no idea of how to do the job of.
One of the most naturally gifted and successful managers I promoted was previously the administrator of the team. She had no technical training or real qualifications. There were a lot of questions about my wisdom until her team was more successful than others anywhere in the world. Then many more senior managers were told to come and understand what she was doing and how they could learn from her.
The moral of the story, being technically trained or “hands on” is overrated. Good managers look at the people and not the activity.
Field Engineering to Management
What advice would you give to someone who wants to come out of the field and into management?
I’m going to start by saying something contentious.
“Engineers don’t make good managers.”
Before everyone messages me to tell me how wrong I am, hear me out.
Engineers make great engineers; we like the challenge of working out why something doesn’t work or how to install it in an unusual place. Engineering stuff.
The trouble is that management has a different set of challenges. If you really like the engineering stuff and are only taking a management role because you think this is the way to get advancement, then you are going to hate it and probably be bad at it as well.
So, don’t take a management role or even think of it if you don’t think you can “put the tool kit away” at least when at work.
Recruiting and building teams without bias (conscious or unconscious)
How do you recruit, lead, manage, and build diverse teams of people?
With more experience/older
of a different gender, background
with different education levels
with different work experience to date (other sector or industry)
who have worked for themselves or in a very small organisation
without English as a first language
very technical and skilled but with low literacy
who are actively looking for another role
undergoing difficult home circumstances (divorce, bereavement, illness..)
with a disability
To quote an 80s song:
“People are People”.
We are all different, have different needs, values, ambitions, and quirks. I honestly think this is the best part of being a manager. Our raw material is all completely different and changes from one day to the next.
I always remember some advice I was given about sales, but it applies just as well to managing people.
“You have two eyes, two ears and one mouth… use them in that order.”
Ok, so to lead you do have to speak more than others. However, when dealing with my teams I aim to listen and understand, to discover who are they? Why are they here, what do they want and not just about the job. I like to understand who they are outside the company, hobbies, family, what makes them laugh, smile, and feel alive.
If you are going to ask people about this sort of thing you must be prepared to share yourself. So, I always explain who I am and what I get up to. I have always found that we humans always use this information to try to find common ground to build a relationship no matter how different you appear to be. As I said at the start
“People are People.”
The future of field engineering and customer support
How do you think it is going to change over:
The next five years?
The next twenty years?
What sort of impact is AR having?
Will the type of engineer needed in your industry change in terms of hard and soft skills?
It appears you can’t move for articles on AI or AR so I’m going to ignore it.
The pandemic has caused seismic change in many parts of our life; field engineering as well as customer support is no exception.
The improvement in remote support abilities allows us to really have worldwide support. We can gather expertise from anywhere and connect them with someone on site very easily. This back up is massively useful for anyone working in the field.
That said there have been disadvantages. Internet shopping has revolutionised the retail industry; who would now open a physical shop? The same applies to remote communication; why have a large expensive office when everyone works from home?
So face to face contact has reduced which has led many organisations to stop seeing company representatives physically as they feel the same discussion can be achieved much more easily remotely. This poses a problem for companies who want to develop closer relationships with the actual users of their product. Who could speak to them, ask the important questions, and promote the company in person?
Enter the Field Engineer.
Much of what we do can’t be done remotely so we are on site with our customers, working alongside them. So, we will be asked to do more of this customer relationship building, which is something many engineers find difficult.
As the technology changes (who uses a soldering iron anymore) and arguably becomes simpler with modular systems, softer skills will be needed to help build relationships. The best companies will be looking and investing in both recruiting people who have these skills as well as developing them within the existing teams. Could this lead to a change in the skill set of people we look for?
Lee Oliver advice on leading large teams of Field Engineers.
Richard Meredith, Senior Manager at Edwards Vacuum supports the health and safety of over 2500 service engineers.
Richard Baker, GenesisCare – leading a team of Radiotherapy Equipment Engineers.
Nice to meet you Paul. We share many of the same philosophies about work and leading people, it seems. I like how you utilize the servant leader heart to take care of your team, to learn about them, and from them. Thank you for sharing your story, and your advise.
Thanks for that kind comment Paul Neher.