Predictive technology is employed in the medical scene to treat certain illnesses before they worsen or cause major complications. Learn all about it from the lens of surgical tech sales with Jennifer McLaughlin. She sits down with Samuel Adeyinka to discuss how this particular healthcare innovation does its wonders, especially for those dealing with chronic pain. Jennifer also shares her inspiring journey in the medical sales industry, breaking down several tips on becoming an effective and relatable brand ambassador.
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A Leader’s Journey From Surgical Tech Sales To Startup Global Director With Jennifer McLaughlin
Welcome to the show. We have another special guest and she goes by the name of Jennifer McLaughlin. She’s a certified surgical technologist for many years specializing in mostly orthopedic and neurosurgery. She moved from the clinical side to the sales side of the operating room back in 2014 and joined a major device company. Her story is something that you want to tune in to. Without further ado, I’m going to let you tune in to this interview.
Whatever you’re doing, remember that these episodes are not just for fun. These episodes are to educate you on opportunities that you can take action on. As we go into the new year, let’s let our theme be that of taking action. As always, we do our best to bring you guests who do things differently in the medical sales space. I hope you enjoy this interview.
Jen, how are you doing today?
I’m good. How are you, Sam?
I am fantastic. No complaints. Why don’t you tell everybody who you are and what you do?
I am Jen McLaughlin. I am now working in a startup company. It is a diabetic amputation preventive specialist. We help with predictive technology to prevent diabetic complications such as full ulcers and amputations.
That sounds very interesting, predictive technology. What is that? Tell us a little bit more.
It is partnered with a company. They use temporal scanner technology, but it’s a scanner made to scan the feet of diabetic patients with neuropathy and incense state of the feet. We scan the feet at five-foot points and it goes in. It monitors the temperature with ambient temperature taken into account. We can predict if there are any temperature changes. If they don’t know that they had some injury to their foot, with temperature changes we can predict whether it’s an increase or decrease things that are potential complications that they have.
That is cool. How big are the sales teams for that type of product?
We don’t have it yet. It’s a startup. We’re just getting started and we’re looking at some different commercial launches, both direct-to-consumer and hospital models. We’re still getting all those set up. I’m the third employee.
You’re just starting out. That’s exciting.
The technology and all the information is not new. It was before the paper and pen type of thing. Now, it has Bluetooth, so it has the actual technology software that goes with it. Instead of someone in the office writing things down, it’s all in an app-type base and sent to either the care manager or directly to the patient.Temporal scanner technology now has Bluetooth. Instead of having someone do it in person, it can be done through an app and sent directly to the patient or their care manager. Click To Tweet
Technology like that these days, that’s the answer. That’s exciting to be at the forefront of. If it’s just you and you guys are starting here, who’s the target? Who makes the actual decision on whether you utilize this software or not?
With a hospital setting, it’s usually depending on the hospital system or a college setting with podiatric medicine. It’s the administration along with a surgeon champion. Just like med device. All the things I did in my previous roles roll into this with having to have a surgeon champion or a physician champion to help you get your foot in the door to give a presentation to explain the savings we can bring to a system.
I’m so glad you made that segue because you come from a space where you know some of the people who have already been on the show. Please share with us.
I started as a surgical tech then and became certified. About 14 or 15 years into it, I went to med device. I started as a case specialist, then went to a sales rep, and then education where I met Shannon Mays in Florida when I ran a course down there when we were doing some major pilot courses.
It’s such a small world. We are connected. Was it seven spaces or seven people away or something like that?
Trust me, even the different things like when I went to BioDentist from Medtronic, some of the surgeons were at different things. I was like, “I know you.” Even going into the neuromodulation space with the education courses I ran, it’s the same doctors in neuromodulation that were in the peripheral nerve space. I got to see all the different surgeons and different people I had met along the way.
That’s wild. Let’s go back to it because your story is something that people need to hear. You started as scrub tech and now you stepped into your role. For a medtech company, that’s a big deal. Let’s start backward though. Let’s start with the most recent thing. Talk to us. What was your position before this role?
Before I took this role a few months ago, I was the national manager for a field clinical team for a peripheral nerve StimRouter.
Tell us a little bit more about that. We have people tuning in who are like, “I have no idea what that is.”
I had 6 or 7 people after the integration, then I hired eight more people. I had a team of 11-ish after a couple of people moved to sales and things. I managed the team across the country of field clinical managers. My team attended cases for the implant. It was either percutaneous or open. I met with patients and helped them reprogram with the doctors in different settings when they healed. Also, I trained doctors at different society meetings or regional training, collab, or courses that we had. I worked with staff on different things at the offices. It’s a little bit of everything.
What happened? Give us a series of events. You’re in this role and you’re loving it. That’s good, then life got interesting. Talk to us about that.
I was on a flight home from a case in Texas. I had a flight connecting through Atlanta. I got on the plane. It’s the first time I didn’t get an upgrade all year. I had been on 70 flights almost. Sitting in the row was a psychologist who worked on getting executive leadership for companies such as Coca-Cola, IBM, etc. She was going to a board of directors meeting, along with a Duke business professor coming up to BC to give a talk.
We’re chatting. We started talking, “Are you happy? What are you looking for?” She was like, “Do you mind switching seats?” The guy was in the middle of us, so we switched seats. For two and a half hours, we had a conversation about what I wanted to do in my next steps and what I did. From that, welcome to my new role. It was a journey because there was no funding. They were waiting on the funding, then I got the call.
You can’t fast forward like that. Let’s go back to that plane.
I just got the job.
Can you believe Jen? I cannot believe it. Let’s go back to the plane. We’re on the plane. First of all, what prompted this conversation about what Jen wants out of life?
We were talking about what we were doing and I was like, “I’m exhausted. I just came from Houston.” She was like, “I’m headed to a board of directors meeting. We’re looking for leadership for the startup.” The guy in the middle is like, “I’m going up to give a talk for a business school.” She’s like, “Are you happy?” I’m like, “I’m happy, but I can do more.” We started talking after we switched seats. I walked her through my history. She was super impressed.
Stop there. I’m going to interrupt you. This is awesome. I want you to give us the truth here. What gave you the confidence to be vulnerable with her?
As my kids always tell me, “I could talk to a wall and make a friend out of them.” I enjoy talking to people and we were having a conversation. She’s a psychologist, Dr. Bree Hayes, who I was talking to. I was like, “I want to do more.” She’s like, “Where do you see yourself?” I’m like, “Senior leadership or executive leadership is where I want to go.” My husband always jokes like, “What’s the next step, Jen, CEO?” I’m like, “I’m not ready for that,” but the next step.
We just talked and I told her my background. Everything I’ve done and what my current role entailed working all the different levels, helping with distribution issues, with tech support, customer service, patience, and doctor. Every different level. I had a mini distribution center in my office downstairs because there were times we couldn’t get the product if there were shipping delays or somebody was on vacation.
I always made last-minute runs. The logistics lady knew me by name because I went so often. I’ve done a lot of different things. We were talking about everything. She’s like, “You’re perfect. We’ll have a conversation.” We got into Boston and had a conversation. We came into the far A terminal of Boston. Before I even walked through the sidewalk, I had a text message from her, “You’ll be hearing from me.”
This is amazing. Was she like a psychologist head hunter?
She does executive leadership finding. She runs a consulting firm in Atlanta. She’s friends with the owner. That’s how she was part of the team. She has known him since middle school or high school type of thing. She is part of their board of directors. She was helping them look for executive leadership, finding what they wanted, and helping with growing the team.
Their conclusion was, “We need this person,” and then you showed up. Here’s what I want to cast though. This is something I firmly believe in, especially nowadays when we’re all so tied into our internet experience. We’re on our phones, tablets, laptops, or Zoom calls. Everything is very much an online agenda. What’s happening to social interactions because we’re going in this direction?
It’s getting to a point where social awkwardness is no longer frowned upon. Social awkwardness is expected. People expect you to be socially awkward because they’re so busy trying to communicate online. When you cannot do that and be vulnerable and real with someone, look at the experience you have. All you did was be vulnerable. You were real about the situation and your life.
There were many times I talked to different people. When we were having chip issues, I happened to be sent with a guy who ran a company that worked with microchips. I got his information. I connected him with our company. You have a conversation and most of the time, granted this was one time I wanted to just close my eyes and go to sleep for a couple of hours. I was like, “I’m going to have this conversation,” and look where it took me where I could have taken a quick nap and not have this opportunity. I was like, “I’ll have a conversation and see where it goes,” then I’m like, “We’ll see.” I had a lot of questions but they kept coming after me.Jump into any conversation even if you have a lot of questions. You don’t know what kind of opportunities you will discover. Click To Tweet
That’s amazing. Now you’re in the airport. You go to your bags and you get a text. Tell us the rest.
I didn’t have my bags because I had a carry-on. I don’t check bags. I was walking and she texted me. I was like, “I can’t wait to hear. Thank you.” I was going to send her a text when I got to my car and say, “Thank you. I’m excited about this potential opportunity.” She sent me the text. She’s like, “I’ll be talking to you.” They had their board meeting. The next day, she sent me a text. She’s like, “They’re super excited. They’re very interested and they want to meet with you next week.” I’m like, “Okay.” The next week happened and had a quick call. They’re like, “We want to meet you in person.”
I flew down and met the owner, CEO, and founder down in Maryland and had about a 4 or 5-hour conversation about everything. He walked me through the background. I had a nice little breakfast and a nice long conversation. I learned the whole story of what brought and got him here. I was like, “I’m sold. When do you want me to start?” He’s like, “We don’t have the funding yet.” I’m like, “Let me know.”
We kept in contact and then August-ish, he reached out and said, “We have the funding. Is this okay?” I’m like, “Sure.” I took a little pay cut with the expectation that this was going to be something huge. I have a passion like my previous StimRouter peripheral nerve stimulator for chronic pain. It was a passion because these patients had chronic pain. Some of our patients are ready to have any amputations then they get their lives back because the pain stops.
That passion is the same passion I see for this because it can prevent 70% of amputations and foot ulcers in patients which lead to amputations. It can even find comorbidities that diabetic patients have that they don’t even know about, high blood pressure and kidney. It’s a passion too. It’s exciting and I’ve learned a lot about diabetes I didn’t know.
Give us one. What’s one thing that you didn’t know that you learned?
I know retinopathy and glaucoma, but I realize it is a high prevalence in diabetics. I know it’s a higher prevalence in older and elderly patients, but I didn’t realize the correlation with diabetes.
That’s fascinating. You guys had a five-hour conversation. I’d like to believe that there was a philosophy or a theme that resonated with you so much that you said, “Yes.” What was that? If you can share.
It was the passion behind it and this isn’t new. It’s not a new novel thought. It is a technology that has been around for 30 years with his previous company, but it has a new updated version. They now have a Bluetooth scanner instead of relying on the patient to give you numbers and write them down after each foot point. It is an app that gets pushed to the back end and the algorithms are there. We spontaneously can say, “There’s no issue. No alert needed.”
We have to go back to the beginning now because you were a scrub tech who is now in this role here for a medtech company. Let’s go to the beginning. Were you a scrub tech in college or out of college? What was going on?
It was a certificate program when I did it back in the early 2000s. I had taken some classes. I originally started nursing school. I dropped out of that way back when things in life got in the way. I was in Omaha, Nebraska, and did the surgical tech certificate program. I had a couple of courses to take ahead of time to start the program.
It was three semesters, so fall, spring, and summer. I graduated in August of 2002 if that ages me a little bit. We did the one semester, learning different medical technologies and sterile techniques. For the next two semesters, we did clinical rotations at the area hospitals. I never step foot in an OR except to have a couple of babies. I never even thought about it. I passed out on my first day in my rotation.
I’ve always been curious. You see that in the movies and TV shows. Would you say that happens often or is that very rare?
It happens. It was more nerves and the stress. I’d never been in there. I’ve been told how awful and mean people are. You need to follow directions. I was scared, but I didn’t fully pass out. I just got weak knees. There were times even as a tenured surgical tech when I became certified, I almost passed out. We all had the flu. We all took turns going out to the bathroom throughout scrub-in. I’ve been through different things. It happens more than you would think. I’ve had doctors have vagal things go down in the middle of a surgery. You never know what can happen in the OR.
How casually she talks about it and you know that she had seen some things. Let’s get into this then. You were a brand ambassador at a number of companies after you were a surgical technologist. Talk to us a little bit about what that was.
In the opportunity to talk about things I did, I was a runner or trail runner. I love shoes. I’m going to talk to people about it. The shorts I’m wearing, I’ll talk to people about it because I’m already doing it. I’m running and talking. Everybody said I could sell anybody anything. I talked to people into doing 50K as I never ran more than a half marathon. I’m good at talking people into things not knowing that they can do what they don’t think they can do.
We have a life coach over here. I love it. That brand ambassador, it’s cool because you can put it on your resume, but how do you explain the significance of that type of role?
It’s a non-paid talking about what you want. You get a little things like we got a couple pairs of shoes. We got a kit for ultra shoes, especially. We got a little kit of running with Ultras everywhere, then we got half-price shoes. I have probably a hundred pairs.
You were at Medtronic for six years.
I was doing it at the same time.
What do you mean half? Who got the half?
I got the half price off shoes so I could buy shoes from the website for half price for talking about the shoes and promoting shoes. I helped volunteer a few races for the tent. I showed people to shoot, and have a booth with shoes. I wore the shirts at different races I did across the country. I ran a few marathons, 50Ks and 100Ks.
This was something that Medtronic was doing.
No, it was separate. It was something I thought I could do as a separate thing. This was just for fun.
You are a brand ambassador for all of your extracurricular activities.
Correct. I have to pay for it somehow.
Are you still doing it?
No. Because of my last role, I stepped down. I didn’t have time to put in the effort. There were a lot of races I wasn’t able to attend due to my travel schedule with my previous role.
Can they level up on your tenure as a brand ambassador? Can you say, “I want to be a bigger brand ambassador? I want to start getting paid.”
Those are more your elite athletes. I’m like your mom on the back of the road running the trails. I do it for fun. It’s to clear my head. That’s where I’ve had my best decisions when I’m out there 6 or 7 hours running. I’ve thought because you’re in the moment and you don’t have to think. You don’t see all the different things coming at you. Your clarity is so much better that I figured out all the world’s problems. Everybody used to tell me their problems and I figured it out when I was running.
I love it. That’s so inspiring. You have this recurring theme, Jen, that if this doesn’t excite me, I’m not going to do it. If I’m not motivated to do something deep with this, I’m not going to do it. Clearly, it gets you to where you are today. That’s awesome. You went from Medtronic to another company. What happened there? Give us the story.
An HR talent acquisition agent reached out to me like when I started my case specialist role. They reached out to me about its sales training. I’d never done sales training. I was a case specialist, sales rep, and field educator running surgeon courses. I never taught the salespeople in an official capacity. I was like, “I haven’t done it. Let’s do it.” I took that role and interviewed. It was during COVID.
I started in November of 2020 when things were finally back on the road. We’re doing in-person courses again. They reached out. I liked the company. It’s a spinoff of a company with biologics, healing, exergen, and HA products. I was like, “I’ve been in the spine world most of my life as a surgical tech and spine rep and the different courses. Why not teach people about biologics?”
What were you responsible for teaching? Give us all the fields you are responsible for teaching.
In Medtronic, I was part of the RTG at the time. I know everything has changed now. In the beginning, it was the five divisions, so spine courses enabling technology, DBS, ENT, kyphoplasty, and then your TDD and SCS, which is neuromodulation. I ran the courses. I didn’t teach them. I ran the courses. I had the surgeons come in and teach the courses. There are some patient education ones too.
We put those courses together across mostly the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, then helped with the pilot training that started before COVID, then got shut down during COVID. We did more webinars like everybody else did, and then back to in-person. I taught a lot of divisions. I had a little bit of a neuromodulation background. Coming into the sales training, it was biologics and it was the surgical manager education.
I taught the corporate employees. At the time, it was a distributor model. We taught the managers, directors, and any new corporate employee about biologics and its history. Occasionally, I’d help in the field with the distributors that we were training about our products. BioDentist went public in 2021, then we acquired Bioness which was an Alfred Mann. It had a rehab and the StimRouter PNS Division.
We did a pilot training. I had run cadaver labs for so many years. I helped put that together. I’m like, “Nobody has ever been in an OR. These are HA and exergens.” They’re more like walking into doctor’s offices. They’re not going to ORs or purchasing different things. I put together something about OR etiquette and the cadaver lab. Some of them had never stepped foot in a cadaver training. I put that all together, then they approached me to manage the clinical team.
As a sales trainer, it sounds like you spent a lot of time teaching the science and the product. Did you teach sales skills at all?
We did. Not so much because at the level that I was training, they were the regional managers and area directors. They had that knowledge, but some of them had never done spine or ankle and foot because that was the biologics, so just talking about how to talk to a spine surgeon or orthopedic surgeon, and understanding that talk track. I helped teach a lot of that or understand the procedures and where we were applicable for different biologics.
I ask because I imagine you’ve probably seen the full gamut of best practices.
From when I started as a surgical tech to even now.
From sales training to the whole thing.
I’ve seen the best and the worst.
I want to ask three things for all the sales reps who are tuning in and all the individuals who want to become sales reps, clinical specialists, or associate sales reps. What three things would you say you have to do when you have this position?
Going into sales, you have to understand the product you are working with. You need to understand the dynamics in an OR if that’s where you’re at from hierarchy to being in the room and what you can and can’t do. Knowing the big picture. Not just what you need to sell and what you need to do but understanding the bigger picture of what’s going on with the product and the surgeon. The whole picture. Not just that moment. You need to think of the broader picture of what you can do for that surgeon’s practice. Bringing in new products and something that specifically they like or different things like that.
I like that. The product, the makeup of your account, how your account interacts with every other level of business, and how you can help with that account. That’s good. I ask that because I’m sure you’ve seen the highest-performing reps and the lowest-performing reps. I’m assuming that the high-performing rep did all these three things very well.
Being authentic is huge too because people can see through it. That’s the thing I’ve been talking about with my current bosses, being an authentic person or authentic leader. You can only fake it or model after other people first so long and you’re not doing yourself a service. You’re doing a disservice to yourself because you’re trying to be somebody else when you’re not yourself. It wears you out. You have to mold a little bit but you also have to stay true to yourself or you’ll never get anywhere.
In addition to dealing with that exhaustion, you can potentially become a global director of a medtech company.
Just by having a conversation on a plane.
Being authentic is the way to go. Let’s go to the other side of that. What would you say are three things or consistent themes that you saw reps all share?
They didn’t listen to what was being asked of them. They were so busy trying to answer before they listened to the entire thing. That’s something I was bad at. In the beginning, I wasn’t very good in the sales aspect. Always as a surgical tech, you had to anticipate not when you move to sales. It’s more about letting it sink in. Not being slow but being thoughtful and listening.
Very huge. I would say those that don’t have good time management. Being on time is late in my book. All the years in the OR, and my dad was prior military. If you’re on time, you’re late. Time management is huge. The third thing is more those chauvinistic it’s a guy’s world type of thing. Maybe because I’m a female. Those were always the reps that maybe did well, but in the ORs, they didn’t do well sometimes.
That last one I didn’t understand. Elaborate a little bit more on that.
This is maybe my old school days when I was a surgical tech. It was all the football players, the ex-huskers, the ex-football players, and different sports. They came in and it was a guy’s world kind of thing. They didn’t always understand. I worked with Darren Flutie who was a rep. He did amazing but then I worked with some former football players. It was more about, “I’m here. Look at this,” that type of thing.
Is it having a sense of entitlement?
They were good at what they did before. I’ve worked with a lot of former pro-football and different things that were amazing reps. I also worked with some that we’re not because it was all about them instead of helping and being a part of the team.
I love this. I’m going to ask you two golden questions then we’re going to come to a close. Answer it freely. For someone who wants to get into the medical sales industry. Remember, when I say medical sales, I’m talking about everything healthcare-related that you sell. What’s the number one thing they need to make sure they keep in mind if they want to be in this space?
It’s what is involved. It’s not just, “I’m going to make some money. I’m going to do this.” I’ve talked to you a little bit about the passion and understanding of the product and what you can do for people’s lives. It’s not just making a quota, which helps but it’s about what you can do for people. When you put that into it, it makes it worthwhile.
The number one thing that you would say is, “If you don’t have this, you should probably look elsewhere.”
I would say you have to have the ability to learn what you don’t know and use what you do know. There are things I didn’t know but I took the time to research it. For this new role, I didn’t know much about diabetes and what it does for people. I’ve taken the time to research and look into things. I’ve read some different studies. You have to take the time to learn what you don’t know and leverage what you do know. I know about wounds and amputations. I know what it does if you don’t prevent things. Having that understanding of what you know and what you don’t know, and being willing to learn what you don’t know.
This was fantastic. Jen, are you ready for the lightning round?
I told you I’m very prepared for this.
Jen, let’s get started. You have less than ten seconds to answer four questions. The first one is, what is the best book you’ve read in the last six months?
That sounds interesting. Who wrote that one?
It is by Emily Nagoski. She has a PhD. A friend of mine recommended it. She’s a runner. She posted on her Instagram. I saw it and it spoke to me, so I bought it.
I’m going to check that one out. What is the best TV show or movie you’ve seen in the last six months?
I don’t watch a lot of TV because I live on a lake. I don’t do a lot of things but when I travel, I’ve re-watched Criminal Minds on Netflix and the CSI and Law and Order. I like solving mysteries and figuring things out.
What is the best meal you’ve had in the last six months?
I don’t know if it’s so much a meal, but a restaurant. There’s a place whenever I’d go to Durham where my previous home office was. I always went to the Viceroy. It’s an Indian-English fusion place and I’ve never had anything bad there. I crave it. Every time, as soon as I landed, I would text a friend and ask, “What is the name of the restaurant?” I always forgot it. I know where it’s at, but I always forget the name of it.
You have to give us one suggestion. Just one item.
Any of their naan breads are amazing. Any of their masalas and the different appetizers are amazing.
The next time I’m in Durham, that’s happening. Last but not the least. In the last six months, what is the best experience?
Taking a chance and moving into an unknown role. Two weeks into the role, we went to a conference in the Bahamas. I got to meet the minister of health and have a conversation about what our product and technology could bring to the country.
What did that conversation do for you?
Having only two weeks and all the time ahead of it showed me that I can grasp a concept, vocalize what I know, and be at the table at a very important meeting.
Jen, it was amazing to spend this time with you. We can’t wait to see all the main things you do with the startup. Thank you for your time.
Thank you. I’m excited.
That was Jennifer McLaughlin. A fantastic lady doing fantastic things. Something I want to address is we are about to launch some new programs. We have programs that help not only you in the audience to get to these positions but we’re expanding our services in the vein of if you want to work for a medical technology company.
It doesn’t need to be in sales per se. Maybe you’re an engineer and you want to work in a medtech company. Maybe you’re some sort of technician and you want to work in the thousands of roles that there are in medtech companies, then you need to go to Evolve Your Success, fill out the application, schedule some time with one of our account executives, and let’s get you there. We’ve expanded our program to serve those individuals who might not want to be in sales but they know for sure they would love to work for the Strykers, Pfizers, Medtronics, and Boston Scientifics of the world. As always, we do our best to bring you guests who do things differently in the medical sales space. Make sure you tune in next week for another episode of the show.
- Jennifer McLaughlin – LinkedIn
- Darren Flutie
- Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle
About Jennifer McLaughlin
Jennifer has been a Certified Surgical Technologist for over 22 years specializing in mostly Orthopedic and Neurosurgery. She moved from the clinical to the sales side of the Operating Room in November of 2014 and joined a major Medical Device Company. She worked her way from a case specialist to a sales representative to HCP training. Jennifer then did sales training for another medical device company and then moved to managing a National Clinical Team for a few years. She is currently the Global Director of Operations for a start-up company. Jennifer is leveraging all the knowledge she has learned over the years. Always learning and growing in her roles.
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