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Breaking In: Unveiling MedTech Secrets for New Graduates with Emma Grace Ficara

How can new graduates enter the competitive medical device industry straight out of school?

In our inaugural episode of the Starter Series, dedicated to those on the brink of graduation, recent graduates, and early-career professionals considering a leap into the medical device industry, The Girls of Grit delve into the captivating journey of Emma Grace Ficara, Cindy’s daughter. Emma shares her experience breaking into the medical device industry as a young woman in the field, highlighting the importance of mentorship, networking, and building relationships with fellow healthcare professionals.

Drawing from her journey, Emma sheds light on the challenges inherent in navigating the intricate landscape of the operating room, where she honed her skills amidst a steep learning curve. Central to her narrative is the emphasis on honesty, adaptability, and persistence as essential virtues for overcoming obstacles and thriving in the competitive domain of medical devices.

Emma empowers aspiring professionals to embrace authenticity, remain agile in the face of uncertainty, and tenaciously pursue their aspirations within this dynamic industry.

Must-Hear Insights and Value Bombs

  • The Power of Networking: Learn how networking can open doors and create opportunities in the medical device industry.
  • Embracing Opportunities: Understand the value of saying “yes” to opportunities, even if they may not align perfectly with your initial career goals.
  • Navigating Learning Curves: Gain insights into navigating the learning curve and overcoming challenges in a fast-paced industry.
  • Importance of Adaptability: Discover the importance of adaptability in dealing with changing circumstances and environments.
  • Persistence is Key: Learn how persistence can lead to success, despite setbacks and obstacles.
  • Building Meaningful Relationships: Understand the significance of building honest and genuine relationships with colleagues and clients.
  • Honesty and Integrity: Learn how honesty and integrity are fundamental to building trust and credibility in professional relationships.
  • Utilizing Available Resources: Discover the importance of using resources such as mentorship and industry networks to support your career growth.
  • Real-world Experiences Matter: Understand the value of learning from real-world experiences and applying practical knowledge to your career journey.
  • Guidance for Aspiring Professionals: Gain practical advice and guidance for aspiring professionals looking to enter and excel in the competitive field of medical devices.

Words of Wisdom: Standout Quotes from This Episode

  • “Going through your school, where you had a place to find online help is just really important, and remember that an internship may be a really good way to get you there.” —- Cynthia Ficara
  • “The only way to do that is to act confident, be sure of myself, know my worth, and know the product that I’m promoting as well as I’m promoting myself and my company.” — Emma Grace Ficara
  • “I guess advice to anyone who is not maybe like a pre-med major, but wants to go into medical advice is getting shadowing hours in an OR and anywhere is so helpful because you’re already exposed to what you as an observer have to do.” — Emma Grace Ficara
  • “I think one other thing that you do very well is ask questions because in a lot of what you were describing, you were kind of new, young, thrown into a new environment, and it’s who do you ask? Who do you lean on? And you did a really good job confidently finding those nurses, finding those doctors or those people with the hospital who you can lean on.” —- Cynthia Ficara
  • “Medical devices are an amazing place to be, but there are give and take, you have to be able to be flexible.” — Anneliese Rhodes
  • “Just not limiting yourself to the space that you’re in and like the sky’s the limit. So just don’t say no and talk to as many people as possible.”  — Emma Grace Ficara

About Emma Grace Ficara:

Emma Grace Ficara, hailing from Davidson, North Carolina, is a driven professional with a diverse background in the medical and retail sectors. She is currently serving as an Orthopedic Medical Device Sales Associate at MedCom Carolinas in Richmond, Virginia.

Emma used to be a Lululemon Educator, where she provided guests with exceptional product knowledge and cultivated a vibrant retail environment. Before she transitioned to the medical device industry, Emma worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Novant Health, gaining hands-on experience in patient care. 

Her journey also includes roles as a Server Assistant at The Country Club of Virginia and a Patient Care Technician at HCA Healthcare. Emma is a Davidson College alumna, where she honed her skills and knowledge base from 2020 to 2023. With a passion for delivering excellence in every endeavor, Emma is dedicated to making a meaningful impact in her field and beyond.

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Blog Transcript:

Anneliese Rhodes: Good morning, Cindy. Good morning to all of our listeners out there.

Cynthia Ficara: Good morning, Lisa, and good morning to our listeners. I’m especially excited about today. We get asked so often, how do you get into medical devices? I have a daughter who wants to get in and I have messages and questions about how you get into medical devices.

So we thought that today would be really exciting to have a special guest who happens to be very close to home, my daughter, who graduated at 21, a semester early and got into medical devices. So there’s no better way to have anybody tell the story than my daughter herself. So we are very excited to interview our special guest today, Emma Grace Ficara. So we would love to hear your insight firsthand your experience and any tips you have on how you broke into the medical device industry, welcome.

Emma Grace Ficara: Thank you guys so much for having me today. I’m so excited to be able to give them this platform to share my experience. So I am Cindy’s daughter. A little bit of background about me, I graduated from Davidson College down in, pretty much like 20 minutes north of Charlotte in North Carolina. I was a biology major who was on the pre-med track. I was also a Division One athlete for around two and a half years before I medically retired, after my sophomore year. And now, I work in orthopedic medical device sales.

Anneliese Rhodes: That is awesome. I am so impressed, Emma. First of all, kudos to you Cindy for raising such a smart and bright daughter. Actually, you have two of them, but, we’re excited to have you here today, Emma because as Cindy mentioned, we get asked often by a lot of friends and it’s like, well, if you don’t know somebody who knows somebody, you’re never going to get in, you’re never going to break in, and Cindy and I happen to work in the medical field, obviously, but it’s not even like she helped you with this, right?

I mean you kind of just did this all on your own, which is really freaking awesome. So, we really want to hear what this looks like. Like what did you do, Emma? Did you start when you were a junior in college and you started looking at this? When did you know that you wanted to do this? kind of like where I’d like to begin with this.

Emma Grace Ficara: Yes. So I always knew that I was going to have around six or seven months, possibly more to work once I graduated. Cause I do want to attend medical school one day. I knew that was my ultimate goal, but since I was graduating early, I was like, I was a CNA before. So I was a certified nursing assistant for about three years.

And I just knew that I didn’t want to do that forever. I wanted to be able to make money in a different way and even expand the clinical experience that I already had. So it was pretty much my senior fall. So literally like eight, or nine months ago, I was in class and my lab partner told me that I should probably apply to different jobs because I was looking at just other nursing jobs and she was like, just do medical devices.

And I was like, wait, I definitely should do that especially with my mom being a medical device. I didn’t want to tell her I wanted to be, it was more of a surprise because I already knew from just previous exposure again, how hard it is as a 21-year-old. No one’s gonna hire me. I’m like how? You know what? Let me shoot my shot. You missed 100 percent of the shots you didn’t take and she just mentioned to me in class and I was in my lab, we had a little bit of free time. So I started researching jobs. 

So I looked on LinkedIn. I think I applied to over 30 jobs, randomly. So whatever was in the Charlotte area, Raleigh area. I wasn’t looking. I’m currently back in Richmond, but I was not looking in Virginia. I was just trying to find something around my college town. And again, I think I probably filled out about 30 applications and I was like, I’ll wait, like maybe they’ll get back to me, maybe they won’t. Ended up not hearing anything back. 

I think I heard back from one company that I applied to and it was like, we’re not looking for anyone now, but we’ll get back to you. So I was in the same class with my lab partner, like two weeks later. And she told me, what about Davidson Connect?

So my college has something cool. It’s kind of like LinkedIn, but only for alumni and students of that particular college. I think other places do it. I’m not sure, but Davidson just in particular is Davidson Connect. So she was like, look up and see if anyone had a medical device, like a job that graduated.

I was like, that’s a great idea, so I looked it up and there were like five or six people that popped up and there’s like a little icon on their profile that says, willing to help. So there’s this one girl that popped up and she was willing to help and she works for the company that I currently work for. She was in the same sorority that I was in. She only graduated about 4 years before I got there. So she was still fairly new, fairly young. I think she’s like 26 or 27. So I ended up reaching out to her on that app and she was very nice, answered me very promptly and she said, I would love to hop on a call. Like what are you interested in? So I ended up calling her around about a week later. And this company in particular has an internship program. So I was originally applying to be an intern. And because it’s an orthopedic company, one of the things you can do as an intern is you can run trays.

So for those who don’t know, I know you guys have an aortic device. A lot of your stuff is sterile packaged, orthopedics is not. So the majority of it is in these giant metal trays and I primarily sell stuff with hand and wrist fractures as well as elbows and some clavicles. So we have like, two products that are a sterile package, but the majority aren’t.

So I’m taking these giant trays and I’m running them to different hospitals and surgery centers and giving them to central sterile, making sure that everything’s in the tray. Nothing’s left out, nothing’s missing that has happened a few times, but we always figure it out.

So I thought that was going to be my job and it was great. She was so encouraging and so kind and she said, this is the best way to break into the industry. She said they actually had a student last summer who was at Davidson, who graduated two years earlier than me and he did this internship. He did it for like two summers.

And then he, I think, ended up applying to medical school or he ended up taking a job. I’m not sure, I don’t remember, but in the medical device, one of the two. But I know that when he was interviewing for medical schools, they were so shocked that someone so young was able to have this program.

So that’s what I originally applied for, and she was like, let me talk to my boss, let me see if there’s availability because it is paid. So I was like, thank God, I needed to make money and I didn’t want to be a CNA. So I was like, I need something that pays. So if this pays, I’ll do it. And it was like three days a week.

It was perfect. You get to meet doctors and it’s the perfect entry level for somebody who does not have any sales experience.

Cynthia Ficara: So I think I want to emphasize what you just said because I think that’s really important because of an internship. For anybody in college, in between the summers or in between semesters, it’s a really great opportunity.

And just to point out what you said about going through your school, where you had a place to find online help is just really important. So, I just really wanted to emphasize what you just said, because I think that those listening, just to really remember that an internship may be a really good way to get you there.

Emma Grace Ficara: I think like other companies, I think some have them as I found out but it’s definitely again, like the whole Davidson connect thing. I think other colleges have that same thing. I’m just not sure, but so then, she ended up not calling me back for a while. So I was like, I guess I’m not going to get it.

And I got a call about a week before Christmas that there was someone in the Raleigh territory that they actually needed a rep and I was like, well, she goes, I think you’d be great for it. I was like, okay, and it ended up turning out that they actually had three unfilled positions that they really needed someone very quickly.

And one ended up being in my hometown of Richmond. He immediately needed a sales rep within the next two weeks cause he had one who just put in his two weeks and he was like, I have so many cases I need help, so I ended up getting on a call with him. My current manager and the girl that I was originally talking to, helped set all of that up.

It was so amazing and she got my resume from me. I think the president of the company ended up sending my resume out to all of the managers, which is why they’re like, there’s these 3 positions that you would be great for and Richmond just ended up making the most sense just because I could come back home for a little bit.

So I ended up taking the job and I literally started two weeks after, or three weeks after Christmas. And yeah, I’ve been in it ever since and I definitely am the youngest one by far. I’m lucky I look a little bit older, but that’s definitely been a fun stepping stone, something that I’ve had to deal with. 

Anneliese Rhodes: That’s awesome but I’m thinking to myself, you know me, I’m thinking back, that might’ve been a little intimidating to jump literally from a college student, college kid going out, having a good time, and I’m not saying you did that, I’m just saying, you know, that’s the mentality to working world and not just anything, you’re a sales rep and you’re calling on doctors.

I mean that takes a lot of confidence, Emma, to just jump right in there and do it. How did you know that you were going to be successful at it? And give us maybe kind of your first impressions on that. I mean, what does that look like for a brand-new kid straight out of college to dive right into medical devices?

That’s again, I’m assuming it was intimidating, so walk us through that.

Emma Grace Ficara: Yes, so it definitely was intimidating at first. However, because I was in the orthopedic medical device world, I had sports injuries before I had been around. And since I was a CNA for so long, I’ve been in a hospital for over 3 years.

So I knew how doctor dynamics work, how you interact with patients, like as a rep, you don’t. So you are not in the room when they are getting prepped for surgery, you are not talking to any of them. I know how to talk to nurses cause I’ve worked with so many before, so I think it was intimidating to an extent, but because I had so much prior clinical experience, it wasn’t as bad as it might have been for someone who has never stepped foot in a hospital before or maybe has only shadowed a doctor for a couple of hours here and there.

So that was like a pro for me but it still was very scary, especially being a woman in this space, orthopedics in particular. There are no women, so I was one of two female reps in my entire two-and-a-half-hour territory around me. There’s one for a competing company, that I would see her a little bit, but that was it.

So the only female interaction I would have is with all the nurses and some there were two or three surgeons, and everyone else was just like a male-dominated field. So I think that to be honest, was the most intimidating factor. It wasn’t that I was young or that I just came out of college or I didn’t know what I was doing. It was more that I am definitely a minority here and I need to figure out how I best use it to my advantage. But also, I want everyone else around me to know that I’m, just like equal to be here. I am just as competent to be her as they all are. I think the intimidation factor was really more about my gender than maybe experience.

But I think my first week, I was so nervous, I was so terrified, like in the OR. Also, you have masks on surgeons, they are busy and they are running around. I’m sure all my ORs are three hours behind and like they have places to be, but they don’t have time to sit and chat. And when my boss was introducing me to people, I was like, nice to meet you, and I ended up. 

I have some wonderful surgeons. I have a few that are okay. Hopefully, they don’t know how old I am, but the majority of them have been so welcoming and so kind, but it definitely rides on the fact that I can have a conversation with adults. I can look somebody in the eye when I’m talking to them. I can enunciate my words. Well, I’m not using slang, actually a funny story about that, but to that later, I’m talking to them, like I am 35 and that I’m not 21. So I think confidence is kind of like big until you make it. Again, no one knew how young I was, so not showing my age, I think was a huge advantage.

And again, like in college, ever since I was an athlete before, and then I tore my ACL, which is why I ended up quitting. I’ve worked since I was 14, but I worked in school for the past two and a half years. And towards the end, I had three jobs.

I worked as a CNA, I was a coach, and I also worked at Lululemon, my favorite job I’ve ever had. So that was the only sales experience I ever had before going into this job. But, I think, again, maybe I am a little bit different than the majority of college students. But I was already just in the working world.

I knew that this was what I wanted to do. And I knew this was how I was going to make money. So the only way to do that is to act confident and be sure of myself, know my worth, and know the product that I’m promoting as well as I’m also promoting myself and my company. So just always been on your game.

I don’t know if that answered the question. 

Anneliese Rhodes: You know what I love about your generation? You have so much confidence. I don’t remember being that confident Cindy when I was Emma’s age, I don’t, I mean, I started early too, but I don’t know, maybe I can’t remember now, but one of the things that you said that I think was, well, a couple of things.

So first of all, I was going to ask you, who did you turn to when you saw that it was mostly men and not a whole lot of women who were your mentors and we talk about having male mentors as well as female mentors. So I would love to know that, and then you also briefly touched on your history, your background experience, which I think is probably pretty important for our listeners to hear because you were able to put yourself into some really good opportunities and experiences early on that probably really helped you with that confidence.

Emma Grace Ficara: Yes. So I think mentor-wise, again, since I did not tell my mother about this job opportunity, it wasn’t until I had like my final interview that I told her, I think I’m going to move home and I have this job. She was so excited because I could finally leave my nursing career behind and move forward and have a higher acuity of care and just a different clinical practice. But honestly, your podcast, I listened to a few episodes, again, without telling her before. But also, oddly enough, the nursing staff in surgical techs are like your best friends, and as a rep, I leaned into that wholeheartedly.

Again, a lot of the nurses and techs were around my age or just a little bit older, but closer to my age than any other rep that I was working with. So, knowing how hard their job is and that the hospital or the OR center does not run if they can’t do their job effectively.

So I think, which I’m not saying that some reps do this, but some older male reps that I work with, I think they don’t take the time to be polite to surgical techs and nurses and people that are helping them, make sure their equipment’s there, helping them like if the doctor’s running late, texting them, letting them know like the case is behind and whatnot.

I think that leaning into the women that were there, they took me on. They were so kind to me, they still are. I’m friends with a few of them now. I have a few of their numbers and it’s just so nice to walk into work and know that the surgeon still might be a little bit iffy about me.

Again, I pretty much work with all men but having a familiar female face to say, oh my goodness, Good morning. So happy, you’re here. Are you doing this? What are you in? I’ll help you get there. Where’s your stuff? I’ll help you move it because it’s their room as well. So I think that was very beneficial again. 

Mentorship would definitely just be your podcast as well as nursing and surgical tech friends that I made along the way, cause again, only one other female rep that I ever liked, or have now up until this point encountered in about 15 hospitals that I service.

So making friends along the way has just made it a better transition and they’ve made me more confident in myself because if I make a mistake, they’re like, don’t worry, I’m in surgery, I’m telling the surgical tech to grab this instrument, not that, and it’s opposite and they’ve been, oh, don’t worry about it. This is actually what this is called, I’ll help you next time. So, that’s been great. 

When they are not helpful, it intimidates me, but the majority of them have been. I think I forgot your last question.

Anneliese Rhodes: No, that’s okay. I was asking, you mentioned the mentors, but you know, also your prior experience and you said that you spent some time in the OR already, which I think is important because you already knew you’d be okay seeing blood, having the mask on, you know, the certain sense of the O. R. 

I don’t know if we’ve talked about it recently, Cindy, but we do talk about it, and a lot of people assume they’re going to be fine. And then they get in there and they have a mask on their face and they’re smelling some pretty different smells and some people can’t handle it.

Emma Grace Ficara: Yes, and that is definitely true. So I hadn’t seen her for a long time. So I was on an orthopedic floor and then I was on a medical-surgical floor for about two years. So that exposed me to again, patient interaction, clinical care, and different bodily smells that I might not smell daily.

Our hours that I ended up getting, so I did shadow. I shadowed a lot of doctors. I shadowed a few dermatologists who did most surgery. I shadowed an orthopedic surgeon who did my surgery and I shadowed one of your surgeons as well, and he was extremely helpful.

So I guess advice to anyone who is not maybe like a pre-med major, but wants to go into medical advice, getting shadowing hours in an OR, like anywhere is so helpful because you’re already exposed to what you as an observer have to do. So like, rule-wise, I’m not standing next to the surgeon. I’m not touching anything blue. I am not speaking if I’m not being spoken to, and I’m not taking away and distracting from the atmosphere that is in front of me. 

So I definitely think that was so helpful. And that is actually, that’s one of the reasons why my boss hired me. He was explaining to me, he’s like, I know you’re young, but he’s like, you do have a ton of clinical experience that I think the guy before me had zero.

So he was like, you already know, you walk in and all are, you know that, okay, you’re going to put your lead on because, for my surgeries as well, I also have to wear lead. So I wear my lead, I put my mask on, I have my hair cover and I have my shoe covers on and I’m standing like next to the wall until it’s my time to shine and my product comes out and I’m like, okay, you need to do this and this and this surgeon asked me a few questions.

That’s it, and I stepped back. I helped the O. R. circulator nurse, bill everything out properly, and write everything down. And then I say, thank you. And I’m on my way. I’m not walking into surgery when the patient’s being prepped. I am not hanging out around until they’re closing and they like to wheel them back out.

That is something that I learned from when I shadowed. If I hadn’t shadowed prior, I would have learned eventually, but it was nice to already walk in and not have the impression or not. Like, invoke the impression on the surgeons that she doesn’t know what she’s doing and she’s never been in an OR before.

Anneliese Rhodes: That definitely gave you a leg up. I mean, you just said that one of the reasons why they hired you is because of that experience, just the shadowing and the knowledge, just an OR overall, and OR presence is really important.

Cynthia Ficara: I agree. And I think one other thing that you do very well is ask questions. Because in a lot of what you were describing, you were kind of new, young, thrown into a new environment, and it’s who do you ask? Who do you lean on? And you did a really good job confidently finding those nurses, finding those doctors or those people with the hospital who you can lean on.

So I think one of the most important things to also reiterate is when you don’t know something you can ask, then you learn who to ask and the ability to figure it out, and you never give up. You started with being thrown in a little scared and now, I hear when you come home and say, I get to work with this great doctor today and you get very excited. 

And something about medical devices that Lisa and I have discussed in previous episodes is when you work in an environment like this, you get to form relationships. Great professional relationships with doctors and nurses form a bond because the work you’re doing is very rewarding.

Anneliese Rhodes: Yeah. So I was going to ask you, maybe touch on how working for the company or the distributorship I’m assuming in this case, was different than maybe a previous job of working at Lululemon or something that a lot of college kids get to do, which is amazing. I love that you worked at Lulu, what did that look like when you went to the distributorship?

Because I’m sure it was a lot different.

Emma Grace Ficara: Yes, and just to touch on that as well, I don’t know if you guys have explained it before, but I do work for a distributorship, so it is different than directly working for a specific orthopedic company. So I technically can sell anything that’s under my distributorship, so I sell 90 percent orthopedic stuff, but then we also have a few vascular products that we sell, bone graft stuff that we sell, so not specifically orthopedic. 

So that just means that I’m not tied down to one company. I can sell for a majority of companies. So that’s cool, I do mostly sell stuff that comes in a tray, but there are a few things that are sterile packs that I get to bring in and use in conjunction with other surgeries that I’m already doing.

So with that being said, way different than working at Lululemon or even working as a CNA or a coach. In those types of jobs, you walk in, you clock in, you’re there and you clock out, then you leave and you don’t get calls. You don’t get texts past the time that I’m supposed to be there, and no one’s asking me anything off of work hours per se.

So that definitely was a little bit of not a shock to me because I’ve seen my mom work in this way, but it was like, this isn’t like a normal nine to five per se. It is a very flexible hour. Some days I have one case and I’m working two hours out of the 12-hour day and then other days I’m working from 5:30 AM to 6 PM.

It just vastly depends, so that was very different to me. I think another slightly different thing was, like at Lululemon, I had amazing coworkers. They were all my age, all my friends, whatnot. I get so excited about the job that I have now. I have one coworker directly, and he’s my boss, so I’m not walking in every day with the same 7 or 8 kids that I know, and then I’m going to work with them every day.

So that’s honestly been kind of fun because I’ve been able to make different friends, and work friends in so many different hospitals. So it’s like, there are like 3 surgery centers. I love going into it because I’m friends with a lot of the nurses and the techs there. So it’s like you get to see a whole new group of people.

So you’re not seeing the same people every single day, which can be a pro and a con depending on who you are. But for me, I enjoyed just the variability of it. It also exposed me to meeting just a lot of different people that I would have never met before and having conversations like, how was your husband today? Or like, what are your kids doing? Are you going like a lot of them go out to breweries? Like, ‘s just a little fun stuff that I don’t think I would have come up in conversation when I was at Lulu. 

However, with that being said, the one thing in common with every single job that I’ve had has been a lot of customer service oriented.

So I think a medical device, as we know, talking to doctors, selling products, selling yourself when you are also selling your products like customers always right in a sense, but knowing how to mitigate situations if a doctor’s upset that your graft isn’t in time or your tray is down and it shouldn’t have been down. Knowing how to resolve conflict politely, but also like, I’m going to fix this for you and it’s not going to happen again, but not in a way that I’m putting blame on, like the hospital or putting blame on the doctor himself or whatever, because I’ve worked since I was 14 in the customer service industry, I’ve like been able to build that skill over time.

So, even though, again, this job as a distributor is very different than anything I’ve ever had. I think just core customer service competencies that I’ve learned through every job I’ve had can a hundred percent translate to what I’m doing now.

Anneliese Rhodes: Wow. That’s very well said. First of all, you’re very well-spoken, Emma. I mean, I’d like to hire you. Can I hire you? So everything isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. Why don’t you tell our listeners just a little bit about maybe some of the struggles or some of the things you mentioned during the calls after not the nine-to-five, right? You’re getting text messages at night. You’re getting it early in the morning. Let’s be realistic and let them know, look, these are some of the things that you’re going to have to face, and how did you face them?

Emma Grace Ficara: Yes, so definitely again, I have a little love-hate relationship. I love the flexibility. I love the variability in my schedule. However, since I’ve never encountered it before, it was a huge learning curve. So coming from someone who likes to plan out my day the morning or the day before. The night before I have a whole to-do list. I’m a very routine structured person. This was a shock to my system.

I think I’m finally getting the hang of it after a couple of months but learning how to navigate that I might have, like, for example, I had a doctor’s appointment. I had to go for, like, a couple of weeks, I was working and it was at four o’clock. It’s the only time they had and I ended up getting a case that popped up at 3:30 and I had to be there.

I’ve spent months trying to get this doctor’s appointment. I now have to cancel because I have to go cover a case and it’s just little things like that. I plan my day one way, but who knows what’s going to happen? It’s always at the drop of the hat. People have emergencies, again, like aortic spaces, and orthopedic spaces, there’s trauma.

So trauma happens when we least expect it per se. So if I have someone who has a protruding bone that needs surgery immediately, I can’t just be like, well, I was supposed to go get my nails done like I can’t come. Sadly, you can’t do that, so it’s learning to like to think on your feet and be okay with it. Just because I plan my day out this way doesn’t mean it’s going to happen this way.

So that has definitely been, not rainbows and sunshine, but I definitely think that I knew that going into the job. I just think I knew it, but I didn’t experience it yet. So I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to respond, so I think any younger college kid, again, who’s had like your class schedule planned out for you, who’s an athlete like I was, who had like every single hour from 7 am to 6 pm scheduled for us.

Like, it is different, but that doesn’t mean different is bad. So it’s just learning how you can accommodate whatever schedule that’s being thrown your way. but I think in other ways of not rainbows and sunshine, definitely just learning how to talk to people that are different than you are.

So, learning how to talk to surgeons who are 50, or 60 years old when I’m only 21, has been a little bit of a challenge, curve to say the least, but I do have a really funny story. So one of the surgeons, he wasn’t even mine actually. He was like a sports medicine surgeon and I was in the hallway and my boss said something to me.

This was like the second week I was working. And I know, Lisa, I know you have kids and of course, my mom knows, but there’s a lot of fun slang words that I always throw around on the internet and sadly mine at the moment is slay. And I was standing in the hallway with my boss, and he told me something and I was like, slay sounds good.

But I wasn’t like thinking and the surgeon turned around and he goes, did you just slay? And he starts bursting out laughing. And he goes, my daughter will not stop saying that around the house and he was like, I have a 26-year-old and an 18-year-old and it is ingrained in their vocabulary. And he goes, how old are you?

And I was like, do you want the honest answer? And he was like, we’ll just keep it a secret. I was like, okay, then I go to walk away and he’s rounding the corner and he was so awesome. I’m so sad, I don’t sell products that he would use, but he’s awesome. I run into him now and then, but he rounds the corner and he yells across the whole OR hallway, having a slay of a weekend. And I was like, you as well, the wrong way to say it, but yeah.

I was like, I love it and that was a running joke for two weeks between my boss and me. So again, learning how, you know, sometimes there are certain surgeons I would never say that in front of. And knowing that, I can’t say something like that, but again, it was kind of just an accident.

But this guy took it in stride and again, I wish I had cases with him ‘because he was awesome. But yeah, just funny moments

Anneliese Rhodes: That’s fun and he’s a very highly intelligent, highly respected surgeon, but he’s still human and he has kids and he has girls.

And a lot of our customers have kids your age or a little younger or a little older. And I think that again, with your generation, that’s a benefit. A lot of you can personally connect with these guys and sometimes even Cindy and I may struggle to find good relationships with them.

So I love that you were able to connect with them. I love that you were able to use your customer service. I love that you did shadowing to get an idea of what you might be faced with. Because a lot of times, like we talked about before, you don’t have any idea and then you go in and it’s like a big shock.

Medical devices are an amazing place to be, but there are gives and takes, you have to be able to be flexible. You’re going to have to say no to an appointment when you have a case that pops up. Cindy and I briefly talk about being a mom and struggling with the time of being a working mother and having nannies, and having people help out and pick up when they have to, all of which sounds like you’ve been learning graciously in this. 

Emma Grace Ficara: I was definitely going to say definitely being as young as I am, I have no children, I have a dog as we know. We love our dog, we love Moose and Moose goes to daycare on days that I can’t stay home and take him and walk him. So definitely like the benefit of someone my age or even 25 and younger who has no kids yet, you have no responsibilities, honestly, like, maybe outside yourself. So I was able to drop things that I know that when I was younger, like my mom couldn’t. She couldn’t be in such a competitive job that she is now because she wanted to be, like at my field hockey games, at my lacrosse games, or at banquets that my sister and I would attend.

It was learning, the give and take, and knowing when in life is the right time to have this job. And I knew for me, like right now is the time to have this job because I have nothing else holding me back and tying me down that I can be the best rep that I was hired to be because I have no other commitments outside of what I’m doing.

Cynthia Ficara: So yeah. That is very well said because, you know, in medical devices for all of those in college or listening, there are so many different levels. The level that Emma is in now talking about the distributor level is an excellent entry level. She’s a 1099, you’re kind of contracted on your own.

So, in your job, there are so many different opportunities in medical devices and I love that you’ve been able to share with me what it’s like to be new here at 21. And so I just want to ask you in your few months of being a medical device, what would you think has been the best part? What would you think has been the most challenging?

Emma Grace Ficara: Yes, so the best part definitely could be a majority of things. I think the best part, I think for me, someone who loves a lot of clinical exposure, I enjoyed the clinical aspect of this job. Selling is fun because I get to create relationships with people, but I love the OR.

It’s so interesting to see all the different surgeries that I’ve seen. So I think the highlight of this job has been being just in the OR and being as young as I am, standing next to a surgeon and him asking me my opinion and he actually values what I have to say.

That has been a feeling like no other. It’s been so cool and so rewarding that, okay, I might be young. Thank goodness, I look older. Someone did tell me I look 27. So I was like, yeah, that’s how old I am, but it’s been so nice to have an adult conversation in a sense. Like I am not treated as young as I am, they definitely treat me that I’m an equal.

I’m just like every other rep, it doesn’t matter that I am 21 and I’m not 50. They still value what I have to say and they want to have an intellectual conversation with me about what’s going on. So the two best parts have been in the OR and just having that relationship with surgeons who have gone through four years of medical school, six, seven years of residency, plus fellowship.

That’s been awesome, again, for someone who’s only been through a few months of training, for them to still trust in me and have confidence in what I’m telling them to do with the surgery, and I guess a little side note too with my job, I’ve been so lucky. I do so much case coverage, I’m not in the office as much as I would be, hopefully like next year when I’m more into profit sharing and all of that, but I’m doing so much case coverage, and I feel like that is something in other companies. 

So again, being young, figuring out what company best suits you, other companies don’t do that. So other companies are just,  you’re cold calling doctors. You’re going into meetings with doctors and you’re going with whoever your sales rep is.

Cause again, I’m an associate. So whoever is above me, I just follow them around everywhere. I have been so lucky to be able to have autonomy and like what I’m doing. And I’ve been so lucky that, okay, I can sell, but I can also just go cover all of these cases and build my relationship with the doctor so they use my product even more.

So that’s been cool, definitely the biggest high point. The lowest point is probably just the learning curve. Just, again, I work in orthopedics, so the trays that we sell, I literally looked at it and I was like, I don’t even know where to start. Like, again, not being a surgical tech, so I don’t know the names.

As we have like baby humans in our thing, all these are tractors and lobster claws, and I’m like, I don’t know what that is, but I’m learning again all the different types of plates that I sell and what drill goes with which plate, what screw goes with which plate, what’s the difference between a non-locking and locking screw. I have no idea.

So standing through my training period that I was in and just diving in, I just felt like I was in school. Like I’m sitting and I’m studying every night and I’m watching videos and I’m watching surgeries and I’m learning, okay, tomorrow I need to know this and this and this, and I need to know the order that it’s going to happen so I can help my surgeon.

So definitely the learning curve, because again, it’s nothing like I’ve ever studied before. The learning curve was definitely the hardest part, but again, I was very supportive of the learning curve. So surgeons gave me a lot of grace, they knew I was new, and they knew I started covering cases by myself pretty much three weeks in, maybe even a little earlier.

So they were aware, but they were very helpful. And again, that’s when the nurses stepped in and the surgeon stepped in and they did help me try to be the best that I could be with my job.

Anneliese Rhodes:  I think your wonderful personality pulled that as well. You know, I think they saw that immediately that you wanted to learn. You may not have known at all, which is fine. We talked about that. It’s okay to not know everything and you’d be honest with them that you don’t know everything and they’re happy to help you.

Emma Grace Ficara: That was the biggest thing. I remember one of the searches, and this was actually a couple of weeks ago.

We sell a lot of things because we’re just a readership. And there was just one thing that I’d never seen before, that I have never sold. And I have never seen, or watched it in person, like the surgery. Again, as reps, you always get there 30 minutes before the patient isn’t in the room yet. So I walk in and make sure all of my supplies are there.

We had stuff that was peel packed and also that was a tray. So I’m just introducing myself to the circulator nurse as well as a scrub tech and I’m like, by the way. I am very new and I have never seen surgery before. So I’m going to help you to the best of my ability, but I might not know everything.

And the reaction from them, they were so nice. They go, thank you so much for telling me because a lot of reps do not tell us that. And then you end up arguing in the middle of the surgery because you don’t know what you’re doing. And the scrub tech is like, well, that’s not what’s supposed to happen.

So they were so taken aback and so thankful for my honesty. That’s once I told them that they were so nice to me and they helped them throughout the entire surgery. And again, just putting your best foot forward and explaining again, honestly, it’s the best policy. So just telling them that, okay, I’m new, but I’m trying, and I will look up anything you tell me to, and I will text my boss whenever I need to, but it might just be a little bit slower than what you guys are used to.

Anneliese Rhodes: I love that. Well, in the essence of time, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I want to hear more of your stories, but I really love to leave our listeners with something. So to all of our listeners that we have that are looking to jump into the medical device arena, whether they’re a little bit older or they’re just about to graduate or just graduated, what are one or two key takeaways that you would tell them that they need to either be doing, start doing or dive right and get it done?

Emma Grace Ficara: Number one and like big bold letters, shining lights behind it is networking. That is the best thing I would like to offer anybody. Again, I would not have this job if I didn’t network per se. So not reaching out to people who just graduated from my college who literally are in this realm of a career. Not applying for so many jobs on LinkedIn, even stuff that you might not necessarily be interested in. You never know, like when one door closes, a multitude of doors can be open. So if you are like, okay, well, I kind of want to do aortic, but I’m going to have to start in like cardiac or start in like orthopedics.

You never know what that opportunity will give you. So the biggest advice is to network with everything, anyway, anyone that you can, and two, don’t say no, don’t say no to anything. To be honest, because you never know when an opportunity is going to be presented to you. I know, the guy who was in my position prior, he ended up because he started in the distributorship, he also came from college, so I think he was like 22 or 23, and he was working in orthopedics, but I think he had an interest in cardiac, and he ended up just doing networking, meeting reps from different companies.

He ended up getting a position at a much higher-up and better-paying job than what we’re doing at a cardiac company. So I think again, just not limiting yourself to the space that you’re in like the sky’s the limit. So just don’t say no and talk to as many people as possible.

Cynthia Ficara: Your energy, persistence. I think you said it so much better than we could have.

Anneliese Rhodes: Yes, so thank you so much, and of course, we’ll have you back on again soon.

Emma Grace Ficara: Would love to be here. You guys are great. I love listening to it every week, so, all right.

Cynthia Ficara: Thank you.

Today we are launching our very first episode which we are calling our Starter Series. It’s dedicated to all of you who are either about to graduate or have recently graduated, as well as those of you who are still early on in your careers and are looking to make the jump into medical devices.

Anneliese Rhodes: Please join us today in welcoming a recent grad who has defied the odds and has successfully made that leap from undergraduate studies to the fascinating world of medical devices.

In this inaugural episode of our Starter Series, Emma Grace Ficara will take us on her journey, sharing invaluable insights on how she managed to secure such a coveted role and the unique challenges and opportunities that awaited her as a recent grad. We will help you understand what it takes to break into this competitive medical device industry right out of school.

Wow, Cindy. Oh my gosh, what an amazing young woman Emma Grace is.

Cynthia Ficara: Thank you so much, Lisa.

Anneliese Rhodes: I mean, she’s just amazing. I’m speechless. She’s such a well-spoken young lady. Anyhow, I do want to quickly, just summarize some of the points that Emma Grace has mentioned.

So I think one of the very first things that Emma Grace mentioned is networking. She mentioned Davidson Connect, which I think is, through her school, obviously, but I’m sure it’s out there for all the colleges.

Another big thing is LinkedIn. Everyone is going to LinkedIn. And she said she filled out 30 applications on LinkedIn. So reach out to as many people as you can reach out to a friend. I mean, maybe, you know, somebody who knows somebody who’s in a medical device company. Network, network, network.

And I think the second thing that she said is always say yes even if it’s not exactly what you’re looking for in terms of selling screws versus cardiovascular, you get into the medical device space first. You get used to it, you get your feet wet, and then you can move from there.

But I think you always need to say yes to any opportunity that arises for you.

Cynthia Ficara: And as in Emma’s words, when one door closes, the other one always opens.

The Girls of Grit Podcast Cover
The Girls of Grit Podcast
Breaking In: Unveiling MedTech Secrets for New Graduates with Emma Grace Ficara
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