Jesse Ambrosina: “Like fitness, resiliency is developed by taking a class or reading a book — it’s a lifestyle and a commitment”

I think physical fitness analogy is a great one. You may not have the genes or the talent to be an elite athlete but everyone can improve. Like fitness, resiliency is developed by taking a class or reading a book — it’s a lifestyle and a commitment. It’s a process. You set goals, you challenge […]

I think physical fitness analogy is a great one. You may not have the genes or the talent to be an elite athlete but everyone can improve. Like fitness, resiliency is developed by taking a class or reading a book — it’s a lifestyle and a commitment. It’s a process. You set goals, you challenge yourself, you fail, you reach out for advice, challenge your thinking and try again.

Jesse Ambrosina joined Ivenix in May 2012. As COO he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Ivenix including manufacturing, finance, regulatory and quality, and human resources as well as continuing to lead the development of the company’s IP portfolio. Prior to joining Ivenix, he led the medical division of Foliage Systems, a global product development consulting firm. Ambrosina has over 25 years of experience bringing new products and technology to market in a range of industries including medical devices, semiconductor capital equipment, and consumer products. Jesse is a named inventor on over 30 U.S. patents and has over 10 pending applications. He holds an MS of Engineering from Boston University and a BS of Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Iwas born a technology guy taking things apart. Sometimes they sort of went back together. I focused my education and the majority of my career on “first of a kind” products and technologies. In order to stay on the front lines of development for as long as possible, I worked in professional services — contract product development field for many years; first at IDEO then I ran my own for 8 years before joining Foliage. As I became more appreciative of the business impact of the new product development process, often the negative impact, I started spending more of my time on management consulting around product development strategy, financing, and overall management with the goal of helping companies improve the ROI on their R&D dollars. I’ve had the privilege of working in a wide range of industries from a consumer, business machines, semiconductor capital equipment, medical and others. I’ve spent the last 10 years in the medical device space most recently leading the development and FDA clearance of the first truly new infusion system in over 20 years.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Before Ivenix was Ivenix it had a different name and a completely different product. I was asked by an investor to do technical due diligence on the core science before he invested. I did a deep dive with the company for a day and concluded the “math works.” I was later recruited by the company and joined to lead future technology roadmap strategy. Within about three months of joining full time, I found the product did not work and would never work with its current implementation. The most interesting conversation of my professional career was telling that very same investor that the current path was a dead end and the product needed a complete restart. Assuming I would be fired, I was surprised to find myself leading the company in a turn-around effort with the full support of the board and the investors. Eight years later, here we are with a great product.

The big take away — don’t just go along for the right, speak up, have the conviction to stand up for what you believe.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What really sets Ivenix apart is the culture. Everyone here is passionate and dedicated to our mission to reduce medication errors, make nurses’ lives easier and ultimately save lives. We have worked hard to build an environment where it is safe to disagree, the best ideas win, and decisions are made with data not by rank. I was told by one of our newer investors that our then-chairman talked about Ivenix like a cult. “Wait until you visit this place you won’t believe the energy!” It’s fun and rewarding to work with such a dedicated team.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are too many to list. The chemistry teacher in high school, the college professor, my hockey coach, the investor in my first company, the chairman of our board who has coached me along the way, the investor above I disappointed but who ultimately backed me and gave me this opportunity at Ivenix. My good friend and one of my go-to advisors, Marc Jones, always says “as wise man seeks many councilors.” Marc is one of the hardest-working guys know. He’s an accomplished and busy CFO but always takes time to lend me his ear. He has always been there to “talk me off the ledge” and point me in the right direction. I think the most valuable thing any leader or executive can do is build a support network. And pay it forward, look for ways to help guide others around you.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Perseverance and determination. Angela Duckworth’s book “Grit” does a nice job describing this. I think it just comes down to that inner burn to do something or get somewhere and not be deterred by critics or the many failures along the way. The most resilient leaders I know (who I model myself after) are kind, humble, caring, open to different ways of thinking but then also unwilling to accept that something is impossible or can’t be done.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Thomas Edison said: “I haven’t failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” I think there is a great dual message in this quote. The first is obvious if you believe in something to keep at it. But the second is just as important. You often learn as much, if not more, from your failures than your successes.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

I’m someone who has focused their career on trying to build first-of-kind products. Most people did not believe that we could build a system that could measure the flow rate of an infusion pump with 5% accuracy with a 2000:1 operating range, 0.5cc to 1000cc. Most people did not believe our team could get a pump cleared through the FDA under the strict new guidelines.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I have a hard time putting my finger on any one major setback. Every project or company or goal, personal or private, is wrought with disappointment and failure. Each one has something to teach, an opportunity to improve and get better or stronger. The most painful moments of my professional career were related to setbacks that forced me to lay people off. I take each one as a personal failure. But you have to keep going and try to learn from it.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

College was a major turning point for me. The engineering program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) was pretty intense. There were many times you’d get a 35 out of 100 on an exam and would later find out that was B. Grading on the curve was a sport for them. Sending me to RPI was a big stretch for me and a big financial reach for my family. The fear of failure was intense. It took a long time for me to have the confidence that if I did the work I would get to where I needed to be. I got my grades up and landed four job offers before graduation, but I still maxed out my classes and took 21 credits my spring semester to retake a few classes I should have done better in. I think this is probably the phase in my life where I learned the mental toughness needed to be successful.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

I think physical fitness analogy is a great one. You may not have the genes or the talent to be an elite athlete but everyone can improve. Like fitness, resiliency is developed by taking a class or reading a book — it’s a lifestyle and a commitment. It’s a process. You set goals, you challenge yourself, you fail, you reach out for advice, challenge your thinking and try again.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I think too much of our world and our society today believe and act like it is all a zero-sum game. For them to win you need to lose. I believe 1+1 can be greater than 2. You can achieve your goals AND help others around you achieve theirs.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

Bill Gates, from what I have read, best exemplifies many of the values and characteristics I spoke about. I would cherish the opportunity to explore them more in person.

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