BY MAURICE R. FERRE
Photo BY MAURICE R. FERRE
The United States is losing its competitive edge. New economies are taking some of our brightest students to create their own competitive workforces. There are also divides within our nation: too much government, not enough government; the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent; inequalities in the distribution of wealth. Internet, housing, financial bubbles, what next?
We are living with challenging, high unemployment; times are tough, competitive and unfair. It’s through challenging times that we make necessary modifications — changes that America is accustomed to making. Our forefathers left us with the right tools to face change in our quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I was fortunate to be born into a prominent and privileged family in Miami. My grandfather was an industrialist who built one of the largest cement/concrete companies in the United States. My father was not only one of the youngest presidents of a publicly traded company, but also became a prominent community leader serving as mayor of Miami for 12 years, during a defining moment. My great uncle was governor of Puerto Rico, and my great aunt, Sister Isolina Ferré, built a sustainable social-service model for the underprivileged in Puerto Rico. They are the only siblings to become recipients of the highest U.S. civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I have many role models in my family.
Our past drives our behavior. I have lived my life with seminal values my parents taught me: “To make a difference, to be the best.” In your quest, you will find roadblocks and dead ends. It’s the law of probabilities. You will make mistakes that lead to mediocrity. Your challenge will be to overcome these obstacles.
Some say that life is about assimilating your experiences. One hopes that one has assimilated the proper experiences and tools to make right choices. A defining moment for me was deciding to not follow conventional wisdom after graduating from medical school by doing a residency program, but rather to pursue a career as an entrepreneur. This choice was the right one. It has led me to build two successful medical device companies.
My most recent, MAKO Surgical, in South Florida, was founded in 2004. We now employ over 100 engineers, revolutionizing the use of robotics in orthopedic surgery. MAKO has raised more than $250 million in the private and public markets. Deloitte & Touche recognized MAKO as the fastest growing technology company in North America in 2011. With over 400 employees, we have grown by nearly 100 employees each year over the last several years.
I work every day with the guiding principle that “I am going to make a difference” and with my fast rules:
• Connect the dots.
You will find situations that create opportunities. The people I find most fascinating are those that make nonlinear connections they can articulate with sound brilliance. It doesn’t happen a lot. When it does, the opportunity will stare you down. I connected my dots as a medical student when I meet the founder of the fastest supercomputer in the world and figured out a way to apply its power to medicine. This led to the founding of my first company.
Connecting the dots is not enough. You have to do something with your new findings. I believe that success only comes through hard work and the mastery of empirical data. One has to have the discipline to not take short cuts. It will result in making tough, unpopular decisions against conventional wisdom. Stay the course. Always challenge your assumptions. But, don’t fall into the trap of being paralyzed due to not reaching closure.
• Constructive paranoia.
Where is my blind spot? What can go wrong? I live my life knowing that if I don’t embrace change, I will become obsolete. I have learned more from my failures than from my successes. In my first company, VTI, founded after graduating from medical school over a period of 10 years, we made image-guided surgery a “standard of care.”
Then came 9/11. We did not have a strong balance sheet and were not prepared for the fall. The net/net: I lost the confidence of my board. I eventually accelerated the selling of VTI to General Electric. That eventually drove me to MAKO. I would not be where I am today without feeling the taste of failure. Optimism gets you through the day, but constructive paranoia keeps you on your game.
As you go through the maze of decisions, remember to get that gut check. Do things that make you tick, that you love, that create that special spark. Find your balance. Be laser focused and resolute. Don’t compromise on your dreams.
America needs more passionate engineers to fuel the next frontier of innovation and industry. You are now on your way with the right tools to follow your dreams and make America a stronger and more competitive nation.
Dr. Maurice R. Ferré is CEO and chairman of MAKO Surgical Corp. He gave this speech to Florida International University engineering students at their December commencement.Read more here: http://miamiherald.com/2012/01/01/2567325/for-college-graduates-guiding.html#storylink=cpy