This week’s Behind the Breakthrough profiles Tola Marts, an IV Engineering Manager in the Devices Platform Group (DPG), which designs and tests new products that improve global health and global development. Tola’s technical engineering background is complemented by his previous experience in engineering software sales. When he’s not working on state of the art designs and experiments, Tola spends his spare time as an elected Councilmember for the city of Issaquah, Washington

Here are some of his reflections:

On his background:

“I received a degree in mechanical engineering and then took a job selling and providing support for engineering computer programs; specifically, finite element analysis (FEA) and rigid body dynamics (RBD). FEA deals with creating mathematical models of physical prototypes to figure out how and when they will bend, break, or otherwise structurally deform. RBD is all about determining the effect of external forces on a mechanical system. However, you never really get to see the fruit of your labors as a salesperson, so I decided to try my hand in the aerospace industry. For the next eight years, I worked as a practicing engineer for Blue Origin in Kent, Washington. There, I was able to drive good ideas into real hardware, or in this case, scribbles on a cocktail napkin to spacecraft.” One of the vehicles for which Tola was the lead mechanical engineer is currently on display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

On his work at IV Lab:

“I oversee a group of highly skilled electrical and mechanical engineers who work on a wide range of projects – vaccine logistics, high efficiency pediatric diagnostic and therapeutic tools, innovative ways to rethink dairy and animal husbandry technologies, and more. The common denominator is developing technologies that directly touch patients, farmers, or merchants and that incorporate our on-the-ground experience in the developing world to make products that will be easy to adopt, use, and change lives.

“I am constantly impressed by IV Lab’s ability to integrate and coordinate intellect from many different fields. When you bring together a bunch of brilliant people, it often devolves into huge ego clashes and gridlock. But at the Lab, each person is able to bring something to the table and work constructively toward a common goal.”  

On how his experience as a Councilmember impacts his work at IV:

“Working on the City Council benefits my work with IV Lab and vice versa. The City Council has allowed me to better understand differing points of view. In turn, I’ve figured out how to address and incorporate different viewpoints at IV Lab without derailing what I’m trying to accomplish. On the flip side, I have become more comfortable requiring success metrics and closed loop processes in the goals and resulting programs that we enact for the city. Staff and outside consultants know they better have their math right when they bring me a request or a recommendation!”

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