Co-op experience gives Kettering University graduate confidence to find passion in medical industry

Dave Anderson ‘93 didn’t always know he would land in the medical industry in management roles, but now that he’s there, it’s where he wants to stay.

From his time at Kettering University and his co-op experiences, Dave Anderson ‘93 let his array of opportunities lead him to a job where he feels he’s making a difference in the world.

Starting as an engineer, Anderson slowly moved into management roles and discovered his true passion. Anderson, Vice President of M&A Integration for Abbott, didn’t always know he would land in the medical industry in management roles, but now that he’s there, it’s where he wants to stay.

Anderson has been with Abbott (formerly St. Jude Medical) for 23 years. Recently he was elected to the California Life Sciences Association Board of Directors.

“Personally, how I’m wired, my main focus is I want to make a difference and I want to do something impactful for people,” Anderson said. “The diseases we treat at St. Jude’s are all life-threatening diseases. The innovation you bring will have a significantly improved outcome. It will improve life, relieve or reduce pain or suffering.”

When Anderson was considering where to go to college he knew he was going to have to pay for college himself and he knew he wanted a strong internship program.

His desire to work while studying and interest in math and science made Kettering an ideal choice for him.

“Engineering was always an interest. As I looked at co-op companies, the medical industry was the most interesting,” Anderson said. “I wanted to be able to make my own way. Kettering was something I knew I could start on.”

Learning the importance of a good co-op experience is knowledge Anderson has carried with him throughout his career as he mentors and trains others at Abbott.

“The co-op was huge in terms of getting a sense of what I wanted to do and what I was most effective at. Each opportunity was a different department with a different focus,” Anderson said. “With each co-op experience being different I quickly learned to come up to speed with each new opportunity. It gave me a lot of confidence in just doing that in my career -- learning jobs quickly. I can take on any new opportunity and learn it and didn’t have to stay on one path.”

As a Manufacturing Systems Engineering major at Kettering, Anderson started as an engineer in the medical industry, with positions in process and quality engineering. But after four years he grew into management roles.

Throughout his career at St. Jude, he’s held positions such as Operations Director, Technology Vice President and Research and Development Vice President.

He led the integration of an acquisition of Thoratec into St. Jude Medical. And now as Vice President of M&A Integration he partnered with Abbott leadership in leading the integration of St. Jude Medical into Abbott.

“You have a multiplier effect in management roles. You’re managing a very large research and development team, managing multiple diseases and therapies,” Anderson said. “Another thing I love about my job is being able to impact the employee’s lives themselves. I can help create an environment that enables them to thrive and be successful.”

Throughout his career, Anderson has learned some valuable lessons. And he’s able to share that advice.

“For students the first thing I would recommend is to really have high expectations for yourself and your internships. Don’t just check the box,” Anderson said. “I looked at each assignment as I have this unique opportunity to look back and say, ‘Wow. I contributed something.’”

When someone has that attitude it will not only benefit the company but the student will also be exponentially benefited, he added.

“For graduates I have two pieces of advice. Take the fact that through having a lot of co-op experiences, you’ve experienced a lot of diversity and gone through a lot of change. Continue that in your career. Do different things. Try new things. That’s helped me with growing and seeing where I am most effective.

“You also need to go to graduate school for engineering. When I look for engineers I’m looking at the top 5 to 10 percent of people. It will get you further.”

Kettering helped Anderson hit the ground running in any new role he stepped into. The co-op on top of the education prepared him for his future career.

“The labs at Kettering had - in particular major processing equipment like big injection molders, extrusion, sheet metal forming equipment - was a great asset to students. I wasn’t intimidated as a young engineer just running the equipment,” Anderson said.