When the world scrambled to go all-remote in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Lavanya Vytla had to adjust to a different new normal.
For years, she was the only member within her team at the medical device company Stryker who worked from home. But now, her entire team is distributed and joining calls via video. “Everyone is experiencing working remotely with me now,” she says. “We have virtual happy hours, and I am not the only one in the room turning on my webcam for meetings.”
Vytla immigrated to the United States from India to pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering. A friend from grad school who was working at Stryker told her about an open position, and she was intrigued. “I didn’t realize there would be electrical- and software-related jobs at a medical device company open to people like me without any knowledge in the medical technology industry,” she says. After graduating, she started at Stryker and is now a research and development senior staff engineer.
Here, Vytla shares why she loves working at Stryker, how to stay connected with teammates while working remotely, and why the best tech jobs might not be where you expect.
What attracted you to work at Stryker?
I always admired the healthcare industry and how it serves and cares for people. At Stryker, I can use my technical skills and knowledge while simultaneously thinking about ways to improve products so caregivers can work more efficiently while caring for their patients. The combination of Stryker's mission, the people I work with, and growth opportunities allowed me to do all the things I love and serve a noble mission.
I feel so proud whenever I see a Stryker product out there in action. We have the freedom and flexibility to research and innovate using the latest technologies. I work with great people from many other industries who are willing to be mentors. You get to collaborate across cross-functional teams and get exposure to overall aspects of a product, starting from initial research to its use in the field.
What are you responsible for in your role?
I support all the software development phases, including writing requirements for a sub-system, algorithm design, software development, debugging, and verification. I also collaborate with other project members, including electrical, mechanical, quality, and test engineers. I need to think about limitations, risks when designing something, and how it interfaces with other sub-systems.
What are you working on right now that excites or inspires you?
I am currently working on software development for one of the Procuity bed models, our safest and most intelligent bed. I developed the software for the electrical brake component and worked on the display software of this product. It’s exciting to see customers interact with the things you worked on. And hearing the customer's feedback about the product from the marketing and sales team is so motivating. It drives me to do even better. I also get to work and learn from some great individuals on this project.
Why should candidates who work in tech consider working for a healthcare company like Stryker?
At Stryker, you get the flexibility of exploring different aspects of the technical field. You can be involved in the complete product lifecycle and touch and feel the end product. You are not constrained to only design or development. I like the freedom you have in making design decisions as you see fit for the best outcome. I can attend trainings and learn new concepts and technologies for future projects. Most of all, consider the work culture. You get to have a work-life balance, work with people who are willing to be there for you, and have flexible work arrangements if required.
You’ve been working remotely for several years. How have you managed to develop and maintain relationships with teammates?
Luckily, I work with great people who have been very supportive in my remote situation. I initially worked onsite for about two and a half years. I was able to develop great relationships with everyone on the team. When I started working remotely, I made it a point to frequently communicate with everyone through meetings, calls, or emails. Over the years, there have been new additions to the team, and I schedule a meeting with them to introduce myself. Pre-COVID, I visited the office regularly and engaged with the team by having lunches and going for offsite activities.
What has the shift been like in your remote environment since COVID-19 now that the majority of the company is working virtually?
Now I have a kid running around throughout the day! And I need to plan my day and routine better than before. It was challenging, but COVID has made me realize there is so much more I can do in a day and made me better at multitasking. Sometimes I think it has made it easier for me to connect with people since everyone is just a call away and not in the test lab or a conference room.
What advice do you have for other women who are pursuing careers as engineers?
We need to change the perception that engineering is a male-driven field. We need to bring awareness that anyone can be an engineer if they want to be. We should not limit ourselves and keep working hard, keep dreaming, and look for the opportunities we are interested in. At Stryker, you are assessed based on your performance and dedication and encouraged to move across roles laterally or up in the organization based on your interests no matter who you are or where you come from.