The Tinkerer’s Gene - a portrait of product developer Sarah Jacobskötter
On flights of inventive fancy, reality checks and trials of patience
If there is a perfect genetic makeup for developing new products for B. Braun, then Sarah Jacobskötter probably has it: her mother is a doctor and her father is a mechanical engineer. "I suspect that a psychologist could draw a few conclusions about this," says the thirty-one-year-old – and, if you could hear the sound of a wink, it would be unmistakable here.
Wherever her interest in medical technology may come from – whether from genetic makeup or her psychological conditioning – one thing is clear: Sarah Jacobskötter loves to experiment. She has always wanted to understand how things work and – if they don't – how to fix them.
Nice-to-Have and Must-Have
Couldn't she also have become a product developer for washing machines, aircraft or television technology?
"Of course, those technologies are also very interesting, " she says, thinking about it for a moment. When she continues, her tone is more serious: "But it's a different question when it comes to working on nice-to-haves or must-haves: B. Braun's products help people to get healthy, or even to survive – contributing to this -gives me a sense of fulfillment."
She has worked as an industrial engineer in B. Braun’s development department since August of 2013. As a Research & Development Manager, she is responsible for the development of a device portfolio for infusion pumps. Specifically, she works on infusion lines for the pumps that work with an IV set, including a drip chamber and roller clamp, to safely and continually deliver fluid to the patient's body.
Sarah Jacobskötter's daily routine is characterized by meetings and close project coordination with her colleagues: Individual parts are inspected and measured, they discuss the next steps and very often prototypes are taken directly to users. This is why B. Braun collaborates closely with the hospitals where doctors and nursing staff test products. "Sometimes we film it, too, and then evaluate it: Where did the user hesitate? How long did it take? How did the user feel about it?"
Sometimes it creates a simple solution
This reality check helps the team to come up with the ideal result while communicating with the user, and above all, to increase safety.
"Bringing the user into the equation sometimes pulls us back down to Earth from our flights of inventive fancy," she says. Her audible wink has returned. "As engineers, we definitely have a streak of perfectionism – but sometimes the simple solution works just as well."
Research and development is carried out at corporate headquarters in Melsungen: "In addition to the offices, we also have the research labs, toolmaking and the technology center directly on site. The short distances between departments are extremely helpful for collaborating with colleagues." And when it comes to developing country-specific solutions for markets such as the USA or Brazil, Sarah Jacobskötter packs her bags and works together with local teams, directly.
I admit, I have a dream job
"Yes, I admit, I have a dream job," says Sarah Jacobskötter. Even so, she is not free of difficulties or dry spells. Her greatest challenge: "Patience! I'm someone who needs to feel like I'm getting somewhere. That's probably why I love cycling and jogging. Product development is a long road, however – sometimes with setbacks and delays. Now and then it really tests my limits."
In the end, though, that’s just the price of quality. The constant trials of patience are worth it because quality is so important at B. Braun. And by working with a great team. But even that was not always an uplifting experience.
Frustration level and finger-pointing mode
Sarah Jacobskötter sits between two teams of specialists: one is responsible for the pump system, the other for the tubing system. Both systems must interconnect perfectly. "When something didn't work, things usually went into finger-pointing mode. The pump people thought it was the IV set team’s fault, and vice versa."
It took a while to escape from this automatic response: "I think at some point, both teams concluded: we have to flip the switch. Now, we no longer worry about how the problem came about, we focus on how to save the situation together. It's more fun, and more successful. And now we celebrate the success together."
Looking back, it is clear to her: "We haven't just grown because of our difficulties, but have also grown together as a team. Sharing Expertise, indeed." And there it is again: the audible wink.
The transition into a "job-free zone," as she describes the beginning of her parental leave a few weeks ago, was not easy for her. "I am very glad that our baby is coming soon, because like I said: patience is not really my thing."
The genetic makeup that she and her husband – a physician – will lend to their child's DNA remains to be seen. But a certain tinkerer's gene and a predilection for medical technology would probably surprise no one.