Moh Aakti joined us in January last year as a Senior Quality Consultant. A true medical devices all-rounder, in his Spotlight interview below Moh shares his love of variety in all aspects of life. Read on for more about Moh’s multifaceted career to date, his Moroccan roots and Swiss integration, and his passion for design, dance, and spiritual enlightenment…
Having started life in Morocco, how did you find yourself in Switzerland?
I grew up in Morocco. When I was 2 years old my father moved to Switzerland for an interesting work opportunity at the circus. Working in Europe was a dream of his, so he soon became quite settled here. At 13, I had the chance to move to Switzerland to live with my father. The shift from Arabic culture to West European culture was huge, and it was a big challenge for me – the climate, the language – everything that comes with moving countries. But I relished the chance to study in Europe.
I remember arriving here in December and seeing snow for the first time. Having never celebrated Christmas or New Year before, the festive celebrations were all very new for me. During my first days in Switzerland, I remember taking it all in – the houses that looked so different to where I’m from, and the different looking people wearing different clothes, speaking in different dialects. In some moments, I just froze thinking “What’s happening here?!”
The January after I arrived, I started school in Emmen and was warmly welcomed. I felt accepted by the group within the first moments, even though I didn’t understand the language, and the syllabus was completely new.
When did you first become interested in Mechanical Design?
I’ve always been fascinated how devices are constructed and how mechanisms work together. As a youngster, I was curious about how many moving parts, electrical aspects, and signals combined to perform a function, and wanted to invent new machines and devices. So, I began my engineering experience in mass production, taking an apprenticeship as a designer at Weber.
After my apprenticeship I started work as a mechanical designer at Helbling and in parallel I studied mechanical design at evening classes at Zürcher Fachhochschule for four years. At Helbling I worked with automation, robotics, drive technology, and had the chance to work in development engineering for several companies. As a young designer I learnt my trade in a service environment which I really enjoyed – and this early experience definitely influenced my decision to work in consultancy later in life.
After about seven years at Helbling as a mechanical designer and project lead, I broadened my perspective with a move to Elro – a company in the food industry. There I had the chance to work on a project for a product from beginning to end. Being involved in the entire process from idea and inception to design, to lifecycle, and production was a great learning opportunity.
Have your goals changed as your career has progressed?
As my career as a designer progressed, I found I was looking for more purpose behind what I was designing. As a young man, I was happy to design anything – interested mainly in the newest technologies and materials. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to look for more meaningful work that directly contributes to society.
After two years at Elro, I was drawn back to the service provider environment by the variety of industries, technologies, and cultures involved in the field. As a service provider you must always adapt to changing environments, which helps you to avoid getting blind to technology, tools, and techniques. I find keeping an open mind in this way welcomes exciting opportunities.
My initial involvement in the MedTech industry was as leader of a development department at a sub supplier for medical device drive components and sub systems manufacture. My projects spanned oncology, breast pumps, and ophthalmology.
As an engineer in medical devices, as you work towards getting your device on the market you are not only faced with challenges about the technology, but also with the many regulatory requirements. Also, as leader of the design department of predominantly active devices, I was a process owner, which exposed me to the quality aspects of the industry for the first time.
The holistic view of specifications and requirements for medical devices offered by this role – both from a technical perspective and regarding quality design and assurance, really opened my eyes to the range of exciting challenges within this industry. And with a sparked interest in the quality aspects, after about seven years in the development department, I moved into the quality management and operations team.
During my time in this team, I was responsible for the integration of acquired subsidiaries. The role was particularly challenging, because of course if you want to improve a company’s quality processes and management systems, software plays a fundamental part. I introduced the new software and tools, ERP system, Document Management System, and CRM system to the whole holding, so I became very familiar with overcoming software issues and business data management challenges.
What do you consider a career highlight to date?
During my 15 years at Antrimon I had the opportunity to be project lead for offering legal manufacturer as a service to medical device providers. Introducing the many processes required, liaising with stakeholders, managing expectations, and enhancing skills across an entire company was a big challenge. Taking a deep dive into the regulatory obligations was new and interesting for me and learning more about aspects such as risk management, post market surveillance, and clinical evaluation was fascinating.
The product involved was a UV source to treat cornea disease, so the technical specifications also presented complexities. But despite the tight timeline, the great team had the first prototype prepared within a year, and overall, the project was a big success for the company.
What led you to Congenius?
After 15 years, the quest for a new challenge led me to Congenius to become a Quality Consultant. Before working at Congenius I had worked as a CEO. My passion had been to deliver work that was value-based. I worked on creating strong company values, working through the process with our employees to discover our common goals. I found a big overlap in these values with Congenius, and that was a big motivation for me to contact Jörg and figure out a way to work together – to join a working community that shared my values.
At my current consultancy role, I’m working on several orthopaedic products and liaising with many customer teams. And though I feel well prepared for the role with my background in R&D, operations, quality, regulatory, clinical, and project management, I’m still learning every day. And as a curious guy that’s a big motivation for me!
How do you achieve a good work-life balance?
Curiosity to learn is an intrinsic part of my motivation in both my work and in my personal life – so I have lots of interests! Currently I read a lot about psychology. The latest book I’ve been reading is all about human behaviour – understanding the mechanics behind why we behave the way we do. It’s also helping me to understand myself better!
I’m also interested in sport. Figure skating is a big passion of mine and I try to spend several hours each week on the ice. I’m also in an active group of figure skaters, so I train with them. I love the movement on the ice – I find it’s liberating to move in such a smooth way, with very little resistance. Puerto Rican and Cuban salsa dancing is another passion. Again, it’s nice to have the freedom to move without any restrictions. The skating and dance balance my daily professional work in such a regulated environment very well in this regard.
Family time is important to me, and whilst I’m quite integrated within Swiss culture, I still carry my Moroccan roots in me. My sister, brother, and parents also live in Switzerland, so I meet them frequently. If you were to visit my father’s home in Switzerland, you’d have the feeling you were in Morocco! The whole interior is very traditional – the furniture, the dishes, and the food is always Moroccan food. As a consultant, it’s nice to have the flexibility of remote office, to balance time between family and work.
Looking to the future, what do you see as some of the key topics on the MedTech horizon?
I see digitalisation as one of the biggest challenges for the medical device industry over the coming years. Whilst steps have been made within other industries in terms of digitalisation, I think the medical industry is slightly behind the curve. With increasing technological advancement, the capabilities related to data capture in terms of volume and granularity, will present challenges.
Medical devices will continue to produce increasingly detailed data, which require management in a way that complies with many detailed regulatory requirements. Digitalisation also affects the processes within fields outside of technology and data collection from product usage, for example in operations, production, regulatory, and registration of the device.
And so, without an effective digitalised approach, efficient, compliant, and cost effective data management becomes incredibly difficult, and costly hurdles may arise throughout the product journey.
Another mega trend is sustainability. We face challenges in the medical industry to handle sustainability in a way that’s appropriate. It’s my hope that as an industry, we’re not only going to fulfil the legal obligations, but rather adapt in a way that is useful and meaningful. Becoming more sustainable as part of the wider fight against climate change is no longer a cloud in the distance, despite it still being perceived as such by many. Filling the knowledge gaps and incorporating sustainability into the day to day business processes are actions that are required imminently.
And finally, who or what continues to inspire you as you move forward professionally?
I’m still interested in a holistic view when it comes to projects – gathering all the puzzles to work towards the bigger picture. But in terms of choosing particular elements, I find process design really interesting, and I particularly enjoy working together with people – understanding needs and creating or improving solutions to achieve results in a way that’s systematic and efficient.
How to work well with people is very important to me, and I’ve been fortunate to have had a couple of inspirational mentors during my career who have helped with this. I’m also quite a spiritual person and take inspiration from a combination of many different philosophies.
I grew up in a Muslim environment with the teachings of the Qur’an. As my father was in Switzerland when I was a boy, I grew up with my grandfather, and he was deeply religious – so that’s something that was imprinted on my childhood. Living in Switzerland, I’ve also been very interested to learn about other cultures. Here in Switzerland, we are such a multicultural society, so if you are interested in people and their various philosophies, there are many inputs available around you.
I try to integrate all aspects from the cultures and philosophies I learn about – whether that’s Islam, Buddhism, or Christianity for example, to gain a better perspective on humanity. I believe that the more you can learn about people and their different perspectives, the more actively involved you can be in society. And it’s the same in the workplace – we essentially work together “eight” days a week – so the more I can understand people’s beliefs, values, and philosophies, the more I’m able to interact and connect with people on a deeper, more meaningful level. It’s this sense of human connection that I find to be inspirational every day.