Over two decades ago, Ric Gorospe answered a newspaper ad for an engineering job working on the da Vinci surgical system. He didn’t know anything about it, but after test-driving the robot and learning that his work would help surgeons better serve patients, he “fell in love.” Since then, Ric’s had a front-row seat to Intuitive’s evolution, and his passion for our mission has only grown. Now the director of consumables manufacturing in Sunnyvale, California, Ric discusses his growth into a manager, his leadership style, and the importance of collaboration.
Tell us what brought you to Intuitive.
After I graduated college in 1994, I got a job at a laser startup. The dot-com boom was happening, and a lot of my friends were chasing the dream of landing a job at a big company so they could get good stock options and get rich quick. But that’s just not the type of person I am. So I started looking for a new opportunity to do good work in a field I’m interested in. I found a manufacturing engineer job advertised in my local newspaper at a medical device company that makes the da Vinci surgical system. I didn’t know much about it, but I had interned at another medical device company in college, so I thought it would be a meaningful opportunity–so I applied.
I loved all the people I met during my interview. I remember being shown around the plant, which was a fraction of the size it is now, and I got the chance to test drive the robotic system. I sat in the surgeon’s console, looked through the viewer, and put my fingers into the mechanical test models. Without any training, I was able to grab little rubber grommets and play with some other functions. I was sold.
The technology was still relatively new back then, but I thought, “Wow, this is a dream for an engineer to work at a company that builds such a unique product.” And you realize this is used by doctors to enhance their ability to perform surgery on patients. I fell in love with it, so I joined, and I’ve never looked back.
Can you describe your current role and discuss the priorities for you and your team now?
I was recently promoted to a director position in Consumables Manufacturing. I have a couple of production managers who report to me, and I’m responsible for the production of our consumables—instrument, accessory, and endoscope products—in Sunnyvale. I oversee our new product introduction factory, and my production team works with engineering to develop our newest production lines and processes, working out any issues that are a natural part of developing new products. As the manufacturing processes become more stable, we work with engineering to shift some of the lines to our Mexicali, Mexico plant, where we perform higher-volume manufacturing.
Because we deal mostly with new products, we bring our resources upstream early in the process and the engineers benefit from our technicians building the initial prototypes. We also have the opportunity to give feedback to the engineers as they develop our processes, so it’s a win-win.
How would you describe your journey at Intuitive to where you are today? How have you grown?
I’ve been with the company for 22 years, and I’ve learned something new every day. It’s the reason why I’ve stayed as long as I have. When I joined Intuitive as a manufacturing engineer, I was able to use my knowledge and skill set to make an impact on the actual da Vinci robot. From there, I was given various opportunities and responsibilities, and after five years, one of the VPs of manufacturing asked me if I was interested in getting into management as a production supervisor.
We were early in the development of our manufacturing process, and we needed someone with a technical background to help get production going. Back then, engineers wouldn’t come in until later in the morning, so when the production folks were doing their thing and ran into a problem, they just stopped until an engineer arrived and was able to resolve it. I was brought in to help troubleshoot these issues—I also started managing people for the first time in my career. Eventually, I grew into a manager role overseeing multiple lines.
Because my success is tied to the success of the people I’m managing, I think it’s essential that Intuitive offers opportunities to help develop our employees. We have classes that allow our teams to learn more about management. We’re refocusing our efforts on developing a training program for technicians that reemphasizes lean manufacturing, including waste elimination and continuous improvement. We also have technicians who want to take the lead on projects, so it’s important we give them growth opportunities so they can develop as leaders, too.
What are you most excited about in the months and years ahead?
I’m excited that my new role means the opportunity to lead new efforts, including refreshing our lean manufacturing processes. We’ve got to train hundreds of new employees on lean manufacturing and the concepts of continuous improvement. It’s a tough challenge, but it will be part of shaping the future of this company.
I’m still amazed that we build a robotic system that can help doctors impact lives. When I started at Intuitive, you’d have to talk to a thousand people before finding someone who’d had a da Vinci surgery. Now, I can turn to my co-workers, and either they or their parents have experienced it. We’ve helped to make a difference in so many lives, and as our technology gets better and better, I hope that impact will only grow.