25-Year Veteran Principal Engineer at Arthrex: “We Turn Ideas Into Realities”

Twenty-five years, 13 patents and countless memories make up Principal Engineer Don Shuler’s experience at Arthrex.

“Someone I had previously worked with was a mutual friend of Arthrex’s President and Founder Reinhold Schmieding and told me about his new up-and-coming orthopedic company that had recently relocated to Naples and was looking for a product development engineer,” he said. “I was intrigued and took a consulting role for a year before moving to Naples to work at Arthrex full time.”

When Don was hired in 1993 he was one of just nine employees and only the company’s second engineer. Today, Arthrex employs more than 4,500 people globally.

“Since the beginning, every day has been different,” he said. “That’s one of the great things about the job. In the early days, we all wore many hats. That helped me gain a lot of knowledge about all facets of the business that are still helpful to me to this day.”

Today, as principal engineer for the Shoulder Arthroscopy team, Don’s role often involves project management working with many teams.

“This means you need to have some depth of knowledge in all the other disciplines of the project team and the industry as a whole,” he said.

For this reason, he said engineers coming on board should be prepared to never stop learning.

“This is an ever-changing industry that requires constant upgrading of your skill set,” said Don. “We’re at the forefront of technology at Arthrex and very fortunate to be able to work with surgeons in our labs on a daily basis. We teach them and they teach us. Every day is a learning experience. That’s the greatest opportunity I’ve had at Arthrex – to be exposed to the best orthopedic brains in the world.”

Having the opportunity to work with many different departments within the company also helps in this continuing education and makes a “typical day” something that’s unheard of at Arthrex.

“Some days we work with surgeons on ideas and solutions for their surgical challenges,” he said. “The next day we may be in the lab working on those solutions. Other days I spend designing on the computer or working as the team leader to coordinate and prepare products for commercial release. More often than not, a single day involves all of these activities, and somewhere in between you get to stop for a free lunch (yes, Arthrex offers its employees free lunches daily)! There is no typical day at Arthrex and that’s the best part of the job!”

Don said another favorite part of his role is working in tandem with product management teams, taking the needs and requirements of Arthrex’s surgeon customers and converting them to tangible and marketable products.

“We turn ideas into realities,” he said. “It’s exciting to be part of the evolution of the product. Engineers are the stem cell of the ideas and then we work with many teams to nourish those product ideas. Being able to convert an idea into a product to be used on patients to make them better is very rewarding.”

Some of the millions of patients who have benefited from Arthrex products include Don’s very own friends and family.

“I’ve had situations where family and friends have had procedures with Arthrex products and they came to me to ask questions and I was able to tell them proudly, ‘We designed that anchor that you have in your shoulder now that’s helping you live with less pain.’ To know that you had a major part in doing something as advanced as what we do – which was unheard of just 20 years ago – is really fulfilling.”

Although Arthrex has grown by leaps and bounds during Don’s time with the company, he said its core values from the beginning remain intact.

“Respect for each other has always been key at Arthrex,” he said. “You may not personally know every one as closely as you once did, but you know that they wouldn’t be working for Arthrex unless they were top notch in their given discipline.”

He said these core values come from the top down and that’s what makes Arthrex so special and successful.

“The growth that Arthrex has seen has been beyond anyone’s imagination,” he said. “This absolutely could not have happened without the guidance of our president and founder. I don’t think there’s any company in orthopedics that could have afforded me the opportunities that Arthrex has. There’s no one out there that’s involved in orthopedics today who wouldn’t want to be an engineer at Arthrex and there’s a reason for that.”

Don said after he retires this November he looks forward to fishing, scuba diving and golfing, but plans to come back to Arthrex for the opening celebration of its new six-story event and administration building in early 2020.

“It keeps getting better and better and every year you wonder how much bigger and better it can get,” he said. “There doesn’t seem to be any stopping it. Just like Arthrex’s tremendous growth from its small start, something I’ve learned is you should never underestimate your own capabilities. You take it day by day and sometimes you surprise yourself by the outcomes. I would have never thought 25 years ago I would have accomplished what I have done today. That’s my best advice for the next generation of engineers at Arthrex.”

Read more employee perspectives.

Sign Up for Job Alerts

Enter your email to stay updated on positions matching your interests.

Already a member?

Sign Up for Job Alerts

Enter your email to stay updated on positions matching your interests.

Already a member?