Aspire to Tech: Reliability Manager, Redlen Technologies Inc.

Career Spotlight – Anastasiia Mishchenko

What is your role? What is your title? Where are you located?  How long have you been doing it?

My role is Reliability Manager at Redlen Technologies. We are an Advanced X-Ray Detector manufacturer located in Saanichton, on Vancouver Island, off the West coast of Canada. My role’s focus is to build and manage the reliability program within the company. That is a company-wide program that aims to characterize and improve the reliability of our products. I’ve been in this position for almost one year.

What makes your job interesting?

It’s very multidimensional, and that suits my personality very well. I discovered that over time, as I was exploring my career opportunities and trying to identify the best match between my strengths and talents and the needs of the world and the industries. In my role, I have a very diverse set of responsibilities that goes from managing the team and leading the technical progress, to recruiting activities. I also still act as a Detector Scientist sometimes. Communicating and collaborating with customers and internally within our company is also interesting because I like to work with people. All of this creates a lot of dimensions to my work, which I find very enjoyable.

What is the most fun? What is the most challenging?

The most fun, for me, is the synergy in the teamwork. That’s how it has always been, and I think it will stay that way. I find the most rewarding part is when strong individual contributions come together to find a solution to a problem. There is a lot of great experience to be gained, both scientifically and personally in that kind of work.

The most challenging is prioritization and trade-offs – especially the trade-offs part.

I find that when we grow our careers, we get to a point where we know how to do a wide range of things very well. In principle, we could go in 100 different directions in a day, but then it becomes a challenge of defining what the essential key projects are, and how to divide my time between them. A lot of my time is dedicated to supporting my team members, developing them, and building up the team. I am always thinking of the alignment of our efforts with the company’s needs, and goals.

I also find challenging to know when to stop working on something, because when it’s so engaging and satisfying, it can be hard to know when to set a boundary and disconnect. I am learning the importance of taking a step back now and then to have enough energy and time to maintain my well-being, have precious shared times with family, and be able to engage in other things I love doing outside of work.

How does your role drive the Company’s success?

To talk about that, we need to talk about reliability first. The reliability of the detector is its ability to perform according to the defined specifications, at defined conditions, over a specified amount of time. Reliability is essential to our company’s success because it allows us to predict the lifetime of the detector and look at what causes the detector to fail. We do the root cause analysis through dedicated experiments and simulations, and report our findings cross-functionally. In this way, we create the essential feedback loop to all the key processes related to science, engineering, manufacturing, and testing of the technology. Bottom line, for the company’s success, it is not enough to know that the technology performs excellently only upon delivery, we need to have a good sense of how it is going to perform over time considering its use case.

What does a typical day look like for you? What do you actually spend your time doing?

Honestly, sometimes I feel like a character in a movie, constantly changing scenes and adapting to changes. Many of my recent days have been spent reviewing technical progress with my team. We design experiments, drive experimentation, and perform analysis to get to our big answers and conclusions.

The technical part of my role also comes with a lot of communication, working on reports, and giving presentations. In reliability, success heavily relies on functional cross-functionality, if I can say that. A lot of my efforts are directed to ensure we are all aligned on key findings and milestone definitions.

Then, I focus on my team and making sure they have what they need to succeed and by extension for the company to succeed. Recently that also includes recruiting and hiring as we are growing our team.

Tell us about your career history?

I think that career history first starts with the big choice of education, because that defines the next 5 to 10 years. My choice started with studying physics during my Bachelor and Master’s degrees from Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in Ukraine. Then, I decided to do my PhD in Canada so I moved to Ontario on my own and completed my PhD in Materials Science from Lakehead University.  In the last year of my PhD I started working part-time for an X-ray detector manufacturer, where after a year I took a full-time position as a Physicist. I worked there for six years and I would consider this my first serious job. After that, I accepted to move to Victoria, BC to start working for Redlen. I spent my first year here as a Detector Scientist in R&D, and after identifying my niche in reliability I transitioned within the company to a Reliability Manager role with the support of key people in the company that believe in the importance of this function.

What was your very first job and how did your career path take you to where you are today?

My first job was in California as a photographer during my bachelor studies, as a summer job in the US.  That was when I decided  I wanted to explore North America more, and possibly study here. My first job in medical imaging was at Analogic Canada in Montreal, Quebec, where I was first invited to do an internship. This was a similar company to Redlen, also X-ray detector designer and manufacturer, but with more narrow application in mammography, that is the screening and diagnosis of breast cancer. I was very fortunate to get connected with my first mentor in the industry. I started learning from him and that was my commitment to stay. I felt I would learn a lot through the job, but 6 months later he left the company.

That was the beginning of the period that felt like swimming in an open ocean – it was an intense experience as I was still so new in my career. After my mentor left, people in the company started coming to me with the types of questions they used to ask him, but he had more than 15 years of experience in that company, and I had less than one. In the beginning, I didn’t think I could say no. I thought I had to figure everything out on my own. It took me three years to learn how to say, “I don’t know”. It was a period of rapid growth for me, and it allowed me to touch virtually every aspect of the X-ray detector design, and then image quality, and manufacturing. I also was fortunate to be closely engaged with key customers. That experience really shaped my path.

Where might you go next? What’s your next role?

I’ve recently entered this big new role, and so my current focus is dedicated to building the function and the team. I feel there is a big potential and many opportunities available in my current position, and right now it’s more about focusing on mastering this space, my responsibilities and all that I’m here to drive, than looking at what’s next.

What motivates you for your future career? Will you stay in tech?

I always pay a lot of attention and spend time thinking about the alignment between what I do with who I am, and where the need is. Everyone has their own unique set of talents, skills, and capabilities. I want my skills to be aligned as closely as possible with the role or the type of work I do. But then even beyond that, the alignment with what the world needs. So, I think I will stay in tech, because it aligns with my skills and my motivations, and I think the work we are doing at Redlen is aligned with what the world needs.

Any final words of advice, or advice for young people?

Learn to trust yourself. Value direct experience above all. And allow yourself to go really deep into what you’re passionate about.