Johnson and Johnson chief officer speaks about career as Rutgers alumni
On Wednesday afternoon, Johnson and Johnson’s Chief Procurement Officer Len DeCandia spoke at an event for Engineers Week. He shared his career experience and advice for engineering students.
DeCandia attended Rutgers as a School of Engineering undergraduate and later as an MBA student. He was also the founder of the Rutgers Business School's Center for Supply Chain Management.
DeCandia was heavily influenced by the space race as a child in the 1960s. He said he was particularly inspired by former President John F. Kennedy’s goal to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade and the eventual realization of that goal in 1969 with the Apollo 11 mission.
Upon graduating from college, DeCandia worked for Johnson and Johnson. At the time, he was not very interested in business. He said that all he wanted to do was build machines.
Globalization and the advent of the personal computer led to his entrance into more business-related areas. DeCandia said that computers and globalization opened a world of possibilities, and that business is important in identifying unmet needs that can then be solved with engineering.
He reminded students that his current job did not exist at his graduation and many of their future jobs may not yet exist. DeCandia told students to enter the workforce with faith that the knowledge and skills they obtain from their education will lead them to success.
DeCandia also placed great emphasis on collaboration as an essential piece to innovation. He said that one of the most exciting aspects of his work is bringing collaborators together.
In his perspective, Johnson and Johnson has changed from a more insular company to a very collaborative company. He said that 50 percent of their products come from collaboration or licensing.
DeCandia shared examples of how scientific innovation has changed the world and how it presents opportunities for future engineers. He said that AIDS used to be a death sentence but now it is possible for people with AIDS to live full lives. There is now a need for innovation to deliver AIDS treatment across the world.
He spoke of a Ford executive who told him that there will be fewer cars due to self-guided vehicles. A two-car family can become a one-car family with a self-guided car. In anticipation of such developments, Ford recently spent $1 billion on a software company.
At Johnson and Johnson, there is now a focus on the personalization of healthcare delivery. Examples include greater innovation in the areas of patient adherence and body monitoring.
DeCandia said that the trend is for healthcare providers to be compensated for providing an outcome, not just a service. This means providers increasingly “risk-share” and are becoming invested in patients health.
Regarding career advice, he said, “it’s not the big that win, it’s the fast that wins."
He said that innovators do not need as much capital as they needed in the past to succeed.
Students should remember their gifts, their responsibility to turn ideas into reality and the importance of humility and being a person of value he said. Engineers are problem-solvers by nature and they must use their gifts to make a difference.
DeCandia said the number one issue in doing business with suppliers is whether they are philosophically aligned with Johnson and Johnson. There are three values the company is most interested in: Innovation, sustainability and diversity.
Thomas Farris, the dean of the Rutgers School of Engineering, attended the event and introduced DeCandia.
“It’s always very gratifying to have our successful alumni come back and talk to our present day students about all the things they can do with a Rutgers engineering degree,” Farris said.
Farris said it was very beneficial for students to hear from someone with extensive supply chain experience because it is a growing area for engineering students. The largest employer of Rutgers engineering students this past year was Amazon, which is heavily focused on supply chain operations, Farris said.
Thomas Papathomas, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, was also in attendance and shared his reaction to DeCandia’s talk.
“I was inspired by DeCandia’s talk of how an engineer must strive to do good and to benefit society. I’m impressed he chose to talk about the Johnson and Johnson credo because it shows they take their credo very seriously,” Papathomas said.