Albert Rodriguez is Velentium’s Director of Human Factors Engineering (HFE). Albert’s career began when he switched his major from mechanical engineering to software engineering at the University of Houston Clearlake. One of his early projects out of school was in robotics, designing a system that trained astronauts to operate a robot arm in space. The training took place in gravity, but the software and mechanics of the training system had to mimic zero-G behavior. Albert became fascinated with interface design and interface engineering, especially when the opportunity came to work alongside an MIT PhD candidate studying HFE. Together, they were able to redesign a two-astronaut robotic arm control system with a much simpler one-man system. From then on, Albert was hooked.
“I surrounded myself with books and learned everything I could about HFE,” he recalls. “I love everything in this space, from how early word processing programs dropped the ball by requiring manual saves, to how Pampered Chef’s garlic press has a cleaning tool that attaches to the press so they don’t become separated during storage.” Even his hobbies are related. Albert loves anything outdoors - the wilder the better. Kayaking, fishing, hunting, competitive sailing, cycling, nature photography… anything that takes you “out”. Success in these activities, Albert says, requires careful observation of non-human cues - again, the study of interfaces.
Asked what drew him to Velentium, Albert mentioned that he has known co-founder Tim Carroll for a long time, having met through a mutual colleague and finding they both enjoy hunting and fishing. From a technical and human-impact perspective, however, Albert says that Velentium “just made sense.” Software is everywhere, helping run everything, but he never wanted to use his skill set in the service of anything that could potentially cause harm. Velentium’s passion to change lives for a better world, especially through medical devices, is a natural fit.
Albert also points to Velentium’s ethos on the natural the ebb and flow of work and life. “Push hard, do the job right - and then relax and recharge, be with family, before the next hard push. And when we’re working, we do the job right because it’s the right thing to do. Not because a cop or a regulator or an auditor could be looking over our shoulders.”
“I want everyone to be able to take advantage of my experiences and grow from them,” Albert says. “I’m a big believer in professional mentoring. I’m not ‘Velentium’s Human Factors Engineer.’ My job is ensuring that everybody does HFE. My role is ensuring our focus stays on usability from proposal to final milestone, and that we design the best, simplest interfaces possible to serve our clients and their users.”
Albert is married and has two children in college - Gabriella, a senior exploring options in graduate studies, and Matt, a sophomore working to pin down his major. Both are musically inclined and working at the professional level: Gabriella is pursuing a position with film soundtrack symphonies, while Matt manufactures and sells beats to recording artists and studios.
Chris Jensen serves in two Director-level roles at Velentium: Strategic Initiatives and Electrical Engineering. He holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Houston and an MBA from Rice University, and has four decades of experience in engineering and small business entrepreneurship. After cutting his teeth in engineering with companies like Sperry-Sun and Halliburton, Chris earned his MBA in finance and spent a few years working in the financial sector before returning to engineering to found his own consultancy. His solo projects reflected his wide-ranging interests, from quantum-based random number generation, to near-earth orbital monitoring systems capable of surviving rocket disasters, to residential construction energy efficiency and regulatory compliance, to custom commercial IT infrastructure installation solutions.
Chris joined Velentium in 2016, and credits the three values (Honorable, Results++, and Humble Charisma) for drawing him in. “When I was interviewed,” he recalls, “Dan and Tim led with the values. They clearly try to live them out personally as well as make a better society through medical device innovation. I turned down a higher-salaried competing offer because Velentium held the promise of a better work environment and better work goals. I’ve been pleased to see that promise being pursued and fulfilled in the years since.”
As for the work itself, Chris says “I love it. Engineering is engineering, but the fundamental reason for our work is to make peoples’ lives better. My first project here was an implant that senses the onset of epileptic fits, delivers a therapeutic signal to counter them, and alerts caregivers. That project let me see our clients’ passion for their devices, and their mission to improve patients’ lives, which matches our own.” Since then, Chris recalls, “There have been so many more projects that do similar, magical, sci-fi level tech treating people’s medical conditions. We’re fortunate to be directly involved in projects that were unimaginable a few years ago. We’re reading brainwaves to improve memory, restoring paralytic nerve function to let people walk again, and providing treatments for chronic pain, to name just a few.”
Another big attractor Chris points to is Velentium’s hiring practices. “Top minds work here,” he observed, adding that Velentium has capabilities matched by few other companies in the world. “We’ve grown not merely by doing more of the same - design and development - but by continuing to go deeper and explore other types of services, including testing and production of medical implantables, as well as adjacent services like regulatory advising, clinical trials, and venture capital networking to enable more medical devices manufacturers to succeed.”
“We win deals because our values are real, and have a material impact on how we do business. So much of our work is ongoing, repeat, and referral business because we don’t squeeze our clients. We treat them right and go above and beyond, doing what the project needs, not necessarily only what we contracted for. We find ways of making it work because we share our clients’ passion to change lives for a better world.”
Chris and his wife have a son in 5th grade who has special needs. “We’ve learned so much from him,” Chris says. “He’s a unique and caring individual who has taught me so much about what’s important in a human life - for example, the value of persistence and self-advocacy. You can get almost anything if you ask for it enough, and he’s the most persistent person I’ve ever met. He’s also opened our horizons on communication. Translating thoughts and inner experiences into words is a challenge for him, but that doesn’t prevent him from communicating - it’s broader than just speech.”
Christopher Gates is the Director of Product Security at Velentium. He has over 30 years of experience developing and securing medical devices for numerous industry-leading device manufacturers, and frequently collaborates with regulatory and standard bodies including the NTIA, MITRE, Bluetooth SIG, IEEE, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the FDA to present, define, and codify tools, techniques, and processes that enable the creation of secure medical devices.
Christopher has a wife, two sons, one daughter, four grandchildren, and a Siberian Husky. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, biking, and craft beer, preferably in the company of his wife and their loyal companion.
Everywhere he goes, Christopher promotes the secure development lifecycle, an approach that eases the burden on developers and ensures high-quality products that work as intended to save and improve lives without putting users at risk. In 2020, he co-authored the definitive book on the subject, Medical Device Cybersecurity for Engineers and Manufacturers (Artech House, Aug. 31, 2020. ISBN: 9781630818159).
Christopher graduated from California State University Northridge with a B.S. in Computer Science and worked in various roles as a software engineer, project manager, and cybersecurity architect. His projects ranged from control systems for an early all-electric motorcycle, to consulting for Disneyland, to engineering and securing medical devices targeting respiratory, cardiovascular, and endocrine indications.
Christopher joined Velentium in 2017 because he had previously collaborated with the company as a contractor and seen firsthand that its values are exemplified by its founders. “In a world where most companies are only motivated by financial interest, Velentium routinely has moral discussions about the best approach for its clients, its staff, and the world. Every employee engages each project with the mindset that the equipment we’re designing might one day be used to save our own loved ones.”
For Christopher, this motivation is not a mere thought exercise. When his first grandchild was born prematurely, before his lungs could fully close, Christopher visited him in the NICU. There, he noticed that a handful of the machines allowing his grandson to breathe were among the devices he himself had helped design.
"Velentium employees are not 'workers for hire,' they are 'workers for cause.'"
As Velentium’s Director of Manufacturing, David Smith brings to bear twenty years of experience managing manufacturing, procurement, and test engineering operations in the medical device industry. David is a Navy veteran and holds a BS in electrical and electronics engineering. He worked alongside Tim Carroll, Mark Harris, and Robert Schaffler at InterMedics in the ‘90s before moving to Cyberonics and LivaNova. On his second day at Cyberonics, David recalls, he met with engineers from an intelligent test systems contractor... including future Velentium co-founders Dan Purvis and Tim Carroll. David has worked with Velentium leadership and SMEs in various collaborative roles in test systems and manufacturing over the years, and had his sights on spearheading Velentium’s manufacturing division as soon as he was needed.
“I want Velentium to become known as the medical device industry’s premier contract manufacturer,” David said. “Velentium is deeply interested in operational agility, consistency of output, and quality, not just profitability. We have the expertise and the braintrust to move quickly, to fully understand a project, and to adapt rapidly. Moreover, we’re interested in long-term client relationships, not short-term profits.”
David also has his eye on the innovation horizon. “Medical device design will continue to evolve and solve challenges of size and invasiveness. Over the next decade we’re going to see a dual trend. On one end of the spectrum some tech will move from implantables to injectables. On the other end, tech will move from implantables to wearables. Improvements in micropower, nanotechnologies, and transcutaneous sensors will make possible the demands we’re already seeing for implantables to get smaller, for wearables to do more.”
To ride the coming wave, competitive contract manufacturing must focus on implementing change and on challenging staff to accept that change is a good thing. The best way to achieve that, David explains, is by means of a well-thought-through continuous improvement program. “Never be afraid of continuous change,” he admonishes. “Never let the ice get so hard you can’t melt it and reform it.”
David and his wife have two children: one in college, one nearing the end of high school. They employ a kanban-inspired system at home for material management of dry goods and other household items (“opportunities for continuous improvement are everywhere!”). As a family, they are deeply involved in supporting the Special Olympics.
Demetri White is a Senior Program Manager of testing, test engineering, and test systems at Velentium. Demetri earned his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering on a baseball scholarship, and after playing professionally for a few years, turned his attention to test engineering. He worked his way from design engineer, to product development engineer, to R&D test lab manager, before founding state-of-the-art test solutions provider Oasis Testing (now a part of Velentium) in 2012.
“Being part of a team is a force multiplier,” Demetri explained. “We [Oasis and Velentium] have been working together since 2014. After these years of collaboration - especially during Project V in 2020 - we know there’s very little we’re not prepared to take on in engineering solutions, testing, and design and development. Both companies have always embodied a can-do culture where we know how to solve problems and we’re willing to roll up our sleeves and work it until it’s done excellently. Joining forces just made sense.”
Demetri also pointed to time with family as a factor. “Running a small business can be all-consuming, and trying to wear all the hats limits your reach and effectiveness.” Demetri’s wife Jennifer, who worked alongside him at Oasis, has also joined the Velentium team. The Whites have three children - Dane, Brielle, and Diesel - and enjoy mentoring them in their passions. Baseball and dance are shared loves; Demetri also enjoys bow hunting and specializes in orchestrating close encounters with elk, as well as leadership studies, continuous learning and self-improvement, and growing in his faith.
Mentoring is one of Demetri’s motivating passions. “Teaching people technical skills is just the first step,” he explains. “Next comes leadership, then ownership. My goal is to mentor staff to take ownership of sectors, processes, expertise, their professional reputation, and the company.”
On a technical level, Demetri foresees a future dominated by technical advances in testing - an area where Velentium is already blazing the trail. “Increasingly, clients will want more than just pass/fail data. They will want more and more information and insight on every aspect of testing and the test process. For that to happen, test systems need to be intelligent and test facilities need to be smart. We can pioneer that tech and deliver on its promise.”
Jason Swoboda is a Senior Program Manager at Velentium with deep experience in test, measurement, and control systems. After earning his degree in Chemical Engineering, Jason began his career in ‘98 running a UL-certified test lab. There he met Dan Purvis, whose company helped optimize the lab’s test systems. Jason soon transitioned to test engineering and systems development and went to work with Dan and Tim Carroll, spending 10 years with them at their pre-Velentium company. After a brief stint working directly for a major energy client, Jason returned to work for Dan and Tim at Velentium in 2015. His primary focus is on test systems and flow measurement and control systems.
Beyond his extensive prior experience working with the company’s founders, Jason was drawn to Velentium because of its broad, multi-industry client base and its diversity of work projects and interesting technical challenges. Currently, he’s excited to be co-leading Velentium’s development of world-class intelligent test facilities that deliver measurements, data, and engineering insight far exceeding what’s required for standards-based testing and enables customer innovation.
“I enjoy working on something bigger than myself,” Jason says. “Every day at Velentium, I get to be part of teams and initiatives that accomplish more than I could do on my own. And I get to learn and apply new technology in the service of those big goals.” When asked about the factors responsible for attracting and retaining Velentium’s clients, Jason replied, “Velentium’s values are its biggest asset, most particularly Results++. We’re not satisfied to repeat what’s been done before. We’re always trying to advance what we do and advance what our clients are capable of. We hire really talented, self-motivated people. Mediocre people choose not to stay.”
Jason describes himself as an Aggie, Catholic, husband, and father. He has been married for 22 years and has two children - one at Texas A&M, one in high school. He and his wife have been playing World of Warcraft together almost since its release, and have 3 Miniature Schnauzers (“way too many!”), all named after Texas A&M traditions: June, Ellie (short for “Elephant”), and Dixie.
Satyajit “Sat” Ketkar is the Director of Systems Engineering at Velentium. His 20-year career includes electrical, firmware, software, and systems engineering experience, including seven in medical device design and two with a European Union notified body conducting medical device reviews and audits for safety, quality, performance, and security.
While still a student at the University of Houston, Sat helped start the IEEE robotics club and worked with a team developing a real-time robotics operating system for fully autonomous robots that could learn in order to complete challenging tasks. He was part of the original development team behind Wordpress (before it was called Wordpress), and owned and managed two commercial podcasts - one focused on sports, another on culture and current events - which he later sold before plunging into medical development full-time.
Sat is married to a biomedical engineer who works for TUV as a reviewer and auditor. They are avid readers and strategy board game players who agree about supporting the Astros and the U of H. Cougars, but don’t see eye-to-eye on football: He roots for the Packers, she for the Eagles. They have two children who both enjoy art. Their daughter (8) has a talent for math and music, while their son (6) loves all things Star Wars, dinosaurs, and being loud.
Sat explains that corporate culture is both what attracted him to Velentium and what forms the basis of Velentium’s competitive advantage. “Honesty and transparency are part of being Honorable,” he said. “We do right not because it’s a ‘rule’ written on a piece of paper. We do it because that’s who we are. We go above and beyond. Internally, our culture reinforces your desire not to let your team down.”
As a Technical Director, Sat’s personal goals for the company include fostering our existing culture through mentoring so that the Velentium ethos survives its founders. He loves working on medical devices because he knows from past experiences that this field saves and improves people’s lives: “Maybe someone I know. Maybe me. Nowhere else do you get to do work that will keep someone alive and restore their quality of life.”