Mentor Profile: Tony Fields
Edited by Ashley Villanueva
Part of what makes the Fung Fellowship great is its commitment to mentorship. This article is part of a series featuring the industry mentors who guide and advise students on their journeys. From guest lectures to workshops and coaching, these mentors shape the story and the future of the Fung Fellows.
Tony Fields is a consultant in technology development, new venture start-up, funding, and multidisciplinary team building. Until the end of 2018, Mr. Fields served as the Chief Operating Officer of Claret Medical and
managed all aspects of the development of the Sentinel Cerebral Protection System, a catheter designed to protect the brain from stroke during structural heart procedures. Prior to that, he served for two years as the Vice President of Research & Development and Operations for Voyage Medical, managing the development of an image-guided cardiac ablation catheter and system to treat complex arrhythmias. Mr. Fields is also a UC Berkeley alumnus. Go Bears!
We had a chance to ask Mr. Fields a few questions about his professional background and experience as a Fung Fellowship industry mentor.
What inspired you to get into your field?
As a mechanical engineer working in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was quickly drawn to medical device development. The technical challenges were high, there was a rapidly expanding number of small startups driving new approaches to treating disease and chronic conditions, and it was very appealing to be able to work on products that helped people rather than designing products that would just end up in the landfill.
What are you proudest of?
I spent over 8 years at Emphasys Medical working on a lung implant to treat emphysema, and over 7 years at Claret Medical working on a device to prevent stroke in heart surgery patients. The first was finally approved by the FDA in 2018, and the second was approved by the FDA in 2017. Both are selling well and are making a big difference in patient lives, and I find that very rewarding.
How relevant to your work is your undergraduate major? Did you plan to move away from the focus of your major?
The Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering that I earned as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley has been essential to my career. My most recent position was as Chief Operating Officer at Claret Medical, and thus my responsibilities have moved beyond engineering work as I no longer perform engineering tasks myself, however I continue to manage the R&D, Manufacturing and Intellectual Property functions, and my education in engineering is still central to the work I do.
What motivated you to be a mentor?
Throughout my career I have learned tremendously from coworkers and supervisors who were more experienced, and their advice and guidance has been essential for my career development. I want to give to others in the same way, and I find the mentoring relationship to be very rewarding.
“I have been surprised by the diverse background, and great achievements, of everyone that I met through the [Fung Fellowship] mentorship program.”
What surprised you about our students?
I have been surprised by the diverse background, and great achievements, of everyone that I met through the [Fung Fellowship] mentorship program. I also really enjoyed the fact that all discussions initially started with the project they were working on, but quickly turned to a discussion of their career development and future plans, something that I really enjoy.
Why is mentorship important for people’s career journey?
A mentor can help with advice and career guidance as well as by sharing connections and contacts. Mentorship is especially valuable if it extends over time as a mentor can help in progressively different ways as the mentee’s career develops.
What advice do you have for our students heading into their Honors Program and beyond?
My main career advice to people is the following:
- Make sure that you like what you do, and do not choose a career path soley based on what will make you a lot of money. There are lots of wealthy but very unhappy corporate lawyers in the world (as an example). You will be spending a lot of time at work, so make sure that you enjoy it and that you like the people you work with.
- Be wary of turning a loved hobby into your career. I seriously considered becoming a custom furniture maker, but then I realized that there was a high likelihood that I would turn something I love — woodworking — into something that I had to make money doing, and I decided to not follow that dream. Sometimes this can really work out, however, there are many things that people love to do — like make art — that are extremely difficult to make a living doing.
What attributes do you look for in a new hire?
Given that I have worked the bulk of my career in startups and small companies, the attribute I find the most valuable is a willingness (and a lack of fear) of taking on whatever task is required to make the company successful.