(MSc Biomedical/Medical Engineering 2006)
Össur’s Director of Global Product Management, Prosthetics, Hildur Einarsdóttir, says her ‘secret sauce’ is the amputees who test their products.
Össur is the world’s second largest designer and manufacturer of prosthetic limbs. But much more than simply providing them, we work with the people who wear them, and that’s what makes this job what it is. We might put a prosthetic foot on the table and we will all look at it from a different angle. But only the amputee will truly understand what it is like to walk on that foot. They are the essential ingredient.
Amputees are an essential part of everything we do, not only as a natural part of our own mix within the company, but also as the users of our products. Recently we have been developing waterproof prosthetics, especially important here in Iceland, where the windy conditions also mean we need heavier products. We have a global community of thousands of amputees who feed their individual experiences into our product development. If our products do not meet the needs of those who use them, then we have failed completely.
We also have what we call a gait track here at head office with all sorts of different terrains. One of my most fun days is when we get the children in. The kids don’t care how much a product costs or how we feel about it – they just want to test whether it will break. The children push us to our limits on design and development. When we get a product that really meets their needs, it is so rewarding.
I trained as an electrical engineer and did an MSc in biomedical engineering at Imperial, but I always knew I wanted to connect with healthcare. Now I love that I get to use my education at work. I am an engineer inside but I enjoy the human touch. For an engineer, working in prosthetics is the perfect task. We already have the gold standard – the human leg. So we know what we are aiming for in our products. And the amputees can tell us whether we have the mix of ingredients right.