Launching Biocompatible Materials With Product Manager Elza Chu
Elza Chu joined the Formlabs Product Management team in the summer of 2019. She recently led the product launch of our latest biocompatible materials, which help improve the workflow of our customers within the dental, audiology, and healthcare space.
Keep reading to learn about her journey at Formlabs!
You’re a product manager. What does that actually mean? What is your job?
I understand things better with analogies: the way I see a product manager working is like the oil between the gears — we’re transparent, and we work in multi-faceted ways — we make sure the organization works smoothly, and the gears work as they should.
In our traditional materials development, our team thinks of performance: we want to make sure we’re developing the best performing materials. For biocompatible materials, which is what I have been focusing on, we don’t exclusively wonder if the material is going to perform effectively, but also that the printed part is safe to use. For biocompatible materials, our priority is to deliver a safe product that excels in performance while meeting the requirements set forth by regional regulatory entities, such as the FDA. Easier than it sounds!
Tell me a little bit about what led you to Formlabs? Why did you decide to grow your career with us?
I am a polymer chemist by training. Before I joined Formlabs, I worked as a color cosmetics formulator honing technologies to deliver user perceivable performance that met customer needs. We used to think, “how can we make this lipstick feel silky?”, or “what film formers can we use to make the mascara waterproof?”
My previous role and academic background developed my technical skills for product development and empowered me to be more solution-oriented. It also exposed me to the conceptual side of how product ideas are born. I learned that I really enjoyed the ambiguity of finding a problem, and collaborating with teams to find a solution.
Being a product manager at Formlabs seemed like the perfect role to expand on such initiatives.
What are some of the biggest problems you’re solving here, or for our customers?
We are a growing company where each launch is a learning process. I hope to use my learnings and past experiences to help set up guidelines to manage expectations, streamline developments, and build a user-focused portfolio of functional materials overtime.
Formlabs is a company where as an individual contributor, I have the freedom to make impactful decisions from day one. In a larger company, I might not be able to do this work until I was five to ten years in. It’s equally encouraging and daunting, but an engaging experience overall.
Formlabs is involved with a lot of industries. We can go anywhere, and our brand is growing. It’s promising to be here at this stage and to feel the power of ownership. I know I’ve had an impact here and in the outside world through Formlabs.
What’s your proudest achievement during your time at Formlabs?
I joined Formlabs right as we were working on the Dental Business Unit launch, and it was nice to see the confidence people had in my decisions the minute I came in. The instant credibility made it almost like I’ve been a part of the team for a while. Since then, I also supported Formlabs’ largest materials launch yet with five new biocompatible materials and a new build platform which is probably my proudest achievement so far.
How have you grown in your year at the company?
I’ve learned a lot about additive manufacturing, to start! I’ve really improved by soft skills, which one could argue is more important than technical skills. In a product manager role, you’re meeting with people of different mindsets; you have to adapt to their style of communication and wear different hats to be effective and efficient. I learned that very fast, and I will take that with me in the future.
What makes you so successful in this role?
Adaptability and agility. Aside from academic training, I also moved a lot in my life. All these different life experiences helped me get here, and grow in the role.
What keeps you here?
I’m here because Formlabs gives me the breadth of knowledge that would take me years to grow somewhere else.
Performance is my driver; I’m invested in my personal performance. Formlabs gives me the platform to dive deep into a range of different initiatives to build my technical and mental portfolio, and help me grow as a professional. I’m also learning more about 3D printing applications, which I didn’t know before. From that perspective, it also keeps it interesting to stay here.
What advice do you have for future Formlabs employees?
If an opportunity at Formlabs seems interesting, go for it and apply! My unconventional placement as a product manager is a testament to the fact that life experiences and soft skills play just as much of a role in success as technical know-how. We are always looking for people with a breadth of knowledge and experience, so you never know what might catch our eye.