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Updated: October 3, 2022 / 2022 NextUp: 40 Under 40 Honorees

40 Under 40: An engineer behind millions of COVID swabs

Photo / Tim Greenway Derek McKenney, director of corporate engineering at Puritan Medical Products, has been at the heart of a massive effort to get COVID swabs to people around the world.
Derek McKenney, 31  Director of corporate engineering Puritan Medical Products LLC Click here to see all 40 Under 40 honorees
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Significant professional accomplishment: During the last 24 months I’ve been part of and managed an amazing team. We have been able to successfully launch three manufacturing sites in two states providing hundreds of millions of COVID swabs to patients around the world. I’ve built a team of diverse and talented engineers in parallel. Without them I wouldn’t have anything to talk about.

Passion project: Community outreach in the STEM field within rural Maine. Students need to understand their ability to have impact and make change in the world regardless of where they are from or what they feel their education has or hasn’t prepared them for. Originally from rural Maine myself, I understand the challenges associated with continuing education and local employment opportunities for students and young professionals in the area.

Audacious goal: My big hairy audacious goal is to manage a multi-billion-dollar company and I’d love nothing more than for it to be in the great state of Maine.

Favorite quote: I have two:

“No organization can depend on genius; the supply is always scare and unreliable. It is the test of an organization to make ordinary human beings perform better than they seem capable of, to bring out whatever strength there is in its members, and to use each person’s strengths to help all others perform. The purpose of an organization is to enable common people to do uncommon things.” — Peter Drucker

“The Man in the Arena” speech by Theodore Roosevelt, because we all know the critic doesn’t count.

Influential book: A book suggested to me very early in my career was “The Five Temptations of a CEO,” by Patrick Lencioni. I would highly recommend it for anyone. It contains timeless advice for recognizing and avoiding common leadership mistakes.

Favorite movies/TV shows: I’d rather listen to music but one of my favorite movies is “The Imitation Game.” I’ve also managed to get hooked on “Yellowstone” — Season 5 can’t come soon enough.

How do you recharge: It hasn’t happened enough in the past two years, but I enjoy getting outside and leaving my phone behind. I’ve found more peace of mind on a walk in the woods than anywhere else. As Thoreau said, “The question is not what you look at but what you see.”

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