As they collaborate to develop surgical robots, one graduate of Northeastern’s Gordon Institute helps another

Head shot of Amine Belarbi.
The Gordon Institute for Engineering Leadership strengthened Amine Belarbi by teaching him “to be vulnerable.” Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Northeastern University graduate Richard Bedard was seeking to hire an electrical engineer to help develop robotics for surgical procedures when he came across an application of unusual promise.

The applicant was Amine Belarbi, who was studying at Northeastern for a master’s degree in electrical engineering while also participating in the Gordon Institute of Engineering Leadership at Northeastern, a year-long certificate program that trains up to 45 students annually in team-building and leadership skills. 

Bedard was very familiar with the Gordon Institute, he had also completed the program.

“He escalated right to the top of the list of people I wanted to hire,” Bedard says.

In addition, Belarbi was leaving a company for which Bedard had worked for 15 years. 

“So I knew exactly the type of work he did, the type of products he supported,” says Bedard, director of product engineering at Siemens Healthineers. “I figured that he was a really good fit for the role that I needed.”

By enrolling at the Gordon Institute, which helps broaden the perspective of engineers and tech specialists to embrace the views of colleagues as well as customers, Belarbi was acknowledging the importance of people skills and managing conflicts. Based on his own experiences at the institute, Bedard realized that Belarbi was being trained in skills that would be crucial in his new job.

Belarbi did get the role as senior advance electrical manufacturing engineer at Corindus Vascular Robotics, a startup within Siemens Healthineers. And the key word was advance: To help perfect products before they hit the market, Belarbi would need to collaborate with a variety of colleagues while encouraging everyone to see beyond the scope of their individual responsibilities.

Which was to say that Belarbi—with the mentoring and support of his new boss—would be putting to use the lessons of the Gordon Institute.

“I always wished I had the tools, the knowledge, to have influence and deal with conflict resolutions,” Belarbi says. “The Gordon Institute was transformative for me because of my lived experience.”

Born in Algeria and raised in France, Belarbi’s dream was to build his career in the U.S. He had been working in Boston for almost a decade when he realized that his desire for self-sufficiency—a self-made man taught to reject help and support as signs of weakness—was limiting him.

“I couldn’t go beyond what I see in myself. I was restrained in my own world,” Belarbi says. “One thing that I’ve learned from the Gordon Institute is to be vulnerable.”

At the institute, students spend the year working within small groups that encourage them to support and rely upon their teammates.

“Amine was always professional, but there was an edge with him,” says Mike Manning, a retired Army colonel who taught Belarbi at the Gordon Institute. “Not an arrogance, but there was a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. It was born out of always having to prove himself.”

“I call it the international immigrant rule,” Belarbi says. “You have to do twice as much and be twice as good as the regular guy.”

Vulnerability—opening oneself up to others—is one of the institute’s “secret sauces” that enable collaboration and superior outcomes, says Manning. It turns engineers into influential leaders.

Bedard felt empathy for Belarbi, who was taking on a new job while helping his wife raise their baby daughter and pursuing a master’s.

“All of that is really respectable,” says Bedard, who attended the institute while earning a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering at Northeastern from 2012 to 2014. “He’s an outstanding person, very smart, very ambitious. I think he’s got a lot of moral character and solid, fundamental engineering skills—a hands-on guy.”

Belarbi embraced the institute’s lessons, says Manning.

“It was evident that Amine had become more comfortable in his own skin,” Manning says. “He had become ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’ and he was willing to be vulnerable, to trust himself and others as appropriate. He actively looked for ways to contribute to mission success while building up those around him without necessarily driving the process. It was beautiful to see.”

Belarbi earned his Gordon Institute certificate one year ago. He graduated this month with his master’s degree. Bedard sees Belarbi learning in real time how to apply vulnerability and situational leadership at the right times.

Bedard says he constantly refers back to his year at the Gordon Institute. He now sees Belarbi applying the same lessons to his career.

“It’s my role to make sure he knows that he’s very valuable to the organization,” Bedard says. “The work that he’s doing is extremely important and critical to the next generation of products. He’s kicking butt. He’s putting workflows together that make sense. He’s putting high-level information in his presentations to say, ‘This is what we’re doing. And here’s why we’re doing it.’”

Ian Thomsen is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @IanatNU.