Trent Agnew

MBA '17

Design Assurance Engineering Manager

What do you do professionally?

I work for Medtronic’s Neurosurgery division as a Design Assurance Engineering Manager; the future of our business is in value-based healthcare. I got my undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering at A&T in Greensboro, North Carolina. My senior year there, I did an eight-week research assignment with Dr. Patrick Wolf, who was over in the Pratt School of Engineering, for treatment of cardiac arrhythmias. That summer of ’96, I really developed an affinity for medical science. I had done internships with GE and Ford, but when I was at Duke that summer it changed the trajectory of my career—which is how I ended up at Medtronic. I wanted to satisfy that desire to help people around the world.

Trent Agnew in college

What have you gained from your involvement with Fuqua/Duke?

Getting a Fuqua MBA did two things: It unlocked my exposure to and interest from the executive level within Medtronic. It has opened doors, almost magically, just from hearing the name Duke and the Fuqua brand. A Medtronic executive, who was very interested in my enrollment at Fuqua and the HSM program, was on stage with the CEO at a leadership conference and discussed how leading the company starts with perseverance. He mentioned “meeting a young man who was going to a prestigious university to get his MBA and paying for it himself.” My phone immediately started blowing up with people saying, “He’s talking about you!” Everyone knew.

Only a month into Duke, I was asked by the president of the neurovascular/brain therapy division to join his team once I finished my MBA. I was also selected to participate in a leadership program; a group of only 14 individuals nationally. I knew that part of the reason for being chosen was because of being at Fuqua. It established a whole new level of exposure to leadership in the neurovascular division. I’ve taken over a team of engineers that develop robots that assist with spinal and cranial surgery. It supports value-based healthcare from a technology perspective and is being developed at a location that lies at the confluence of my talents and passion, and can benefit from a business-minded perspective within the product reliability team.

Along the entire journey, Duke has been there every step—people recognizing the Duke brand and wanting to have that talent in their organization. From the business perspective, Fuqua has given me the knowledge to have meaningful discussions at the executive level within Medtronic.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I like to travel and sing. I play the piano (by ear), but I love singing the most. I have five siblings and we’re eclectic when it comes to music – we enjoy anything from rock to reggae to gospel to R&B.

Trent Agnew with Family

I also enjoy mentoring youth, particularly those less fortunate who may not have been exposed to business or engineering. It’s a passion of mine. I love making an impact by mentoring at high schools.

Trent Agnew school mentoring

What does Team Fuqua mean to you?

My biggest takeaway from the Fuqua experience is collaboration—being open to other perspectives from a function standpoint, a gender standpoint, a geographical standpoint, etc. If you only consider engineering, finance, or a particular demographic, you’re never going to get an optimal solution. Your decisions are only as good as the data that you bring in. Collaboration, diversity, and inclusion are critical to being a successful leader.

Trent Agnew

Favorite Fuqua memory?

I’m split between our cohort being challenged by Katherine Schipper to defend certain perspectives in her own special way and when we went to Dubai for a residency. Our class rode camels and saw shows at night—it was a new experience for a lot of us. It’s such a beautiful city with such a different culture.

Why do you support the Fuqua Annual Fund?

To me, great leaders can make leaders. I want to contribute to the process of making the next generational leader, which is what Fuqua does. It takes financial resources to create the optimal educational experience and to pull in the best faculty that train the next generation of leaders. I support the Fuqua Annual Fund because of my honest desire to help develop the people that are coming after me.

Young Trent Agnew