When and how did you choose your major?
When I entered college, I was an undecided engineering major. I had been interested in the medical side of math and science since middle school. However, I kept my options open, taking various engineering, social science, and humanities classes, until I declared biomedical engineering at the end of my sophomore year.
Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?
As an undecided engineering major, I was assigned to Lisa Norwood as my academic advisor for freshman year. She has had, and continues to have, a profound impact on my life. She encouraged me to explore all my interests, not just engineering. Even after I switched to a BME advisor, I still sought Lisa’s advice on classes, extracurricular activities, and my personal life. Since graduating, I have turned to Lisa for both insight and guidance during each of my career transitions.
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
After graduation, I had two offers for engineering management masters programs. However, I decided to join Accenture as a technical consultant because I wanted to gain real world experience in a non-laboratory work environment that presented very different challenges than those I had faced while in school.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
Currently, I work as a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) where I examine in the area of electrosurgical and cryosurgical medical devices. I don’t think I imagined myself as a Patent Examiner three years ago, but after being evacuated from my Peace Corps post in the Republic of Georgia, I came back to a failing economy, and spent weeks applying to a variety of job listings. I received two offers, one from the PTO and the other from a small biomedical engineering company. The PTO position presented numerous benefits, including a flexible work schedule, ability to work compensatory time, and remote site teleworking, all of which have allowed me to continue to travel to see my family and for vacations.
What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?
I think the greatest skill I gained from being a biomedical engineering major was working with others, a skill that was developed and honed in the biomedical engineering senior design course. As a consultant, Peace Corps volunteer, and patent examiner, I have found that being able to communicate effectively helps both myself and my team further our goals.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
Balancing my work and personal life can be difficult at times, especially since my job as a patent examiner allows me to have a flexible schedule Monday through Saturday. I have the option to sleep until 10 a.m. and work until midnight, or I can go to the office at 5:30 am and leave work at 2:30 pm. However, I try to keep myself on a fairly regular work schedule in order to avoid procrastinating getting my work done, so I have the time to take evening classes, relax with my boyfriend and friends, and volunteer.
What advice do you have for current students?
I would advise students to not just limit their course load to those classes that are in their major or to classes that they think will help them in their job hunt. I thoroughly enjoyed my non-engineering courses in the areas of Spanish, German, Medical Anthropology, and Hawaiian Dance & Culture, and I think it is essential to take some classes outside of one’s comfort zone. For those students who graduate this year, I would advise students not to underestimate alternative job listing sources – I found the job advertisement for the small biomedical engineering company that offered me an engineering position on Craigslist!