Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Betsy Swovick
Education (UR and additional): BS Biomedical Engineering and Certificate in Management Studies
Current job title: Chemical Process Engineer
Current employer: Bausch + Lomb
Current city/state of residence: Rochester, NY
Community activities: United Way, Ashford Ballet Company, B+L Young Leaders Network
When and how did you choose your major(s)?
The summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school I attended PREP (Pre-College Experience in Physics) at U of R. PREP is a summer science program for selected 9th or 10th graders from the Rochester area public schools that aims to encourage young women’s interest in science. Both of my instructors for this program were BME majors and spoke very highly of the program. We also were given the opportunity to learn more about BME from a couple of the professors within the department. I knew instantly that the integration of science, math, and biology was precisely what I wanted to study in college (although, at that time, I was still convinced that this would be my pre-med major and I would go on to be a doctor). I only applied to colleges that had BME as an option and ended up choosing U of R because of the ability to start working with the Medical Center.
By the time I was done taking BME201, I had decided engineering had me and I no longer wanted to pursue a career in medicine. As I suddenly had opened up all of this time in my curriculum, I looked into what other classes I could start taking. I fell upon a Certificate in Management studies which coupled nicely with my cluster in Economics. I loved these classes in a completely different way than my BME ones and still find myself drawn to this field as well.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
I was very involved in both the Ballet Performance Group and the Music Interest Floor. I not only gained life-long friends from these groups, but also improved my leadership and management skills. My current role as a process engineer requires me to take on project management duties and having the experience of being on multiple executive boards while in college gave me the opportunity to easily transition into management roles in industry.
What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use?
I tell every underclassman that I meet to utilize office hours! I think so many students take them for granted, but going to office hours improved my relationships with my professors (and therefore my grades).
Another thing that I preach is to say “yes” while in college. I had so much energy while I was at UR and there were so many opportunities to take advantage of! Whether the opportunities that present themselves to you are research, networking, internships, or leadership roles, college is the time to say yes and do it all!
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
Starting in January/February my senior year I started applying for jobs non-stop – the tally was easily up to 100 by the time I graduated. I did not limit myself by geography and just applied to anything that I thought I was qualified to do. I ended up applying for a lot of clinical research positions as I worked in clinical research for 3 years as an undergrad and felt that I had the most experience in that field. This first position I was offered was as a Clinical Study Assistant at Bausch + Lomb, I worked in that job for 6 months before a permanent engineering position opened up within the company and ended up transitioning to that role by the January after graduation. I have now been a Chemical Process Engineer at B+L for almost two years!
What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?
One of the biggest “nuggets of knowledge” that I have taken with me is how to think. The problem solving mindset that I had to use as a BME major is one of the reasons I am able to work efficiently in my current role. Another big skill set that I have honed in on since college is the leadership and management skills I mentioned earlier. Having this combination of skills really helps me to be consistently successful in the work place.
Where would you like to be in five years?
Five years from now I plan to have my MBA and moving into a role in Business Development and/or Marketing. I like the engineering mindset, but would like to move into the commercial side of industry and begin to integrate the two fields.
What advice do you have for current Hajim School students about their time on campus, graduate study, or the first few years after college?
While on campus take advantage of everything the school offers! Say yes, go to networking opportunities, work with your professors, stay after class to chat – you have so much right at your fingertips!
Right after college, I encourage recent graduates to continue networking and become involved in community organizations. I became heavily involved in the United Way’s campaign this past year which has increased my visibility in my organization as well as in Rochester.
I also think that right when you graduate you shouldn’t worry about your first job out of college. Find something that pays the bills and gives you experience, it doesn’t have to be your dream job right off the bat (because, honestly, you probably don’t even know what that is, even if you think you do). I’m learning more and more about my passions every day so I preach that your first position doesn’t need to be perfect, but you do need to take advantage of all the connections you can make at it! Go to networking events, join special interest groups within your organization, get involved, and make yourself known. That way, when your dream position opens up (and you’ve figured out what your dream position is) you are the first person the hiring manager thinks of!