On November 14th, the NJIT Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and Career Development Services (CDS) co-hosted a workshop that was focused on exposing students to successful alumni in the biomedical engineering industry. The workshop consisted of a Q&A session moderated by the Biomedical Engineering Society’s senior leadership (President Pamela Rivera & Vice President Sahitya Allam) followed by a networking session with the speakers.
Saariga Uma, a senior quality engineer at BD, and Ketan Gujarathi, the Manager of Metrics and Knowledge Management at Bristol-Myers Squibb shared with the audience their early career experiences at NJIT that prepared them for the workforce, how the trajectory of their career has changed over time, and the advice they had for students who are currently applying for competitive entry level positions, summer internships, and co-ops. Saariga started off by saying she has not deviated much in the types of positions she has pursued thus far; she has mostly taken on roles that require a solid basis in technical concepts, such as research and development and quality assessment.
Her main piece of advice to students was to apply as widely as possible, even if you have your heart set on an ideal job and aren’t willing to settle for anything different. She emphasized that the engineering industry in general is very expansive, so naturally there are a wide range of occupations that students do not realize are viable career options for them. In fact, the setting that is often most suitable is not the one people originally envision for themselves, so she stated that it is beneficial to try out different positions within companies to see what is the best fit for your personality and skillset. She also reiterated many times that experience is key, so actively promoting yourself by networking with alumni and giving your resume to recruiters at job fairs may land you the co-op or internship that lays the foundation for your future work.
On the other hand, Ketan Gujarathi spoke extensively about his “nontraditional” route to finding a job after graduation. He said he held an eclectic array of jobs as an undergraduate student – he asked alumni for $25 donations in Eberhardt Hall, he went door-to-door selling vacuum cleaners, and he taught students chemistry and math as a tutor. Despite not having been a stellar student or having had immediately relevant research and internship experience, he found jobs easily due to his ability to leverage his unique strengths. He conveyed to hiring managers that as a result of his previous experiences, where he asked alumni for donations, sold products, and taught students, he gained an ability to communicate highly technical information to diverse audiences, a skill that is easily translatable to a variety of industry jobs. Consequently, he has stated emphatically that he has never been out of a job – his strong communication skills have placed him in multiple positions.
He dispelled the notion that MATLAB and CAD are essential for industry, stating that only certain types of R&D professionals might need to be very competent in multiple programming languages or design software like CAD and ProE. In his daily work, he apparently uses Minitab often for statistical analysis, along with the Microsoft Office suite. He said Powerpoint is his most important tool, since it allows him to create slides with condensed information that he can present to his managers. For his line of work, he says that being competent at writing is completely necessary for email communication and for crafting technical reports, and that a working knowledge of basic statistics and management topics is also very useful. Surprisingly, he conceded that very little of what he learned in his specific track within BME, biomaterials and tissue engineering, is applied to his daily work.
Due to the large turnout at this workshop, BMES and CDS are hoping to conduct future collaborative events that will allow students to further interact with alumni in the biotechnology, medical device, and pharmaceutical industries and to learn from their insights. To be informed of when these events will occur, please contact CDS or BMES at firstname.lastname@example.org.