Describe Your Job

Describe Your Job. – Medical Device Process Engineering – Lots of Variety in Production, in the Lab, in Meetings and at my Desk

Posted on November 13, 2011. Filed under: Describe Your Job |

I’m currently a senior bio-engineering co-op in an endoscopy division of a medical device company, where I do process engineering work.  It is my job to assist coworkers who are continually implementing, improving, and ensuring successful production of a medical device.  My job includes updating product information to keep it current with production, analyzing data and applying it to product improvement, and developing a new process to be used on the production line.  I also support the R&D department by gathering information or completing tasks, as required.

Like many production sites, we have an office area and a production floor. While I have a desk up in the office area, by no means can I always be found there. When I come in, I usually spend a little time at the computer getting caught up on emails and other clerical tasks. I only spend about half of my day at my desk updating paperwork, updating information within our electronic document storage system, or doing statistical analyses and reporting. The other half of my day is usually spent away from my desk measuring product, making samples, or other things that require me to use resources around the facility. I don’t like being confined to my desk, so it is welcoming to work with people located in other areas.

To date, I haven’t had a day that has been the same as the previous day. Often times I have similar tasks, but nothing has been too repetitive. My time is split between my desk, the production floor, the testing lab, and meetings with various people. It is also worth mentioning that people in the various departments are nice and down to earth, which makes them usually very willing to cooperate and help me complete my assignments. This aids in my development and growth as a professional engineer.

One of  my greatest challenges as a co-op has been transitioning from an unknowing outsider to a full time employee in a short matter of time.  This requires learning all the names of acronyms, software, vendors, materials, or engineering terms that are unique to a particular company, but used in everyday speech by the staff. Since co-ops and internships last for such a limited time, it sometimes feels like it’s the end of your rotation before you finally get a complete grasp on the workings of a company. Co-ops and interns  have just as much of a right to know what is going on as everyone else, so it’s important to ask for clarification any time something is unfamiliar. During a previous rotation with a different company, I struggled greatly with finding the courage to ask questions every time I didn’t know something. I came to realize that asking questions doesn’t make you look any less intelligent; in fact, it helps your job performance because you’re more aware of what you’re doing and more importantly, why you’re doing it.  I’m still hesitant to ask questions sometimes, but my experience and the people I work with have certainly helped me overcome this challenge.

Although I’ve only been in my job for ten weeks,  I’ve fallen in love with the industry, the company, and my job. The medical device industry is especially important because of its promise of providing better products, processes, and treatments for healthcare. Almost everything within the field is dedicated to saving peoples’ lives and improving the quality of life for people everywhere. I like my company because of the way it emphasizes quality and the way it reaches out to its employees. Whether it’s through employee appreciation days, good health and wellbeing events, or even just the continual reminders of the quality statement, my company really makes sure employees know how their work benefits everyday people. In turn, higher quality products are made by happy and willing employees. Such dedication to preaching and maintaining the beliefs held by the quality statement can be found few other places. With my job, I often get to interact with product builders who are directly responsible for building the high quality products. It is great to interact with them and see their finished products on a daily basis and knowing that they will be used to significantly help people.

There are really only two things that I haven’t liked so far. As with other big corporations, my company is located in many different sites across the country and around the globe. As with the product I am working on, the R&D and production sites for a particular product are not at the same location. Most communication is done over the phone or by email between sites. I think it would be better to have everyone working on a particular product to be at a single location. However, this is the tradeoff with working for a big corporation compared to working for a smaller start-up company. The second thing that I haven’t liked as much about this co-op experience is something not related to the company itself. Due to limited living options close to work, I live a little over an hour away from work and have to make the commute every day. Obviously, it’s not an ideal situation, especially considering the money that I’m pouring into the oil business. However, I prefer commuting an hour each day to a job that I love over living five minutes way from a job that I hate. Luckily, my company and my fellow co-workers make me want to come into work every morning. That’s something that can’t be said about every company and every job!

 [jb1]This job isn’t biotech.

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Describe Your Job. – Stinky Pulp Mill, Busy Paper Mill and Quiet Engineering Department

Posted on November 13, 2011. Filed under: Describe Your Job |

When I was a co-op student, I worked at a pulp and paper mill in Wisconsin that produced paper towels, toilet tissue, and facial tissue. In the pulp mill, logs were transformed into pulp through de-barking, chip-making, and processing with chemicals, heat, and mechanical action. The pulp was then pumped to the paper mill, where it was further processed and made into the various types of paper on very large papermaking machines. As a chemical engineer, the processes in the pulp mill were very interesting to me, but I was not at all enthusiastic about the working environment there. Pulp mills are notorious for emissions of foul smelling sulfur compounds, and that pulp mill was no exception.

I was happy that my assignments were in the paper mill and engineering department instead of the pulp mill. During one rotation in the paper mill, I had several different projects: I tested a chemical additive that reduced the need of a more expensive chemical additive; I monitored processes on a daily basis and reported on them at morning meetings; and I wrote process upset reports based on my investigation of process problems. In that job, I spent most of my day on the manufacturing floor checking on things, interacting with staff, and solving problems. In a plant that runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, there is always something important to be done. In contrast, during my next rotation, my assignments in the engineering department involved more time spent at my desk, where I managed projects such as developing a computer model of the paper drying process, specifying and ordering equipment, and planning equipment installations. The desk job was quieter and gave me more time to concentrate on in-depth problems, but I missed the physical activity and energy of being on the manufacturing floor.

My greatest challenge was learning how to communicate effectively, which I accomplished by learning to ask the right questions, learning how to write memos and reports, and learning how to contribute at meetings. As an engineering student, I was happy I didn’t need to take many writing classes. However, I later realized how a strong foundation in writing is necessary in order to communicate well. Moreover,poor communication can lead to BIG problems while excellent communication can increase efficiency and reduce problems. As engineers, we want to solve problems and not cause them by our poor communication.

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