Week Three: Projects, First Steps, Culture

If you’ve ever had an internship, especially those in medical industry, you probably know one thing above all else to be true. The first week is a lot of training, document reading, and a general feeling of I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing right now. The second week can go a variety of different directions depending on the nature of the internship, the company, your supervisors, and the project (or projects) you have been assigned. For some, the lucky ones, they are able to start applying their knowledge and dig into their project. For others, the case that I think is slightly more common, the second week looks very similar to the first.

I have gotten very lucky with my internship at St. Jude Medical. I was given two challenging projects in that the solution to the problem is muddy at best. While perhaps not as urgent as the conditions I generally enjoy working under, I can see a definite impact to the implementation of my two projects. This past week was comprised of a challenging few days of attempting to determine the root causes behind the problem and how to go about fixing them.

Three tres leches cakes (they have a cute little tienda that sells them—I do hope I make it out of Costa Rica without lasting impacts on my general health), hours of brainstorming sessions, two meetings, one five-minute session of gently banging my head against my cubicle (my cube-mate may or may not be a bit concerned about me by this point), and at least 30 pieces of scratch paper and I feel like I have direction for the coming week and summer. Better yet, I think I may actually be able to finish my projects—a rare feat for medical internships.

What made it (and in some ways keeps making it) such a challenge you ask? You didn’t ask? Well¸I’m going to tell you anyway. So, take that.

The challenge was the need for a solution while keeping the highest degree of simplicity in the progress. Most engineers, believe it or not, are genuinely creative at heart. No, it’s not always the beautiful painting, majestic poetry, often romantic type of creativity. It’s more the ‘let’s make a machine to replace all humans for everything and anything, forever’ sort of creativity. Which, while immensely fun to conceptualize and design turns out is…well, not what the customer wants.

My customer, being my team, wanted simplicity. And the simple solutions are often the hardest to come up with—if they were easy then we’d have simple, cheap solutions for everything after all.

But I think I have found a solution! This coming week will be design and initial testing.

Let’s do this, talk to you later!

Jeannette Nelson

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