Closing One Chapter, Beginning Another

Can I choose a more cliché title? Probably not, but it’s true. While the chapter encompassing the adventures of GMI may be coming to an end, a new horizon awaits. The novel isn’t over yet.

Some of my most memorable, worthwhile experiences in life tend to be those where I grow the most—both personally and intellectually. GMI is definitely one of those experiences. This year has challenged me to think in new ways, pushed me to my limits, engaged my intellectual curiosity, and has allowed me to grow into a leader prepared to enter industry. It’s been filled with struggles and laughter, ups and downs and everything in between. I am so glad that I decided to come back to Rice for my master’s. It’s opened the doors to a multitude of opportunities, many that I didn’t know existed before coming to the program.

Before I go off and describe the lessons learned and most memorable experiences in GMI, there’s a lot to catch up on since my last blog. So, this post, like life, is a twisting and turning road. I’ll begin with an update on DialOasis and then transition to lessons learned and final thoughts. Bear with me for my last hurrah.

Costa Rica Trip (DialOasis)

DialOasis prototype in-progress, built at Invenio during our April trip

As Siri noted in her last blog, in the final weeks of the semester, we traveled to Costa Rica to meet with our partners down there and build the DialOasis design we had been working on all year. Of course, it wouldn’t be a real-world project if we didn’t hit a few snags along the way. Our building plans and trip changed last minute and we had to improvise. But with our quick thinking and engineering skills (and of course the help of Dr. Richardson), we were able to use our resources to modify the cuartito design on-site in a day and a half as Siri mentioned. (For more details on the design changes, see her post.) It was kind of frustrating to see a year’s worth of work being changed in a matter of hours. However, I also recognize it also would not have been possible for us to so easily adapt to the situation had we not done all the prep work beforehand and thought of every possible detail. As Dr. Richardson so sagely puts it, “Plans never work but planning does.”

Overall, I am satisfied with our hard work on the project this year. It’s rewarding to work on a project that not only has the support of GMI and Rice but also the Costa Rican community. I am excited to see next year’s team contribute their portion to the development of this project.

 

Takeaway Tidbits

As I alluded to earlier, I have learned and grown a lot this year, more than I could have ever imagined. Below is a list of some various mis-matched tidbits that I learned and/or will take with me as I begin my career.

  • What a career in medtech can look like. College majors tend to be extremely broad: bioengineering, mechanical engineering, etc. In industry, an engineer can go not only into R&D but also quality, clinical, systems engineering and more. Through touring companies, a plethora of informational interviews, and a bit of introspection, I’ve gained a better sense of the career path I would like to take.
  • The importance of understanding and validating user needs. You can design a novel device, a masterpiece of innovation. But if a clinician or patient doesn’t need it or doesn’t know how to use it, it’s going to flop. For the Activated project last semester and AllerG’s project this one, my teams spent a lot of time validating and pivoting needs.
  • “Right vs. Done.” A few weeks ago, Ross Venook (Assistant Director, Stanford Biodesign) came to speak at Rice. One thing he mentioned is that, in industry, done is often more important than right. Sometimes it’s ok to do B work. You don’t always need A+ results. As a perfectionist, this is something I have had to come to terms with this year, balancing so many projects.
  • Prototype fast, pivot early. Don’t waste your time and resources on something that doesn’t work. I learned this the hard way and now take this lesson to heart.
  • Designing medical devices is more than just engineering. Going along with the importance of validating needs, designing a medical device involves so much more than the technical side. Market models, competitive landscape, ergonomics, etc. All of these are critically important to the success of a technology.
  • Value. Everything is about value creation in industry. It seems like a simple word, but do you really understand what it means? I didn’t until GMI.
  • Networking. Cliché (like the title) but true. Coming into GMI, I did not like networking. I found it awkward. Now, while it can sometimes still be a bit uncomfortable, I enjoy putting myself out there. I wouldn’t have my job after graduation without networking.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst someone can say is no. Asking opens up opportunities. It allows you to delegate and learn new skills. You can’t know everything, but chances are someone knows what you don’t and can help you out.
  • Hobbies. Work-life balance vitally important. Have interests outside your work. I was recently asked in a job interview about how I apply my technical skills to interests outside of work. While I have interest and hobbies, this question caught me off guard. It made me think. Show your passion through your activities.
  • Build a good team around you. Our current GMI cohort is filled with wonderfully talented, smart individuals who are always willing to put in their work and help you out. Find inspiring people like that and surround yourself with them. They will drive you to be your best, both professionally and personally.

A Final Thank You  

Bye Rice. It’s been nice, but off to my next adventure.

What a ride GMI has been. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities GMI has afforded me. I would like to thank a number of people who made it possible. Firstly is Dr. Richardson. He has guided us, inspired us, and challenged us. I could have not asked for a better mentor. Much appreciation is also given to Sheretta who works tirelessly behind the scenes every day to keep GMI running. To our Costa Rican partners, thank you for support of the DialOasis project. And lastly, thank you to my fellow GMIers. I’m going to miss y’all but also can’t wait to see the successes that your futures bring.

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