“Building a Career Path as an Engineer” is written by Jaime Ristow, SWE member and Manufacturing Engineering Manager at Becton Dickinson.
Ever since I was little, one of my favorite subjects was math. As I got closer to going to college, I looked for a career opportunity that included this subject but also had elements of creative thinking and problem-solving. I felt like engineering was the perfect blend for what I was looking for. When I started college, then, the question wasn’t if I wanted to become an engineer, but what type of engineer I wanted to be.
As an undergraduate student majoring in Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, I was able to build an engineering background that helped me start my career. Being involved in activities and organizations outside of my classes also played a big role in learning how to better communicate and work with others in teams. I also lived on campus, which made it easy to stay connected and be involved. I also formed a great study group within my engineering major.
One of my very favorite classes that helped prepare me for my career was the senior design class. The project I was given was to work with a local medical manufacturing company to optimize one of their production processes. Because of how much I enjoyed the overall experience, it led me to search for a career in the medical manufacturing industry.
When I started college, then, the question wasn’t if I wanted to become an engineer, but what type of engineer I wanted to be.
I now work for a medical technology and manufacturing company called Becton Dickinson, based in Columbus, Nebraska at our Pharmaceutical Systems plant. I manage our engineering and technical team to make sure our manufacturing processes are running efficiently and producing high-quality products every day. My team is also responsible for projects that can help improve our processes and create a better customer experience.
A large part of being an engineer is to help better the lives of others. The company I work for has a mission to “advance the world of health,” and I get to do that every day thanks to my engineering degree.
After some years of working, I found I wanted to transition into the operations side of the business. I chose the online Master of Engineering Management degree at Nebraska, which felt like a great opportunity to learn more about business and operations within a technical field. What attracted me the most to the program was the flexibility you have in being able to customize your learning experience. I wanted to become a better technical leader and get exposure to business courses I wasn’t required to take during my undergraduate years. Through this program, I was able to fulfill both of these goals.
When you consider your career, one thing I’ve embraced is to treat every experience as an opportunity to learn. Be open to learning new skills, even ones you didn’t think you’d enjoy. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone is the best way to learn.
Another tip I have – especially for females in STEM fields – is to find a mentor who will give you transparent feedback and advice. I feel very fortunate that I’ve had several great mentors at the company I’m currently working for. When I didn’t feel I was ready to take on a new challenge or doubted my capabilities, they’ve helped encourage me to keep challenging myself and striving for my goals.
And finally, I encourage you to join STEM-associated organizations. I’m passionate about development, and organizations like SWE provide many opportunities for growing in your profession and connecting with others.
About the Author
Jaime Ristow has a B.S. in Industrial and Management Systems Engineering and a Master of Engineering Management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She currently works as a manufacturing engineering manager at Becton Dickinson, a medical technology and manufacturing company.