We’ve all heard the phrase, “do what makes you happy.” It seems easier said than done, especially when we spend the majority of our lives at work.
Luckily, I often find myself feeling very fulfilled at work and after reflecting on my professional experiences, I’ve been able to expose the underlying reasons. I want to share with you my top three criteria for career fulfillment and how I’ve achieved it at Eli Lilly and Company.
Criteria #1: Access and Engagement from Leadership
My story starts as a Rose-Hulman transfer student. After growing up in Lexington, KY and attending the University of Kentucky for two years, I decided to transfer schools to pursue my interest in Biomedical Engineering. Soon after arriving at Rose-Hulman, I made an appointment with the Career Services office to get advice on how to restructure my resume. After all, I was a new transfer, didn’t have any experiences to share yet from Rose-Hulman, and I switched majors from Mechanical Engineering at UK, to Biomedical Engineering at Rose-Hulman – how was I supposed to measure up to the other Rose-Hulman students at a career fair??
That day, while waiting for my appointment at Career Services, I had my first encounter with Lilly. As I was sitting in the lobby, I politely smiled at a stranger walking by – trying to avoid the natural tendency all engineers seem to have…staring at the floor. As he introduced himself, I realized that he was leading the Rose-Hulman recruiting effort for Lilly and wanted to chat with me. Sure, I would love to talk to a recruiter when my resume is in shambles!! Turns out he didn’t want to pick through my resume; instead, he was interested in understanding my interests, motivations, and community/school involvement.
Several months passed, where I continued to integrate myself at Rose-Hulman, accepted a 6-month co-op, and took on a Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering double major. The night before the career fair, I got a call from an unknown number – I don’t answer spam! The Lilly recruiter I met months ago at career services left me a voicemail asking me to stop by their booth.
That spoke volumes to me. He remembered me from that brief interaction at Career Services?? Crazy, right? Turns out, this would just be the first of many personal, meaningful interactions that I would have with Lilly engineers and leaders. This led me to criteria #1 for career fulfillment: ACCESS AND ENGAGEMENT FROM LEADERSHIP.
Criteria #2: Opportunities for Growth- Discover Your Passion
You’ve probably guessed it by this point, but I accepted an internship opportunity at Lilly for the summer of 2017. I completed my internship project, asked to participate on a secondary assignment, and had the opportunity to present my project to a packed auditorium at the end of the summer. But my focus wasn’t only to complete my project; all the interns were encouraged to use their summer to really explore Lilly. I engaged with the Women’s Engineering Network, where they gave me the opportunity to plan an event – wouldn’t have expected them to trust an intern with that! Also, by the end of the summer, I had about 90 1:1 meetings with folks spread across many Lilly organizations.
Through those 90 meetings, I really began to appreciate Lilly’s culture – 90 employees took time out of their day to appease my curiosities. Eventually, I found myself most intrigued by robotics at Lilly. I was given personal tours, learned about various automation on manufacturing lines, and discovered that Lilly had groups dedicated to robotics – not what I expected from a big pharmaceutical company! I expressed my interest in robotics to the intern coordinators and was completely candid in explaining my lack of technical expertise on the subject. This was the first time I had really been exposed to robotics, and I hadn’t taken specialized robotics/automation course up to that point. I was shocked to receive a return internship offer for the following summer with the Global Robotics Program! This led me to fulfillment criteria #2: OPPORTUNITIES FOR GROWTH – DISCOVER YOUR PASSION.
Criteria #3: A Culture for Continuous Improvement
During the summer of 2018, I really fell in love with robotics. I was absolutely fascinated by the emerging technologies and getting my hands on them. That summer’s internship project was to simulate a robotic application on an existing line, to demonstrate the benefits between the automated and current processes. I learned an entirely new software (one that nobody in the company had expertise on – so, sink or swim as they say), and used virtual reality to optimize the robotic activities within the space.
“I am motivated to continuously improve myself to be a more well-rounded employee – and most importantly, I am given access to resources to pursue that.”- Beata Tala Barati
I distinctly remember one day during that summer: I was working at my desk and the vice president of Corporate Engineering asked to enter the virtual reality simulation I was working on – pause, what?! I was not expecting that! This made me feel exceptionally valued and demonstrated again that Lilly recognizes the importance of engagement, interest, and access to leadership.
So, what’s the last piece? Probably the most important to me was criteria #3: A CULTURE FOR CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT. Some may have heard this phrase in the manufacturing setting – always working to optimize the line flow and efficiency. But I don’t mean it in that sense; I mean continuous personal improvement. Yes, Lilly gave me the opportunity to find my passion; but I have learned so much on both personal and technical levels since joining Lilly as a full-time engineer with the Global Robotics Program.
I started as a full-time engineer in June of 2019. Since then, I have developed a deep technical understanding of mobile robots, attended week-long trainings to get hands-on experience with industrial robots, joined the Rose-Hulman and MIT Engineering Recruiting Teams, taken a chair position for the Women’s Engineering Network, sponsored a Rose-Hulman Capstone project, supervised and led an internship project, and more! It’s almost unbelievable to think all of this has happened in less than 2 years!
That’s what drives me. That is why I feel fulfilled. I am motivated to continuously improve myself to be a more well-rounded employee – and most importantly, I am given access to resources to pursue that. I am challenged by my management and peers to dive deeper in technical topics but also take the time to reflect and have personal growth. Work isn’t supposed to feel like it consumes every part of your life, and I can personally say that it won’t feel that way if you are doing what makes you happy.