Young and aspiring engineers often want to do something important, something that has real and substantial value in the world. Amanda Pratt ('10) got to do just that - even better, she was able to find this type of work doing something she loved and learning something she was interested in. Amanda has been in the Edison Engineering Development Program at GE Healthcare in Waukesha, Wisconsin for the past few years where she has worked on several important projects, both overseas and at home.
GE Healthcare is a part of one of 6 of GE's sub-businesses that focuses, unsurprisingly, on medical equipment. Its Edison Engineering Development Program, in which Amanda is enrolled, gives recent college grads the unique opportunity to rotate between 4 different 6-month assignments, each of which includes work on some type of medical equipment. In the past two years Amanda has worked on CT detectors and PET scanners, and has traveled to India to work on rural ultrasounds.
But there's more to her role than just equipment development. The rotational program implements aspects of engineering beyond hardware, including usability and lab testing, industrial design, and communication with customers and suppliers. This provides a broader experience that takes into account the networking and business skills that are needed for future success. In addition, GE itself is an example of an established yet progressive company; Amanda has learned how companies work, which will serve her well if she manages a technical team someday.
The rural ultrasound in use in Bangladesh.
Olin too focuses on the business aspect of engineering, with many of our students choosing to start their own businesses or joining early-stage start-ups. In addition, Olin breeds the design and customer mindset, something that Amanda says "sets Oliners apart." And that user-focused orientation, she has found, is not as commonly practiced or understood in engineering work environments as one would think. Amanda emphasizes that, when there is more to a project than crunching numbers or writing code, Olin students thrive. "You have to have great technical skills to get the job, but once you are there, people who have decent technical skills are a dime a dozen. Oliners' skills set them apart and open broader opportunities." She is careful, however not to minimize the strong technical skills, stating that they are critical to getting your foot in the door and in order to be respected in any engineering profession.
Amanda is thoroughly enjoying her time in the GE rotational program, doing interesting and meaningful work every day. She recommends this type of program to anyone who would be interested in staying with a company long-term. Always planning ahead, Amanda's next steps include taking a break from the corporate world and going back to school for a few years in order to continue to build her technical and business skills. She will be matriculating to UC Berkeley in the fall for an MSEE, and will then continue on to Harvard Business School a few years after that.
As her last bit of advice for students looking ahead in their careers, Amanda says, "...take big risks and challenge yourself. Don't be afraid - you don't know what you're capable of!"