Engineering is a Mindset
Blog post by ELP student Sanidhya Singh (Biomedical Engineering | Class of 2022) Interning at Parabricks
When I was given my offer letter to intern at Parabricks, a genomics analysis startup in Ann Arbor, I was conflicted. On one hand, I’d landed myself a gig on the cutting edge of technology and medicine, a niche that I hope to work in one day. On the other hand, I was working as a business development intern, not as a part of the product development side of the business.
I was unsure of what was to come and, frankly, I questioned if I would be able to do my job. In my time here, I’ve come to realize that being an engineer in a business role gives you a unique perspective and mindset that makes you a valuable part of your organization. Here’s what I’ve taken away from the experience so far and some tips for success for others in this position.
Not Every Problem Has a Concrete Solution, and That’s Okay
As engineers and technical workers, we’re convinced that for every problem, there is a surefire solution, one that can remedy a problem completely. From a business perspective, this mindset couldn’t be more incorrect. Here, there is no formula or algorithmic methodology of tackling challenges because of the uncertainty introduced by a human element. People don’t follow a set framework of thought (thank god), so it becomes a challenge to cater your solutions to them.
There is no surefire way for me to market our business to maximize our ROI, and that’s ok. There isn’t a surefire way to reach out to leads to nurture a fruitful relationship, and that’s ok. There definitely isn’t a way to make contacts open your emails and even that’s ok. Life in a business development role involves a lot more hypothesizing, testing, failing and pivoting (emphasis on failing) than I would like; however, it’s taught me to brush off small setbacks easily, something that is beneficial almost everywhere in life.
Don’t Stop Looking for the Best Way to Do Something
Perfection is an unattainable goal, but as engineers, we grasp at it every day. Don’t let that passion for improvement die. Be observant. Look around you. See what can be done better. Remember that innovation doesn’t have to be some massive undertaking. In my lead generation and data entry tasks, I used to input tons of unnecessary information that wasn’t relevant to our business operations. Simply removing two categories from our data dredging operation has saved my company hours of work and unnecessary clutter in documentation. By constantly looking for a better way to do things, you’ll stay mentally engaged while helping your company become more efficient. It’s a win-win.
Be Open-Minded, You Still Have A Lot to Learn
When I joined Parabricks, I expected to be drowning in spreadsheets and emails all summer long. Initially, this is exactly what it felt like. Work used to leave me drained and bored. I took the initiative to be more open-minded about my work and what it has to offer. Since then, I’ve learned things no classroom or engineering lecture has ever taught me. I’ve learned about the business side of medicine and how the finances of a research center or hospital work. I’ve learned about the sales process and how it is tailored for different buyers. I’ve begun to understand the psyche of different buyer personas. I’ve even learned how to operate the espresso machine (kinda). The bottom line is that keeping an open mind has left me much more satisfied with my experience and has taught me skills that I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise.
This is something I struggled with. This internship is my first desk job as well as my first experience in business where I wasn’t my own boss. As a result, I found myself asking others if I was doing things right for every small task. I got caught up with internet how-to videos regarding marketing and sales, trying to find the best way to work. After studying enough contradicting videos and articles, I came to the conclusion that there was no right way to do something. Neither the internet nor my boss knew the right solution to the problems we faced; often my guess was as good as theirs. Trusting my decisions helped me test my own hypothesis and develop concrete skills. Even when I’m wrong, it gives me something to learn from.
It sounds cliche to say, but you really should try to have a good time. I know how easy it is to get sucked into your work or be bored. Try to have some fun at work. Find a cool playlist. Talk to your coworkers. Try some new restaurants near you for lunch. Make an effort to make your experience as enjoyable as possible. It’s still summer, after all.