Connection & Self-Understanding

As I finish the I&E Certificate and my time in college here at Duke, I would like to reflect back on my learnings from the I&E department, and on my experience as a whole.

Over these past 4 years, my goals and interests have definitely evolved over time. As a wide-eyed freshman first entering college, I remember being headstrong; I wanted to create my own start-up. I wanted to graduate from the biomedical engineering (BME) program and work in the field of medical technology on some groundbreaking cancer treatment or medical device. I began the I&E program sophomore year, and after a few classes and my first experience with start-ups, I realized that I was not yet ready to create an entrepreneurial venture. However, I knew I still wanted to be involved with cutting edge technologies, preferably in the medical/biotech space related to my BME major. I branched out junior year, pursuing personal interests in marine ecology, studying nonprofits, and working for a corporation. Each path had unique challenges, but they are not mutually exclusive. For example, a company can be both financially stable and socially responsible. Academically, I began to pivot as I realized that an undergraduate BME degree is not quite good enough to “find a cure for cancer.”

(Wow! I can’t believe how much has happened these past 4 years!)

Now as a senior, after exploring different careers and class topics, I have a strong grasp of what I hope to do in the future. I am still interested in the medical/biotech space after taking my senior design classes, but I do not have the experience needed to dive right into these fields. I plan to work as a product manager at a successful startup which was recently acquired. This will give me experience working with and supporting teams as they work to deliver products into the real world. As I gain more experience I may decide to change my future career path, but I’ve learned that this is okay, and to just take it as it comes instead of trying to plan out everything in life.

I’m so glad that I participated in the I&E Certificate. The I&E classes were easily my favorite classes. The professors were deeply knowledgeable and well-connected. The content was interesting, relevant, and I would not have been exposed to the material otherwise. This program complemented my other academic and extracurricular experiences perfectly. As a BME student, I have broad technical background on a variety of topics: software, hardware, electronics, biotech. As a studio member and studio lead of Duke’s Design for America club, I learned about how human-centered design can be used to make products with social and economic impact. Finally, the I&E program provided a great background into business and innovation, teaching my about how to build a startup that is financially sustainable and socially responsible. The intersection of technology, design, and business is often touted as vital for product managers, and I am excited to apply what I learn to my first job.

Most importantly, I’ve learned so many life lessons from my time with the I&E program. These bits of wisdom were perfectly interweaved with the knowledge and education I gained from the I&E program, gathered from professors, mentors, managers, guest speakers, and Duke alumni who contributed their time to help me and my fellow students learn and grow.

  • Work for the pursuit of passion. Having that internal drive will get you so much further than any external reward.
  • Develop a network of support. Professors, mentors, peers, friends will always be available and willing to help;
  • Learning is everywhere. Not just in a classroom, but all around you. Learn from your experience, from your surroundings, from your interactions.
  • The future is about the journey I take, not the final destination

While I am a bit reminiscent to graduate, I look forward to what the future holds!