Rebecca Wilkins: engineering in the medical sector
2 December 2013
As engineers we’re at the forefront of technology. It’s the technology that we’ve invented over time that defines us as human and shapes the world we live in. Think how important the invention of the sewing needle would have been in its day, or the wheel, and in modern times the invention of the internet or smartphone. Engineering plays a critical role in the development of everything in the man-made world. I believe that as women we need to be a part of that very important process.
I didn’t set out to be an engineer actually; I got here in a slightly roundabout way.
Following my passion for design I studied Industrial Design at University. After graduating, I got a job as a model maker and Industrial Designer for a large consumer company designing household products. After 4 years learning the ropes as an industrial designer I did a complete turnaround. I left working as a designer in the consumer industry and started working as an engineer for a start-up company that was developing an artificial heart. This was a very exciting time for me. My work was so varied - one day I was modelling and designing parts in CAD, the next I was building and testing the heart pumps, and another day I was watching someone’s life being saved through open heart surgery while implanting the device I was involved in designing. What an amazing feeling. I’ve since been involved with many implantable medical products including a cochlear implant that allows the profoundly deaf to hear. Knowing that you can make a positive impact to peoples’ lives and to the environment we share is what drives me in engineering.
Working for an OEM means you work on one product or a narrow range of products in more depth or across the whole development. I now work in consulting and this offers much more variety in the types of products I design and engineer. I work for product development and technology company Sagentia as a consultant engineer. I have been the technical lead on several projects, mostly in the medical sector, as this is what I love most. The great thing about working in consulting is the access you get to what is going on across all sectors of industry and to the technology that is driving these industries forward. It gives such a broad perspective to what is going on at the forefront of both science and technology across the globe. At Sagentia we get to work with the big global leaders right down to small ingenious start-up companies across medical, consumer, industrial and oil & gas markets, so there is always something varied and interesting to work on.
Finally I’d say that working in engineering is great fun because engineers and scientists are great people to work with. I’ve always enjoyed the humble, friendly and relaxed but challenging atmosphere in engineering and am always learning lots from my colleagues as we often work in cross functional teams. It’s a stimulating environment to work within and the opportunities are many and varied.
Rebecca Wilkins is a Consultant Engineer at Sagentia, a global technology and product development services company.