Since a very early age, I dreamed of becoming a surgeon. In college, I explored this idea further by interning at a local emergency room; that experience solidified that this fast-paced, intense environment was exactly what I was looking for as my career. My dream continued to evolve, as I considered a focus in forensic pathology.
Saying I wasn’t a great college student is an understatement. Three years into my Biochemical/Chemical Engineering program, my hopes of being accepted into medical school were pretty much gone. I entered into engineering as a backup plan, knowing that pharmaceuticals were a growing field and I could probably find a job out of college if med school didn’t pan out. Now it appeared that both were unlikely to happen.
I felt lost, insecure and unsure of what to do next. In order to achieve my goal, I would need to change my major and spend three additional years in college to raise my GPA. So I took the next year off from school to reevaluate my goals.
I landed a job at the County Coroner’s office as a morgue attendant and autopsy assistant. My duties included incoming processing of decedents, fingerprinting, processing x-rays and assisting the pathologist throughout the autopsy.
On my first day, I felt like I was awake for the first time in years; I was actively engaging in the world around me. Being faced with death on a daily basis gave me a greater appreciation for life and I started to gain some clarity on what parts of medicine I wanted to pursue in my career. I became intrigued with different diseases and their impact on the body, but after almost two years at the Coroner’s office, I realized my drive to become a doctor was gone. Instead, I recognized that as a biochemical engineer, I could help develop pharmaceuticals to aid a greater community.
During this difficult time I was given great encouragement from one of my engineering professors; he assured me that while I wasn’t a great student grade-wise, I would still be a success in the workplace. So, I went back to school and after a lot of work, I completed my degree and found a position at BioMarin Pharmaceutical. In Clinical Manufacturing, I worked to help optimize growth and ensured product quality and consistency. I was drawn to BioMarin due to its focus in providing therapy to patients with rare genetic diseases that sometimes result in death at a young age. The innovative therapy and direct patient impact have driven me to continue my career at BioMarin, pursuing positions that directly impact the patients and the availability of the product. I was also encouraged by upper management to pursue jobs in other departments to find where I could be the greatest asset. During my first years at BioMarin I had the opportunity to work in Manufacturing, Project Management, Logistics and Contract Manufacturing.
I am now managing the Packaging Operations group for the company. I am able to use my scientific and artistic sides to design for both the packaging equipment and the end user. Knowing that patients with rare diseases will now receive much needed therapy because of the work that we do is extremely fulfilling.
This year marks my 10th year at BioMarin. Now that I have found the field that I love, I’ve gone back to school – this time online – partly to learn as much as I can about the field, and partly to redeem myself as a student. I will complete my Master’s in Packaging at Michigan State University in the summer of 2014.
While it was extremely difficult and embarrassing, I am glad I failed in college. It forced me to stop and reevaluate what I truly wanted, and I learned that with persistence I could overcome insurmountable obstacles and take control of my future.