“I feel like we’re experiencing a shift toward more women in STEM,” said Kelsey Skoog, a biomedical engineering major at the University of Minnesota. “In biomedical engineering, there’s actually a lot of women in my classes. It’s pretty even and I think we’re on the right track.” This summer, Skoog had the opportunity to keep that momentum going when she accepted an internship position at Laser Peripherals LLC.
This was Skoog’s first industry experience, as was the case for fellow hires Meghan Durre, Max Schlotthauer, and Haley Oswald.
“When I got here, I was pretty much the only woman in the office,” Oswald said. Though perhaps intimidating at first, she admitted, this had little effect on the quality of her experience. “It’s important to know that you’re capable and you can get along with everyone. Just trust yourself.”
“One of the most reassuring things has been actually getting this real experience in the workplace,” Skoog agreed. “Here, your opinions and your thoughts are just as valued as anyone else.”
In the seven years that Laser Peripherals, and its sister company Clarus Medical, have been hiring interns through SciTech, their approach has always been inclusive and involved, giving their students as much responsibility and exposure as they can.
“I view these internships as an extension of their education,” explained Randy Gatzke, CFO of Laser Peripherals. “And I think for a lot of students coming out of college, having some type of internship on their resume is a big door-opener. So we try to give them some real-world experiences of what a business looks like, how it functions, the whole thing.”
It starts with trust
As a first-time intern, Durre said, “I didn’t really know what to expect, coming in. But everyone has been super friendly. I like that it’s a smaller company because I’ve gotten to know everyone pretty well, and I wasn’t expecting that.”
“I really enjoyed the hands-on aspect I’ve gotten in this internship,” Skoog added. “Having my own project was really fun and I like that I’ve gotten a little experience in all aspects of the engineering process. They have trust in all of us to get our jobs done.”
Skoog was responsible for writing build processes, conducting product testing and then reporting on the results. By transferring production work instructions and categorizing old files, Oswald got to “see all the aspects that go into a med device.”
Durre helped redesign some parts for Clarus Medical’s digital devices, built prototypes, and tested them along with the packaging integrity.
“We give them real-world routines, tasks and critical steps for each one of these products,” Gatzke said. “If they weren’t doing it, either we would need to find outside resources to complete the tasks or we’d have to hire someone else to do it. So it’s meaningful to the company, patients and the rest of our employees. There’s a benefit for us but there’s also the benefit that the students get out of having tangible pieces that they can put on their resume going forward, to start to build that career path.”
With its welcoming and supportive work environment, Laser Peripheral and Clarus Medical helped make Durre, Oswald and Skoog’s foray into industry a positive and encouraging experience, further strengthening the professional shift for women in STEM.
“I am very thankful that they’ve treated me like an equal,” Oswald concluded, “that made it a really great experience for my first internship.”
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