On the freeway of life, the stretch between “College” and “Career” is flanked with a scattering of roadside attractions, rest stops and scenic overlooks. It’s a common belief that such detours should be avoided, but Sydney Powell would disagree. Her advice: try everything along the way. It will help you decide where you want to go.
After recently being hired to work full-time as a clinical coordinator at Monteris Medical, the same company where she interned through the SciTech program, Powell graciously agreed to an interview. In a classic Where are They Now? format, we asked Powell to reflect on her experiences along the way, to see what choices she made that lead to her successfully securing work in her industry before graduation.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity) _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Let’s start with your background. Tell us about yourself. What did you study in school?
Powell: I participated in a Post-Secondary Education Options (PSEO) program my junior and senior years in high school that allowed me to take college courses at a university instead of attending my high school. It was during this time that I developed a strong passion for the sciences and decided to study both Biochemistry and Biology with an emphasis in Toxicology along with obtaining minors in Chemistry and Spanish.
When it came time to look for an internship, what was your approach to applications and interviewing? Do you think there’s something you did that helped you stand out?
Powell: I had had two previous internships, and throughout that time I was able to meet a lot of people in the industry and build my network. Ultimately, one of those connections referred me to the internship with Monteris Medical. I made sure to submit a thorough resume and thoughtful cover letter, and practiced interview questions so I could feel confident when it came time to interview. I believe having those connections and previous internship experiences are what helped me stand out.
Tell us about your internship with Monteris Medical. What were your responsibilities there? What projects did you work on?
Powell: As a Clinical Coordinator intern for Monteris Medical, I worked on the clinical team with the various clinical studies. My main responsibilities were to support activities that allowed us to be compliant with FDA regulations and any regulatory guidelines. One of the biggest projects I worked on was an internal audit of our electronic Trial Master File (eTMF), which houses all study-related documents. This required an elaborate effort to implement a consistent naming scheme as well as an organizational structure that could be cross-functional across multiple studies.
How did your internship help prepare you for working in your field?
Powell: My internship allowed me to gain a better understanding of the medical device industry and clinical research, as well as what it’s like to work in a company that is FDA regulated. It taught me the importance of working individually and in a team, communicating with others, being open to feedback, and the willingness to learn. Not only that, it gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment and instilled in me a passion to continue to pursue. Having a passion for what I do makes going to work every day easy and enjoyable.
You were recently hired at Monteris full-time. Tell us about that transition and how it came to be.
Powell: Toward the end of my internship, I was offered a full-time position to begin in January of 2019. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work remotely for Monteris while I finished up my last semester of school. I graduated in December of 2018 and was then able to accept the full-time position and work on-site at Monteris.
Let’s talk about your current position. What are your new responsibilities now that you’re a full-time employee?
Powell: As a full-time employee, my responsibilities include the organization and distribution of clinical documents, set-up of filing and document management and tracking systems, site communication, internal audits, data management, testing the usability of study-related databases, supporting activities that allow us to be compliant with FDA regulations and regulatory guidelines, managing site budgets and payments, and more.
What is the biggest difference between your college experience, your internship experience and your work experience?
Powell: I think the biggest difference for me is that I am no longer managing myself. While I am still responsible for my actions, there is additional oversight with what I am doing. I now participate in much more teamwork than I ever did in college. My projects may be re-prioritized depending on the team’s needs and not just for my needs. Everything is about collaboration now and working towards a shared department/company goal, whereas college was much more independent.
Has anything surprised you about either working as an intern in your field or working full-time in your industry? If so, what did you learn from that?
Powell: The culture of working for a small company (about 80 employees) was a bit surprising. Many of the departments work very closely with one another which gave me the opportunity to work on projects with other departments and not solely with clinical. This taught me so much more about the “big picture” of a medical device company, and how all departments must work together to help the company grow and thrive. I was able to see the work done in every department and get to know many people across the entire company. I have found it is something I really enjoy, and it has become something I value to this day: the ability to be cross-functional and to work closely with numerous departments in the company.
If you could offer advice to students and interns who want to work in med tech, what would you tell them?
Powell: If you’re someone that doesn’t entirely know what you want to do after graduation, take the time now to invest in yourself and your future by trying new and many things.
- Shadow a physician, a lab technician, an engineer, a professor, whatever it may be
- Participate in institutional research
- Join a club
- Attend symposiums
- Visit the career fairs
- Utilize the career development center at your institution
Use these experiences to help you find what you like and have a passion for, but maybe even more importantly, what you don’t like. Let these experiences guide you down the path of what you could enjoy doing for the rest of your life. Use these experiences to build a network.
- Introduce yourself
- get to know others
- have conversations about careers and passions
- ask about opportunities
- and follow-up
You never know what opportunities might be presented to you simply by knowing someone. It will be well worth it.
Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
Powell: If it wasn’t for the SciTech program, I likely wouldn’t be where I am today. Without the financial assistance from SciTech, Monteris would not have had the capability of hiring an intern. But because SciTech provides financial assistance for companies, I was able to land an internship with Monteris Medical that ultimately led to a full-time position and for that, I am thankful.
About Where are They Now?:
For more in the Where are They Now? series, check out some of our previous success stories:
Get Involved: At least 350 wage matches are available through August of 2019. Learn more about the SciTech Internship Program, apply online today and start your journey toward internship success.