When you think about a biomedical engineering manager, the first thing that comes to mind may not be a woman who, three years ago, was a cheerleader for the New England Patriots. But I’m here to tell you that healthcare technology management (HTM) is a field that anyone who loves helping others should consider.
You can learn skills to help you in this field from a lot of places. I’ve been working as a manager of biomedical engineering at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Boston through Aramark Healthcare for just over a year now. Before that, I went to college at the University of Connecticut, where I studied biomedical engineering and participated in the dance team. When I was made team captain, that made me realize that I can lead people (and build on those skills), which translates to my current role in HTM.
At that point in my life, I thought I wanted to get into tissues, so I minored in materials science engineering. Towards the end of my junior year, I learned about UConn’s clinical engineering master’s program. I discovered that I could work in a hospital setting with medical equipment (not one of the specific tracks my school offered), and decided to volunteer to learn about how biomeds work in a hospital.
Going into my senior year, a classmate asked me if I wanted to try out for the New England Patriots cheerleading team with her. I said, “sure—I’ll try it!” After going through the month-and-a-half long tryout series, I made it onto the team, and that year we went to Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, AZ. Of course, the Patriots beat the Seahawks!
The following year, I made the team again and also got accepted into the UConn Clinical Engineering Master’s Program. Juggling these commitments wasn’t easy—I was working full time as a clinical engineer and doing my master’s program at night while also cheering for the Patriots. You may think that these fields couldn’t be more different, but I found that the teamwork-building and leadership skills needed for dancing/cheerleading would translate well to the HTM hospital environment.
In 2015, I began my first job as a clinical engineer at UMass Memorial Medical Center. I loved working in the hospital. Eventually, I decided I wanted a bit more responsibility and a new challenge. That was when the job for a biomedical engineering manager opened up with Aramark at the Faulkner Hospital. I was 24 years old and a female in the field. I felt it might be challenging to get the job, but I was confident in the skills I had learned and I knew that I could do the job if given the opportunity. Luckily enough, I got the job. I’m fortunate to have a supportive team to help me transition into management, and that has allowed themselves to learn from me and for me to learn from them.
I feel that my biggest takeaway from this journey is that it doesn’t matter your age, gender, race, social status, etc. In HTM, it matters how hard you work and how motivated you are as an individual. I would take this path all over again if I had the choice, and I hope that I can help inspire others to take the challenge and put yourself out there. All you can do is do your best and be confident in yourself and your abilities!
Our field is a great opportunity, and I’d like to see it become as diverse as it can be. For other young women—and really anyone in the HTM field—my advice to just learn as much as you can from those around you and have confidence in what you know. This field is all about continuing to learn new equipment and projects and taking that knowledge to apply to your next equipment acquisition or next capital planning project.
One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned along the way is that if you want something bad enough and you’re dedicated towards it, then go for it and see what opportunities you can find. You’re not going to know until you’ve tried out!
Alyssa Merkle is the biomedical engineering manager at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Boston, MA.