Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Engineering, waitressing and medicine


Here I sit, at my engineering job, painfully awaiting the transition to medical school. Each hour is like agony; the clock moves backwards sometimes, I swear; I cannot wait to get started with my new career. Oddly, I have never been working harder at my engineering job. With my departure looming in August, I feel compelled to be remembered as the best computer-engineer-turned-doctor ever by my co-workers, most of whom I will truly miss.

Yes, you heard me right. I am a computer engineer. At the risk of exposing my identity, I will go a step further. I design computer chips. I designed a part of one of the chips in my laptop at home. No wonder it never works. *rimshot* But the question must be on your mind: how does one go from computer chips to medicine?

The answer is simple: people.

My favoritest job was being a waitress. I loved multi-tasking, being in a hurry, dealing with crisis, unpredictability, and the gratification from knowing I'd done my job well that evening. The only thing waitressing was missing was using my gifts as an engineer to solve a complex problem; something that engineering had in abundance. When I was in college, I was fooled into thinking that engineers dealt with people, similar to waitressing. All of my classes were collaborative, my internships were designed to be fantastically fun, and I swore after college that I had made the right decision.

But by the time I had worked in the real-world industry for six months, I knew I had made a mistake. The work was rote, unfulfilling, and easy: not what I had signed up for. I thought about moving to a start-up with more deadlines, risk and excitement, but at the end of the day, I still wouldn't have been dealing with 30 new people I'd never met before on a daily basis. And I really missed that about waitressing.

In fact, I was so bored at my day job, that I moonlit as a waitress for over a year. Everyone thought I was crazy (no comments from the peanut gallery).

But one day, I went home and just snapped. I felt so frustrated. I felt like my gifts for working with people were being squandered. Like I was doing humanity a disservice for not using them. I went home and made a list of all the professions I found fascinating, and then made a list of all the qualities I wanted in a profession: fast pace, leadership, opportunities, financial security, working with people, hands-on, etc. Then, I played the matching game until I narrowed it down to medicine.

I still had to complete Chemistry, Biology, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics lab and a writing course to even be eligible to apply, so I had plenty of time to think through my decision. I shadowed so many doctors I lost count. But one of the defining moments was watching a surgeon do a cardiac bypass surgery with one of the DaVinci robots. It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen, and the excitement I felt upon watching that surgery was unlike anything I'd ever felt doing engineering.


I knew I was headed to the right place after that. I haven't looked back since.

1 comment:

  1. I admire you courage, changing career have always haunted me ... I guess I'm afraid of changes but also hopeful things will get better for me. Wish you luck in your endeavour.