This summer of 2021, I interned at Cook Medical as a quality engineer. The internship was remote, as were several things this summer due to COVID, but I am glad to say that it was an amazing experience, and I learned a lot. Cook is a family-owned medical devices company based in Bloomington, Indiana, and even though I was interning remotely in Raleigh, I was able to make connections that I will value for a long time to come.
What I did this summer as a quality engineer at Cook:
I was part of the Quality Assurance NC (Nonconformance) and CAPA (Corrective Action Preventive Action) team at Cook this summer, and I was involved in the nonconformance side of things. One of the first projects I worked on was a formal investigation for a nonconformance that was detected in an asset used for manufacturing purposes. I conducted this investigation to figure out how this nonconformance came to be, whether the equipment could be put back into use, and what future actions ought to be taken. This was one of the few formal nonconformance investigations I completed throughout the summer.
I also worked on updating verbiage and marking up quality documents that needed to be updated. This involved a significant amount of inter-departmental communication to receive approvals for the changes and also inform department managers regarding how these changes would affect the work that their team does.
Yet another project I really enjoyed working on was a Design Change Plan, which is a way to change or update the way certain processes are performed in a manufacturing procedure. Two other miscellaneous projects I worked on were to reduce the number of a certain type of gage held by departments in order to reduce costs associated with missing or rusted gages, and a tracker to allow everyone in the quality department to look at the different nonconformance investigations conducted over the past two years, and whether product testing was performed as part of these investigations or not. I was very proud of this tracker as it was something that is now very useful to the entire department, and I was also told it would be monitored and updated even after my internship ended.
My key takeaways:
As I wrapped up my internship and prepared for my capstone presentation, I really had the chance to reflect and think about some of the things that I was able to work on this summer, and what my most important takeaways were – that I'll keep in mind not only when I return to school for the Fall semester, but also for my future career.
Number one on my list is certainly collaboration. I learned how to communicate and collaborate effectively both within my team and between departments, and I learned that while quality certainly has such an important job to do, especially in the medical devices industry, it is also important that decisions are made in a way that people from production or operations are kept in the loop and everyone is appeased.
Secondly, I learned that it is important to ask questions - it was definitely a little nerve-wracking at first, especially because it seemed like everyone around me was using so many technical terms and acronyms that I had never heard before. However, everything has an initial learning curve, and once I got past that and got comfortable enough to ask questions that helped me understand what was going on, or how I could best proceed with my own projects, it was a massive help.
Thirdly, I certainly multitasked a lot this summer - there were times when I was working on quality documentation, while simultaneously looking into corrections, or design changes, and sometimes it could be easy to forget the multitude of little tasks (like setting up meetings, emailing or updating something in a database), but making sure that I was organized and wrote everything down in my notebook and my to-do list definitely helped me stay on top of things this summer.
And lastly, I learned the importance of making connections with the people both within my core team and in other departments. I was fortunate to be able to interact with and learn from Cook employees in statistics, manufacturing, R&D and production and this internship opened my eyes to the wide variety of opportunities there are for people like me who are interested in biomedical engineering but are also open to exploring the different roles that make a great company such as Cook run.