Why One Systems Engineer Changed Careers to Change Lives

Following her passion to impact patients, Brittany Boudreau's career took an unexpected, yet exciting turn.

BUILDING LIFE AND COMMUNITY     |    Nov. 12, 2018

Sometimes a career change is necessary to find the fulfillment you've been searching for, and no one knows this better than Brittany Boudreau. Now a senior systems engineer for the neuromodulation business at Abbott, Brittany got her start studying biomedical engineering and working in labs, but after completing her first year at Abbott she decided to shift her focus.

Brittany made the switch from biomedical engineering to software engineering, and since then she has been overseeing the creation and deployment of new health technology and therapies at Abbott for four years. Read on to learn more about how Brittany's career move revealed a job that challenges her, that uses all of her skills and, most importantly, that she loves.


How Did You Come to Work at Abbott?


I was doing a lot of research in the lab in grad school, and even though I was excited about the work I was doing I realized that it just wasn't the right fit for me. I wanted to find a new, more direct way to improve people's lives, and that ultimately drove my decision to pursue a career in the medical device industry. I also quickly learned that I love working with a team and collaborating, which was something I got to do right off the bat when I started at Abbott. My job in technical services was incredibly different than what I had been doing, but it was a very good start for me.


What Was Your Biggest Takeaway From That First Position With Abbott?


Knowing who our users are was 100 percent the biggest takeaway from my first job. I would be on the phone with people who were using our products every day — whether it was patients, physicians or sales reps. Getting to hear firsthand not only who our users are but how our products are working and what kind of problems they had has been invaluable since I moved over to development. It's sometimes easy to design a product not taking into account who your users are. Instead, I'm able to recommend product designs and features that will meet our users' needs and improve patients' lives.


Why Did You Ultimately Choose a Career in Systems Engineering?


In systems engineering, you're responsible for specifying the behavior of the entire system, and that's what really excites me. I also get to work with so many different people, like mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and software engineers, not to mention teams that aren't part of core R&D, like quality engineering and regulatory affairs. As a senior systems engineer, I make sure every component of a product functions within the whole, and that each problem is examined from every angle, and I love the creativity that comes with that.


What Does a Typical Day Look Like for You?


I get excited to come to work in the mornings because I get to spend time with so many different people across the company planning every aspect of a project. I may go from a very, very technical meeting in the design lab with multiple engineers where we're drawing on a whiteboard trying to resolve a design challenge, to a planning meeting where I'm working with the R&D leadership carving out the strategy for our next project. I've found that working with people who have different backgrounds is the key to driving innovation forward.


What Is the One Thing You've Accomplished That You're Most Proud Of?


I am very proud of accomplishing the complex task of transferring a pain-relieving stimulation therapy to a new system. We were able to not only preserve the integrity of the treatment but we were able to bring in new features, like Bluetooth communication and MRI support which made the therapy more accessible and helped people live better lives. This was my first project as a systems engineering technical lead, and being the point-person on driving decisions that impact patients was really challenging but really satisfying. This was when I knew I had found the right career — helping people feel better and live better is something I'm so passionate about.


What Do You Love Most About Working at Abbott?


Hands down, the people that I work with. They go above and beyond at their jobs, are passionate about their work and are accomplishing amazing things to improve people's lives. It may sound funny, but it's really nice to be in a room where you know that everyone in there is smarter than you and that they're willing to share their knowledge to help the whole team succeed. Collaborating with my colleagues on life-changing technologies is incredibly inspiring.