AN UNCONVENTIONAL ROUTE TO ENGINEERING
Kristi Korkowski, a Mechanical Engineer, believes that nothing is ever out of reach if you have a goal you want to achieve, even if the route to get there is a little unconventional.
Kristi works for Smiths Medical and develops equipment that delivers medication for chronic conditions and manages patients’ airways, to help save millions of lives. Here she reflects on her journey into engineering and demonstrates that it’s never too late to become an engineer.
In high school Kristi enjoyed maths and sciences, especially biology. She always had a passion for helping others and as many members of her family were medical professionals, she thought a career in nursing would suit her well. She enrolled on a Certified Nursing Assistant Course. During the course she worked at a health care facility, as a certified nurse’s aide, and it was here that she discovered her passion for problem solving.
“I noticed how badly designed some of the medical equipment was and it made life very difficult for the patients to carry out everyday tasks. I was convinced there must be a better solution.”
However, before Kristi could complete the program she became pregnant and gave birth just three weeks before her first round of clinical courses.
“It definitely wasn’t part of the plan and I thought it was going to affect my career. However, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened, both personally and professionally.”
After having her daughter and taking time out, she realised that nursing wasn’t the right career for her anymore. While evaluating the next steps, having not made the link to engineering yet, she completed a degree in Accounting.
“It wasn’t until I came back into a medical setting, working at a hospital in a finance role, that I finally put all the pieces together. My love of maths and science and my ability to think creatively led me to embark on a second degree, in Manufacturing Engineering.”
Kristi went on to receive a Masters in Mechanical Engineering before joining Smiths Medical. She now works in the R&D department focusing on design verification and product and process validations, to ensure the products meet the high-quality standards required. Some of the products she helps develop are used every three seconds in hospitals and clinics around the world.
“Working as an engineer in the medical market combines all of my passions – maths, science and helping people. It makes me proud to think I’m making a difference in the world and improving people’s lives.”
Growing up, Kristi never had anyone to help her realise and develop her passion so she feels very strongly about encouraging girls to learn more about science and engineering. She visits schools and summer camps to raise awareness and is also a mentor for the Smiths Medical internship programme; and a member of the Society of Women Engineers.
“I want young women to know how exciting and multidisciplinary engineering is. Regardless of the path you take to get there, if you’re determined you can achieve any goal, no matter how ambitious.”