2020 Alumni Profile: Heather Benoit BSE '09, MSE '11
Heather Benoit graduated from Baylor's School of Engineering and Computer Science with a bachelor's degree in engineering in 2009 and her master's in biomedical engineering in 2011. Today, she is a senior mechanical engineer and program manager at M3 Design, Inc., a leading product development and technology consulting firm that specializes in building the future.
Q: How would you describe your work?
A: Each day is different and I’m always learning something new. Early on in a project, I’ll tend to do more research-based activities. I might be out in the field interviewing sales reps or analytically observing a surgical procedure in an operating room. I might work with my team to vet business strategies or conduct feasibility studies on some innovative, new ideas. As our projects progress, I tend to do more concept development tasks — brainstorms, volume studies, hacking together quick prototypes in our machine shop — anything to learn quickly and iterate. Toward the end of a project, I’ll spend more of my days modeling parts in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software and working with vendors to get everything manufactured.
Q: What are some projects that you have found most rewarding and why?
A: I was driven to engineering through a desire to help people, so I’ve really enjoyed working on medical devices. Going into hospitals, working directly with caregivers and seeing their pain points, you really get a sense of the impact your work will have in the world, and that is incredibly rewarding. Of course, it’s always nice to work on a truly innovative and technically challenging project too. There’s nothing quite like doing something that no one has ever done before.
Q: How did Baylor prepare you for your professional career?
A: The engineering program gave me an excellent foundation in engineering principles and taught me the process behind creative problem solving and analytical thinking. I use the theories and techniques I learned to inform my work every day, in everything from constructing experiments to designing parts. In fact, most of my school textbooks are still on my desk, dog-eared and ready for the next project.
I would add that Baylor also showed me what a healthy, thriving community looks like — one where people take care of and invest in one another. This is something I have brought with me wherever I go and is something I try to build within my professional network. At Baylor, there are many excellent examples of servant leadership, humility, and an incredible willingness to make personal connections all throughout the campus and at all levels. I still regularly communicate with some of my professors almost a decade after having graduated! That is something most schools simply don’t offer.
Q: What advice would you give to a student who is going through an engineering or computer science program now?
A: There are two principles I’ve really come to live by: 1. Cultivate your curiosity and 2. Make your own opportunity. The first one is easy — just collect knowledge like mad. Nothing is more valuable than better understanding the world and people around you, so always seek to learn more. The second one is a little harder. The right opportunity is most likely not going to drop directly into your lap, so you have to take the initiative to create something yourself. Whether it’s a project now while you’re in school, or a new initiative at a company you work at in the future, it’s within your power to take initiative and build something of value with your time.