McMaster Alumni
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McMaster Alumni

Life After Mac: Real Stories of Alumni Finding Their Way — Erik

My path to my current point in life has been far from conventional. When I was in high school, I thought, like many others who had a strong sense of direction, that I knew exactly what the next 8–10 years would look like. I was certain I would finish high school and go to University for an Engineering degree that would lead me into developing consumer robotics. Despite this passion for engineering, it was clear by the end of high school that my average grades wouldn’t get me into most University engineering programs, and that my goals were out of reach.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, so I went to McMaster for Liberal Arts, despite not having a passion for the subject matter. I had heard a lot of good things about the school from my sister, Samantha Lloyd, who was currently enrolled there and saw this as a jumping point. Part way through my first year, I realized that this was program was not for me.

My direction took a turn when I stumbled upon the Bachelor of Technology program when searching through programs available in the Engineering Faculty at McMaster. Despite the long shot, I wanted to find a way to get back on track towards pursuing my passion. So, after meeting the required average, I was able to transfer into the program the following year. Over the next 4 years I struggled with many of the subjects, but with hard work and help from a close group of friends and my family, I built a strong academic foundation, and proved to myself towards the end of my undergrad that I could achieve a high academic standing.

During this time, I developed an interest in bionics and cybernetics, which was far different from the content I was studying for my undergrad. With a lack of formal knowledge in bionics, I decided to learn about prosthetics on my own and apply this new knowledge into designing and building a working bionic hand in my final year. This project caught the attention of Dr. Ning Jiang, at the University of Waterloo Engineering Bionics Lab, who had recently joined the faculty. Upon graduating from B-Tech, and with the support from some incredible professors in my program in my final year (Karen Lawrence, Dr. Tom Wanyama, and Dr. Zhen Gao to name a few), I was accepted to the University of Waterloo Engineering Bionics Lab to pursue a Master’s in Systems Design Engineering. The last 2 years have been filled with the most fulfilling learning experiences of my life, with a heavy focus on biomedical technologies, which includes courses like Neural Engineering and Biomedical Signal Processing. I am forever thankful for my experiences at McMaster, which helped provide me with the foundation to succeed.

In the last 8 years, I went from a being a student unsure of his next steps, to being the founder and CEO of a medical tech start-up, Brink Bionics, with some of the world leaders in bionic arm research. Through this company, my colleagues and I have been developing bionic limbs with integrated artificial intelligence, to create a more seamless link between a bionic arm and the user’s nervous system. I have been able to participate and speak at pitch competitions, and our team has received grants and investments totalling just under $100,000. At the most recent pitch, the Velocity Fund Finals, Brink Bionics won a $25,000 grant, and we were offered the opportunity to move our company into an office co-working space in the Velocity Accelerator Garage. This is something I never would have achieved had I let the idea of strictly following the conventional path prevent me from seeing a way to leverage and move past my failures.

There are likely failures and mistakes ahead of me, as well as great successes and triumphs. It is unlikely that life will let you stick to the path you plan to follow. The ability to take off your blinders and see the unconventional opportunities in the face of uncertainty will allow you to take hits from life, redirect your course when necessary, and maneuver around the obstacles ahead of you.

Erik Lloyd, Engineering BTECH ‘17

The McMaster Alumni Association, over the course of the next year, will be featuring one grad’s career story each week. If you graduated in the last 10 years and are interested in sharing yours, please email Nada at elnaien@mcmaster.ca.

If you are looking to get started on your own journey check out resourcesavailable to recent graduates through the Student Success Centre.

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