This is part of our series of articles, written by Penn Engineering alums in their own words, of their experiences at Penn and how it shaped their lives. Our next article is written by Liz Golden, who graduated with a dual Wharton MBA and Penn Engineering master’s in Systems Engineering in 2017. She is currently in the Leadership Development Rotational Program at Medtronic and is working to launch and do business strategy for their Surgical Robotic Guidance Platforms.
“What would you do if I were your daughter?”
At 14 years old, I was sitting in a clinic room at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia asking my orthopedic surgeon the question I felt mattered most. He looked unwaveringly at my parents, then back to me and said, “I would want you to have the surgery.”
Weeks later I would undergo major back surgery for scoliosis, a curvature of the spine which affects almost a million people in the U.S. alone. After a four-hour operation in which rods and hooks were placed into my spine, I spent a week recovering in the hospital and then two months at home on a lot of painkillers and relearning to walk and eat. I was determined not to let this surgery get the best of me.
This experience continued to shape my life in myriad ways, throughout college and my move to NYC. It eventually led me to pursue a dual master’s in Systems Engineering and Business Administration at Penn Engineering and Wharton 10 years later.
Before landing at Penn, I went to Yale and wrote a book about my experience called, “When Life Throws You a Curve.” This gave me the opportunity to engage with young women who had been diagnosed with scoliosis, as well as political leaders that were shaping scoliosis policy, in ways that were impactful and personally fulfilling. My passion, however, was not just supporting the people who have conditions like mine, but exploring solutions and finding answers to improve outcomes.
Medicine interested me, and medical technology interested me even more. The dual Wharton MBA and master’s in Systems Engineering degree gave me the tools to enter this industry. Penn Engineering has offered an opportunity to engage with the teams that are figuring out what’s needed for these software- and hardware-based medical devices, and to think more strategically about how we can get them to the people who need them the most.
After graduating, I started my dream job at Medtronic, working on market development for surgical robotic guidance platforms used in spine surgery. My business degree has helped me avoid a purely technical role; my responsibilities include working on product development for new features and commercialization strategies for existing technologies.
The community at Penn Engineering fostered my intellectual development around machine learning and human factors, and allowed me to engage with technical experts at my company to advance my skill sets. The engineering curriculum, coupled with the reservoirs of expertise that I continue to tap into, have very much enabled my success at Medtronic.
I am very grateful for this dual degree and how it has helped me to help an organization that is leading the way to change how operations like mine take place. My dream is for others to not need to have conversations with their doctors like I did 10 years ago.