My Time on Science Park

To me, the decision to attend a small liberal arts college was a bit of a gamble. Growing up, an incessant emphasis on the value of STEM related fields seemed like an unspoken indictment of liberal arts. While degrees in engineering and programming promised a clear career path, a major in the liberal arts threatened unemployment out of college.  

Even though I was confident that I wanted to pursue a career revolving around biology and business out of college, I suspected that the broad education and versatile skills I could acquire from an intimate liberal arts curriculum could prove valuable in any career I might end up having. Sure enough, being able to intern at TÜV SÜD provided an opportunity to investigate these interests and see for how my liberal arts education had and not trained me for an office experience so far.

At the very beginning of my internship, when my supervisor from Medical Health Services introduced the first project I would be working on, I felt most unprepared. The project required me to evaluate medical technology companies and compile a list of potential clients for TÜV SÜD’s medical device testing services. Its emphasis on topics in finance, which Davidson offer no classes on, immediately exposed my knowledge deficit regarding the subject. I was unfamiliar with the relevance of several financial metrics that I was supposed to use to evaluate companies, and had little grasp of how they related to the medtech industry (e.g., what would be a healthy EBITDA for a public orthopedic company with 5,000 employees). While this made it initially difficult to make judgements about a company’s health and potential value, my supervisor filled me on the most essential information I needed to know for the project. I do still suspect, however, that I could have better prepared myself if Davidson offered some sort of classroom instruction in finance or business.

As soon as I began my second project, however, my liberal arts education proved itself to be a valuable attribute in the office. Like my first project, this assignment required me to analyze companies and compile a list, but this time I was screening candidates for acquisition.  Seeking to expand medical device testing capabilities in the United States, where most of the top medical technology companies are headquartered, the CEO of product services wanted to acquire an existing American testing company and had already reached out to one attractive candidate. My task was to research other companies to build out a market landscape and identify potential alternatives.

To point me in the right direction, I was given a number of suggestions  on what might make a company attractive, such as a strong client base, technology or procedures that could be exported to other TÜV SÜD facilities, or testing capabilities that could allow TÜV SÜD to increase its market share in key testing areas. Beyond this, the actual curation of the list was left to my discretion, and my only check-in was a preview presentation to be given halfway through the project. And because small private companies rarely release the detailed financial information I analyzed for my first project, I realized this investigation would require a good deal more creativity. Luckily, the initial breadth of the undertaking evokes many open-prompt projects and papers I had encountered while at Davidson and Andover, so I was well-prepared to springboard off the limited guidance I received and to navigate a new subject.

Like for any history paper, I began with a look at available primary sources, in the case the corporate documents and information in TÜV SÜD’s possession. I looked at a consulting company’s annual outlook on the medtech industry to familiarize myself with the device testing landscape, finding information on the size and forecasted growth of different medical device categories. As I began to dig for companies meeting the essential criteria on LinkedIn, I turned to secondary sources to help to educate my assessments, like whether a rare certification might make a company more appealing, or what testing requirements the FDA had assigned for new kinds of active, software driven devices. Throughout, the web- searching skills I developed from years of school research proved particularly useful as I hunted for whatever information I could find on companies

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 12.05.42 PMIn addition to these tangible skills my liberal arts education provided me, I also encountered the benefits of a diverse pursuit of disciplines. My previous experience with biology in the lab allowed me to engage with scientific testing protocol and be able to ask educated questions during procedures. Since much of the testing I observed in the lab connected to the kind I handled in the office, my time in the lab felt like a look underneath the hood of TÜV SÜD and enriched the my other projects. My german also became surprisingly useful as nearly half of the employees in the office are from either Germany or Switzerland.

My time at TÜV SÜD made it clear that I may still have a good deal to learn when I begin my first job out of college, because there’s a clear disconnect between a liberal arts curriculum and many business- related industries. But it also illustrated the quality of training one receives from a broad curriculum that promotes critical thinking, creativity, and versatility– special attributes that can prove their worth in any profession.