Andy Barranachea graduated from the Georgia Tech BME program in May 2013, worked for two years in strategy consulting at Bain & Company, and currently works in marketing at Goodman Manufacturing.
From BME to Business
It all started because I did a certificate in entrepreneurship as well as BME. I started out with pre-med focus, then decided I didn’t want to go to med school in my 2nd or 3rd year. I realized I did like this business focus and if I was going to do something in BME it would probably be an entrepreneurial venture.
My dad studied industrial engineering and was the VP of marketing at his company, so I saw from him that you can go from engineering to business. It’s always easier to teach business to an engineer that it is to teach engineering to a businessman. At the end of the day, you can study engineering but that doesn’t mean it’s all you can do. I decided I didn’t want to go to medical school by asking myself if I really wanted to do that much school. I also wanted to get more internship experience. So I did an internship over one summer at Procter & Gamble in supply network operations, and I really enjoyed it because it was a mix of analytics and business application. That internship made me want to investigate the business side a little more.
After college, I went from traveling and working a lot at Bain to being able to find a more stable industry job where I traveled less for family reasons. I ended up at a good solid company (Goodman Manufacturing) here in Houston. I thought it was a good opportunity to continue to grow and develop my career along a business path. I might end up going back into the medical field at some point, but what I found is that the biomedical field is very niche. If you don’t start in it, it’s harder to get back in it, so that’s one of my main lessons. If I really wanted to do something with BME, I’d probably go back to do a graduate degree, but I don’t think I’ll do that right now. If anything, I’d probably do an MBA to continue along this business path.
What I Learned from BME
One of the skills I gained from BME that has helped me most in my career is taking a problem I don’t know anything about and breaking it down into meaningful steps in the problem-solving process. Steps like research, structuring a thought, hands-on testing, interviewing people working in the field, putting together a solution quickly. You can apply this classic engineering way of thinking to anything, which is why I think a lot of engineers ended up working at Bain. When making a product, you have to think about how you can make it attractive and how you would advertise it, what segment of the market you are targeting, how big it is. Especially in senior design, you have to think about how you would bring this product to market. In the end, if Georgia Tech prepares you for anything, it’s to work hard and feel prepared to tackle anything.
For those just starting out in BME…
Do internships. I only did one serious internship and every other summer was study abroad or something – not truly work experience. I would probably go back and do the co-op program if I could have, just to be able to get a lot of work experience and be able to work for
different kinds of companies or one company multiple times to get a really good flavor of what kind of work I like, rather than guessing. I guess that’s why I went to Bain, because it gives you a taste of different industries. It helped give me an idea of what I liked doing in business and the industries I think are interesting and the ones I don’t.
Get experience early. That doesn’t necessarily mean getting an internship that first summer, but go to career fairs and info sessions. Join MentorJackets or an organization where you can connect with alumni and upperclassmen and ask them where they’re planning on going with BME.
The first couple of years, try a lot of different classes that you wouldn’t normally think of taking in addition to your BME classes if you have the capacity to do that. Talk to a lot of different people. Go to different major-specific clubs. You’ll be able to get an experience you won’t be able to get in your classes. Be open to learning about different things.
If you want to know if BME is right for you, stick around for 1300 and really dig your teeth into that class and ask if you loved it or not. I think it was a pretty good representation of what the major will be like down the road. It was a good litmus test of whether or not I would do well in this major/career.
For those about to graduate from BME….
Have a strong resume that speaks to your impact at Georgia Tech, rather than a laundry list of all the stuff you do. Even if you were involved in one organization your whole time at Georgia Tech, what was your impact? I remember in high school going to a Harvard recruiting session and they said they wanted “well-lopsided” people. Employers don’t really care so much about how much you know because it’s very unlikely you will be doing exactly that in your job. It’s more about how passionate you are, how good of a team player you are, how willing you are to learn.
When you’re applying, know what you’re looking for. Don’t just apply everywhere because coming from Georgia Tech, you can be confident that you will get a job. Target what you’re passionate about. It’s better to have 10 really good applications to companies you’re actually interested in rather than trying to apply to 100.