At Vyaire Medical, product development and innovation are dependent on the skillful teams that leverage science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to do their jobs each day. STEM is critical to the work we do to enhance the quality of breathing through every stage of life. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of STEM as Vyaire continues to develop and provide solutions for patients’ complex and changing needs. In honor of STEM Day, we interviewed Vyaire’s own Colleen O’Grady, Senior Principal Mechanical Engineer, who supports process automation and development, to discuss her journey and career in STEM.
During this interview, we learn more about Colleen's own experience in engineering and her current work, as well as advice for others interested in STEM.
An Interview with Colleen O’Grady
What is your specific area of STEM?
My degree is in mechanical engineering; however, my focus for much of my career has been in manufacturing automation.
How long have you been with Vyaire?
I have been with Vyaire for two-and-a-half years. Currently, I am a senior principal mechanical engineer in support of process automation and development
Can you describe what you do in your role and how it supports Vyaire’s work to support patients?
I work across a variety of projects that includes new product development and various other initiatives that focus on the specification and procurement of capital equipment, which is the machinery utilized in the manufacturing process. My role supports Vyaire through the review of products for manufacturability and determining the most cost-effective means of production.
When did you first become interested in engineering and was there a moment you knew you were going to be an engineer?
I grew up tinkering with all kinds of things like Lego® sets. My favorites were my airport monorail system and my cargo ship. I also liked building small relay control systems out of old flashlights. I spent considerable time with my father in our family’s industrial laundry business, where large autonomous washing and drying systems that could produce more than 3,000 pounds of linen every hour. I was about twelve when I learned how to wire an AC drive for the first time. I think I always knew that I wanted to do something like what I do now, but in 8th grade, I knew that I wanted to be a mechanical engineer.
What are some of the highlights or things that you are most proud of that you've been able to work on as an engineer at Vyaire?
I have been involved in many different meaningful projects here at Vyaire, but the most important for me has been the test equipment for our ventilators. I have also worked on three-dimensional RF welding, automated assembly of nebulizer caps, as well as researching applications of sensors for the introduction of predictive maintenance on injection molders.
How did your role play a part in the COVID-19 pandemic?
Our ventilators became a major priority for much of the world. We were tasked with ramping up the production line very quickly which involved building more than 200 pieces of new test equipment that was originally designed many years ago. A lot of things have changed since then, including the hardware used to control and record data. Updating each test station involved numerous hours of research to ensure that any new component would be equivalent to the originally specified version. I also had to ensure our contracted building partners understood the function and construction of each station. We were able to complete all 200 test stations in just four short months.
What advice do you have for anyone considering a career in STEM?
Two things I would advise are don’t be afraid of failing and don’t close yourself off. If you do fail, know that it is acceptable, but remember to accept the responsibility for it. Mistakes often lead to discoveries in addition to improvements in the future. I also believe that you should be open to new things as well. If you are presented with a new opportunity to learn then take it. Having more experience makes you more marketable for the future.
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