Student Trek Insights

We asked a few of the Fall 2016 trek participants to write about what their experience was like and a few things they learned along the way.

For more information about participating in a Career Trek or hosting a Trek group, please email Mary Ladewski at

Boston Biotech and Pharmaceutical Career Trek - Day 1

October 17th, 2016

Our trip started out on a very exciting note, with a varied and informative visit to DePuy Synthes. We were able to explore multiple facets of the company, and essentially got to follow some of their products from inception to consumer use. We first were able to tour the production floor where DePuy produces their hip and knee replacements, and while the required safety shoe coverings definitely took some getting used to, the entire production process was incredibly interesting. We were even able to get a rare look inside the industrial-scale forge that DePuy uses to cast their metal parts. Overall, the production floor tour was extremely informative, and very helpful in understanding the immense scale that many top companies in the medical device industry operate. Next, we were able to tour the clinical labs where DePuy trains and educates physicians using their projects, and were able to gain some hands-on experience using some of DePuy’s surgical tools. Finally, we sat down with a group of DePuy employees from various divisions within the companies for a round-table panel discussion regarding working for DePuy and life in the biotech industry in general. By the end of this panel discussion, we were all lucky enough to have had a thorough look at the many facets of DePuy, a large company with plenty of opportunities. I was personally relieved to hear many of the employees we met with talk about the paths that they had taken inside the company, and the positions they had held in different departments. As someone still not quite sure exactly what I want to be doing for the rest of my life, it was reassuring to hear that opportunities exist beyond the first post-graduation job.

The afternoon took our group to Olympus Surgical Technologies of America, a branch of a large, multination medical device and imaging company. Our time at Olympus began with a wonderful lunch, and soon we were lucky enough to hear presentations on corporate social responsibility and upstream marketing tactics, and were even able to engage in valuable discussions with Olympus’ experts in those fields. We were then able to tour the Olympus facility, which included plenty of office space and wonderful, state-of-the-art laboratories that we peeked inside of. A personal highlight of the trip was getting some hands-on experience with some of Olympus’ surgical tools, an ordeal that gave me immense respect for the people who have to work in high-stress, difficult medical situations every day and still manage to be incredibly nimble with such tools. To top off the day, we engaged in a panel discussion with various employees. A theme that emerged in the discussion was the necessity of being a proactive employee, someone who is constantly seeking for ways to help their company and challenge themselves in new roles. Such information was invaluable for all of us prospective biotech industry employees, and was a much-needed reminder that the exciting process of career discernment does not end at employment. With our visit to Olympus concluded, we topped off the day with a delicious meal in the Cambridge area and an exciting preseason Boston Celtics basketball game, and headed back to our hotel in preparation for another packed day of company visits.

-- Kevin Weaver, Class of 2018


Chicago Visual Communications and Design Trek - Day 1

October 17th, 2016

After meeting and getting organized at our hotel, the first stop on the Visual Communication Design trek was Paper Source. The day started with brief introductions and a tour of their new facility lead by a 2014 alum, [host]. We saw different department areas as well as their new product boards mapping out each new collections being designed and produced. We all thought it was interesting to learn how far in advance they had to design new products while still trying to stay ahead of the trends. Next, we learned more about the creative development process at Paper Source and how the designers work together to come up with new collection themes. We then met up with another Notre Dame graduate to work hands on with some of Paper Source’s products. We got to use their popular kits and paper to make cards and envelopes. Each of us also had the opportunity to meet one on one with [our host] to discuss our portfolios. She provided really helpful feedback on how to improve our work and presentation. After that, we were able to simulate the creative team’s design process and develop a collection for spring 2017. We worked together to create a color palette, pattern, aesthetic, and story for our collection. We also came up with products and marketing techniques to promote our concept. We had the opportunity to present our concept to some of the creative team at Paper Source and received valuable feedback about our presentation skills and ideas. After presenting, we asked a few final questions and thanked the staff for hosting us before heading out.

The next stop of our day was Isobar. We were met at our arrival my another 2014 Notre Dame alum, [host]. We began with a tour of the office space which was a gorgeous open floor plan with great vies of Millennium Park. After that, [our host] told us about herself, how she landed at Isobar and what the company did. We also talked to [another] 2002 alum. He told us about his diverse career and his work as the primary visual designer on the [client] account. He showed us his work from both his [client] interface design as well as a few other sites he has worked on. One of the big ideas he discussed was the difference between concept and detail design and how different projects tend to lean toward one or the other. After talking to the designers, we had the opportunity to try out the virtual reality technology they had in the office. We all really enjoyed this opportunity to experience this equipment and see what the future of prototype designing could look like. Next, we learned more about the work [our host] is doing now with her car rental service client. We saw a step by step process of the procedure her and the other designers go through to map out the client’s needs, concept a design, and eventually create the product. It was very interesting to see this line of design compared to the culture at Paper Source earlier. Both companies had advantages and benefits that made them unique and different. Overall, it was a great first day.

-- Meghan Callaghan, Class of 2019


Chicago Policy Career Trek - Day 2

October 18, 2016

Now that I had a better understanding of what policy is, the second day provided answers to some of my other questions: who can work in policymaking, and what is the scope of policy?

Our first visit answered both of these questions. We arrived at Mathematica, a policy research organization, to learn more about their work. To be completely honest, I was the least excited for this visit, because of the “Math” in their name (I’m not a numbers person). However, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the visit. We met two Notre Dame alumni, one being a recent graduate, and the other having graduated eleven years ago. It was great to see their paths to policy research: one jumped into it right after college, while the other took a less direct path through graduate school and other jobs before arriving at Mathematica. Both of them had majors or minors that are not always linked to policy, so this showed me that anyone can work in policymaking if they are willing to make their own path.

Another aspect of this visit that I liked was their emphasis on conducting research on a national scale. While one of the organizations we visited the first day operates at the national level, they gave us details of their work at the state and city level. Mathematica was different because they showed us how their policy research informs and influences policymakers around the nation. This visit was the first organization to really expand the scope of policy for me.

The next visit was with [ND alumnus], the Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer for the Department of Planning and Development in the City of Chicago. While this visit kept the scope of policy within Chicago, it was great to meet another Notre Dame alumnus and learn about his path to policy.

At the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, my view of policy was once again expanded as we learned about policy on a global (as the name suggests) scale. While [the] alumna who met with us, showed us how policy works on an international scale, her presentation showed us how policy is not always directly linked to people. She talked about her work in environmental policy, and how this policy indirectly helps us by improving the places in which we live. As for career advice and how to get into policy, her advice was broad but helpful: “Do good work with good people and reflect on it.” Her words mirrored the advice of other people we had met: there is not one strict path to policy; follow your interests and improve as you go.

Our final visit of the trek was at Advance Illinois, an education policy organization. While it seemed like the scope of policy would be brought back to the state level, the policymakers at Advance Illinois told us that they look to other states for ideas on how to improve Illinois’ educational system. Even when they operate at the state level, organizations like Advance Illinois look at the bigger picture to improve their communities.

While the first day showed me what policy is and who it is for, the second day showed me the different levels it can operate at. My group was able to meet Notre Dame alumni and other policymakers who form policy at the city, state, national and international level, as well as how these different levels impact each other. By the end of the trek, I learned that policy is all around us. It shapes our lives and futures. From the homeless people I saw in Chicago to the environmental regulations that are shaping our world, policy is truly everywhere.

-- Victoria Erdel, Class of 2019