Ali Naughton grew up wanting to be an astronaut cardiologist. As a child, she was fascinated by space, but she also had a deep curiosity about how the human body works. During her undergraduate studies in Aerospace Engineering & Mechanics at the University of Minnesota, Naughton took courses in biomechanics and physiology. Naughton was determined to find a way to marry the fields of medicine, science and engineering for her dream career. As formal biomedical engineering degree programs were relatively new at the time, she pursued a master’s degree in Mechanics with coursework and project emphasis in biomedical engineering topics.
Naughton is the Director of Global Therapy Systems Support for the Rhythm Management division of Boston Scientific in St. Paul, Minnesota. Boston Scientific’s Rhythm Management Group is a leading developer of implantable devices used to treat cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms), sudden cardiac arrest, and heart failure.
After earning her master’s degree, Naughton began her career at Boston Scientific as an implantable defibrillator Technical Consultant. In this capacity she was responsible for learning the deep details of how the devices work and how they are used in the practice of medicine. She resolved questions from physicians, nurses and patients, helping enable them to optimize use of the devices.
Today, Naughton manages a team of more than 90 people globally, and has expanded her role beyond technical support of pacemakers and defibrillators. She describes herself as a “people-leader” and a “problem-solver” who strategizes about how her team can best support the needs of the customers and the business, and turn ideas into product and service innovation. “In my role, my team and I get to work directly with our customers every day as they use this wonderful technology. In doing so, we get a great sense of how customers are really using our products, and how they work to improve patients’ lives. I get to help relay that information to our product development teams as they build the next generation of products.”
Naughton finds her career in industry to be extremely rewarding. “Biomedical engineers, by definition, focus their work on solving problems to enable people to live better lives,” she says. “I like how fast it moves. I like working with a lot of different questions, problems and variables, and finding opportunities to turn them into meaningful solutions. I love working for a company whose mission is to create technology that saves and improves lives.” Naughton feels that the rapid evolution in biomedical engineering degree program offerings, and the broad array of career opportunities have been great developments for patients around the world who benefit from the resulting technologies.
Naughton advises students interested in bioengineering to have an open mind to what it means to be an engineer. “There are so many cool things happening in the world right now. There are new ideas and products generated every day that will solve problems that we previously thought couldn’t be solved, and they will make a huge difference in the world. There are all of these opportunities to get plugged-in in interesting ways. If you think too rigidly about what an engineer does, then you might miss out. Think expansively.” Naughton also encourages students to “ask for help and find creative ways to get the support you need, and never ever give up.”