My Career

Be Willing To Take Risks

By Roselin (Sunita) James, Pleasanton, California, United States

My family played a very critical role in both my personal and professional life. My husband was especially very supportive about me continuing to work when my children were young.

Can you tell us about your career path so far, and how you got to where you are today?
I manage the Design Quality team for a company that manufactures radio therapy machines. These machines treat cancer and uses high energy radiation to destroy cancer cells. This was my first job. I started working as a test engineer and then managed the verification and validation test team. I loved the excitement and challenges of working in R&D. I later decided to move to Design Quality since I thought it was good to have R&D expertise in the Design Quality team. I wanted to make a difference in a team that helps defining the quality standard of our products.

How has your family influenced your personal and professional life, and what role have they played in your success?
My family played a very critical role in both my personal and professional life. My husband was especially very supportive about me continuing to work when my children were young. Also, my in-laws and my parents stayed with us when my kids were little. I was very conflicted if I should pursue my career or be a stay-at-home mom. I finally decided to continue working and was able to achieve a good work life balance. It’s essential to recognize the impact of family and maintain a healthy balance between personal and professional responsibilities. I was blessed to have this balance.

I was determined to provide a happy, loving and safe home for my husband and kids. Success isn’t a destination but a journey.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge I faced during my career was domestic and international travel. As I moved up to need to travel increased. On one business trip to UK, I got a call from home soon after I landed coz my son was in a minor bicycling accident that required several stitches. This had an impact on my decision to continue working. I decided to take a break and spend more time with my kids. I returned back to work after a couple of years. I’m glad I was able to pick up from where I dropped off.

How do you balance your work and personal life, and what strategies have you found to be most effective?
Set priorities and stay focused on this. Create a schedule which includes time for work and personal activities. Learn to say no – if it doesn’t align with your priorities just NO. Utilize technology to manage time efficiently. Take Breaks throughout the day to stretch & exercise. Maintain boundaries, no checking work emails when it’s family time. Be willing to take risks – work outside your comfort zone. I transitioned from R&D to Compliance. Continuously learn and develop new skills – its necessary to stay current with new technologies and industry trends. Find a balance that works best for you.

Can you describe a typical day in your life, both at work and at home?
Life has gotten a lot smoother in my current role especially since I started working from home full time. I wake up at 7am, get dressed and dial into work by around 8am. I drop my daughter to school at 8:15. This role involves attending a lot of meetings reviewing and approving documents and of course managing my team. I work till around 5:30pm. My husband and I go for a walk around my neighborhood. Get done with dinner, watch TV and in bed by 10pm. Nothing extraordinary – it’s never hectic or rushed. I enjoy this easy pace.

What motivates you to keep pushing forward and pursuing your goals, even when faced with obstacles?
I love the work. This line of work is part of the solution for people to beat challenging diseases especially something like cancer. I am always aware that my work has direct impact on a person’s life and I’m so glad to be part of the solution. This motivates me to overcome any obstacles and continue pursuing my career. The obstacles are not as challenging since I have support and encouragement from a very good network of friends, family, or colleagues who encourages me, and this keeps me going.

How do you define success, both in your career and in your personal life?
Defining success varies from person to person since this is a very subjective concept. With regards to my career, I set a few goals when I first started working. I have achieved most of those goals and I’m currently in a happy place. I enjoy what I do, I find it very meaningful, this motivates me to get up and do what I do each day. With regards to my personal life, I was determined to provide a happy, loving and safe home for my husband and kids. Success isn’t a destination but a journey.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in your industry or field?
When perusing a career in Design Quality:
Understand regulations: You need to have a solid understanding of the regulations and standards that govern the design and manufacture of radiotherapy machines. Need to ensure products you’re working on meet all the necessary requirements and are safe for use by patients.
Focus on quality: Ensure end product is of highest possible quality. Pay attention to detail especially when conducting inspections and tests.
Communicate effectively: Communication is key!
Be proactive: Identify and address potential issues before they become bigger problems.
Continuously learn and improve: Stay up-to-date on the latest advancements in the field.

Can you tell us about a project or accomplishment you are particularly proud of, and why?
I pushed for the need to have automation testing and was able to grow a team that eventually became a critical part in the product lifecycle. With automation testing we were able to ensure that the machines were functioning properly and delivering accurate and safe doses of radiation to the patients. Automation testing also helped speed up the testing process, especially with repetitive and time-consuming tasks. It increased the efficiency of testing and reduced time to identify and fix issues. This was a very challenging and exciting task.

What do you see as your biggest opportunity or challenge in the next 5-10 years, and how do you plan to tackle it?
In the next 5-10 years, the biggest opportunity in manufacturing radiotherapy machines is to enable more precise and personalized treatments for cancer patients. Developing technology that allow for more accuracy in targeting tumors along with minimizing damage to healthy tissues. I also think this industry needs to work towards making these machines more easily available in developing countries that are experiencing a rise in cancer rates.
Some of the challenges I see – it’s not easy to continually innovate and improve the technology and maintain regulatory compliance. These machines are very expensive and have long and elaborate product life cycle.

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