By Tommy Carver
For the majority of the world, people and companies are scrambling to react and save face during the pandemic and economic crisis. However, for T&M Class XIII alumnus Brigid Culkin and corporate sponsor Abbott, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to rise to the occasion and be part of the solution, rather than a bystander. As seen in recent news with the development of the 5-minute COVID-19 test and the antibodies test, Abbott has used the situation to take a step up and stand in the limelight, acting as a beacon of positivity and hope in the midst of chaos. Brigid Culkin has been no different, as her work with Abbott has ramped up, and her team has risen to meet the new expectations created for them.
Culkin grew up wanting to lead, as from the age of five she wanted to be a boss. She is the type of person to seek out challenges and look for ways in which she can help, no matter how daunting or far-out it may seem. This attitude is what has been part of the culture that has made Abbott and Culkin so successful during this time, constantly looking for ways to improve and bigger fields to farm.
Currently, Culkin is a senior supply chain manager for the heart failure division of Abbott in Pleasanton, California, helping to develop and sustain the supply chain for the production of heart pumps for patients. However, this is only one of the many roles she’s held in her 11 years with the company, starting as an intern before graduation and staying all the way until now. Graduating as a chemical engineer at Illinois, Culkin started in the Professional Development Program (PDP) at Abbott, allowing her to pursue and test out multiple divisions and roles across the company. Serving as a facilities project engineer, financial analyst, packaging engineer, integration project manager, plant supervisor, and eventually ending up in her passion of supply chain, Culkin has developed both depth and breadth of experience in her time at Abbott. She called the supply chain the “sweet spot” for her, where she could balance the problem-solving skills she learned in engineering with the business skills she learned from T&M and previous roles. Finding something she was so passionate about, Culkin offered some advice to students: “find something that makes you want to get up early, work late, and put in that extra effort like it’s no big deal”.
For Culkin, however, this is not necessarily the most rewarding aspect of her role. Every quarter, Abbott brings in a patient ambassador to the heart failure division, who has reaped the benefits of all their hard work bringing together this supply chain. This ambassador tells emotional stories of how the heart pump has changed or saved his or her life and how this small device has had an impact on those around them. This creates the perfect tie-in to see the reward of Culkin’s hard work, as she has always wanted to work in healthcare and make a difference. Getting the chance to see that difference means the world to her.
Just like the COVID-19 team at Abbott, Culkin has stepped up to the plate during these tough times. She and her team have been expanding the supply chain for heart pumps in the wake of increased demand, ensuring that suppliers stay safe, active, and productive during the pandemic. Even if the world is in chaos, those in need of heart pumps still need them, and Culkin is working to make sure they get them. She, along with the rest of Abbott, decided that they would be part of the solution and rise to the challenge, taking up the increased workload caused by the pandemic and leading through the chaos.
From her experiences, Culkin encourages students to pursue what they love and take advantage of all their opportunities, especially within T&M. Although she began in a primarily engineering role, Culkin found tons of use for her business skills and eventually found her passion in a culmination of both sides. She believes that if you are passionate about what you do, then you can be much more successful when you actually try to do it. So, while the world is chaotic and nothing seems to make sense, take this opportunity as a chance to step up to the plate and do something more, whether it’s big or small. Take COVID-19 as a challenge, and seek out ways to overcome it. It is important to be proactive and accept the challenge, rather than let it rule you.
Tommy is currently in T&M Class XXVI, a sophomore in Computer Science, and will be a data science Intern at IBM this summer.