WBBA President and CEO Chris Rivera spoke to students from Bothell and Woodinville High Schools on Feb. 14 at the Northshore Performing Arts Center in Bothell, WA. He discussed the growing biomedical and biotechnology industry in Washington, encouraging local students to pursue careers in the life sciences.
“I do a lot of speaking to other organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce and to our membership, but I love coming to the high schools,” said Rivera. “If two or three students say, ‘Hey I didn't know about that’ and end up going into the industry, then I feel like it’s been well worth my time.”
Several of Bothell High School’s science and marketing classes, as well as Woodinville High School’s advanced biomedical science students, attended the two-hour event. For many students, Rivera’s presentation affirmed their career aspirations in the biomedical field, while for others, the evolution of the industry in their home state came as a surprise.
“I didn’t know that the industry is such a Washington state powerhouse,” said Tremaine Ng, a senior at Bothell High School. “The amount of money flowing was a surprise too. Usually I imagine energy technology and oil to be the big money engineering fields, but biotech and biomed are big opportunities to attract investment.” Although Ng has always been interested in engineering, he had never before considered pursuing a career in the life sciences. Now, looking beyond high school, Ng states that the biomedical and biotechnology fields are “definite possibilities” for his future career.
Bothell High School marketing students were also able to glean a message from the presentation. Senior Heather Zamudio, who is considering a career in business marketing, said that she was inspired by Rivera’s personal business story. “Mr. Rivera’s presentation related to me through his sharing of how he entered the business,” said Zamudio. “Knowing that Mr. Rivera entered an industry with a heavy focus in biotechnology and succeeded without much background on the topic provides an example of how anyone is able to succeed in any business they choose.”
Rivera, who has worked in major cities like Boston and San Francisco, holds that Washington’s innovation and economic growth are nearly unparalleled, providing great opportunities for young students. “It’s not just life sciences, but if you look at the Northwest and Washington in particular, we changed the aerospace industry; we changed the software industry; we changed retail with Amazon and Starbucks. We have some unique attributes that other regions don’t. We have our innovation, our willingness to change the world. Life sciences has already made huge changes in the world and I think has an opportunity to be a global leader.”
Rivera’s presentation not only allowed students to gain visibility of the life sciences industry world-wide, but it also related to the audience on a more personal level. Doug Hakala, Bothell High School marketing instructor and former vice president of Shockwave Medical, coordinated the event in hopes of illuminating his students to the life science careers possible “right in our backyard.” “Bothell really is a hub of biomedical organizations,” said Hakala. “There are terrific, terrific careers and the thing about these careers is that not only are they going to be careers that are well-paying jobs, but you also have the chance to save people’s lives and improve health. There’s nothing better than that.”