Shannon Witkowski 90

Shannon Witkowski ’90

  • What are you doing currently?
    • I graduated from Visitation in 1990 and attended Marquette University- B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. I started working in the medical device industry in 1994 and am still working here today. My devices have ranged from large lung volume machines down to 1mm implantable rings. Currrently, I am in the Research & Development Engineering Group and am the Technical Platform Lead for anastomotic technologies for Baxter Healthcare, Microsurgery division. An anastomosis is a connection between 2 blood vessels. My device is used in reconstructive surgery fo cancer patients-such as natural breast reconstruction or head and neck reconstruction- to connect blood vessels back together and restore blood flow to the newly reconstructed tissue. It is faster and more effective than sewing with sutures and we also have developed a sensor to monitor blood flow and detect clot formations. It is rewarding to make a device that positively impacts so many patients each year,
  • How has your experience at Visitation shaped your life?
    • “Not for school, but for life” is much more than just a school motto. During your high school years, there are so many new experiences and challenges academically and socially, that you are focused on these new things. You don’t realize how the Visitation environment and community are shaping your character, your ideology, and your thought process. Like most teenagers, your eyes are focused on the future, focused on the levels of the house you may want to build and you don’t see the solid foundation that is being formed.
    • You don’t stop to think what a female could do or should do- because they are doing everything all around you. This is a different way of thinking, but it is engrained in who you are and the strong leader developing within you. As a female engineering student in 1990- I didn’t give it a second thought until I realized about 10% of my engineering classes were females. I had one professor make the females go to the board to write out problems so that they could, “learn to perform in a man’s world.”
    • The Salesian Spirituality intertwines into academics and classroom/ Upper School interactions that carry forward in a strong balance of technology, arts, and spirituality. As you grow stronger in your academics, you are strengthening your virtues as well and putting them into practice. This carries forward in how you conduct yourself with your college academic community, your professional community, your family/ neighborhood community, and your parish community. In my professional career as a medical device engineer, the little virtues pop up as I interact with my team, as I make ethical decisions for my testing and what is best for the patient. I use my gifts and talents to create beneficial devices for others and am a mentor to my younger engineers. There are tough days with projects not going well, multiple deadlines, and interacting with difficult people. On these days, I turn to the Direction of Intention. My oldest daughter started at Visitation in 2012 and parents were given the small card with the Direction of Intention. It is now taped to my monitor and it is the perfect way to start my workday and keep my moral compass pointed in the right direction, These are the days when the lessons of not for school but for life shine through.
  • What would your advice be to current students at Vis?
    • I could make this really long but my daughters are already rolling their eyes! I asked my daughter- Alex Witkowski ’16 and she said do what makes you happy. I will expand on that and say there is no perfect person, perfect job, perfect life. Don’t believe all the pictures and snaps on social media. Live your life for your enjoyment and fulfillment and not for comparing to others. I don’t think St. Francis de Sales sent snapchats or tweets- but there is a lot behind “Be who you are and be that well”. This would be a snap to screenshot and save. Don’t worry about the “accomplishments” of classmates, friends, family, or co-workers. This success and happiness is different for everyone. Use the virtues as a guide and be true to yourself. Don’t fear being undecided at the start of college. Don’t fear failing at new things- big or small. You will find the combination that makes you fulfilled, and you will find it at your own pace.
    • Remember to feed your spiritual side as this will keep you grounded and your moral compass pointed in the right direction in good times and bad. It will bring your peace and strength when you need it and intensify in joyful celebrations.
    • “Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself…. do not be disheartened by your imperfections, but always rise up with fresh courage.” – St. Francis de Sales

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