Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Career of a Process Engineer

I am writing this piece to share some insights to chemical engineering graduates who are clueless about the prospective careers available for them. 

As a chemical engineer, there are various career options available. You can work as an R&D scientist, a technical sales engineer, an operations engineer, an academic or as in my case a process engineer.

In this article, I will focus on the career trajectory of a process engineer working in an engineering and construction company catering to the engineering design and construction of infrastructure projects of the oil and gas industry (to a certain extent pharmaceutical and chemical industries).

As a process engineer, I started out as a cadet process engineer, meaning I am being trained on the crafts that I have to do. The first company I worked for is a Japanese company, that is why I got a good training on basic process engineering design. In there, I learned how to simulate a process using a simulation software, design and rate various kinds of heat exchangers, size vessels and columns, conduct hydraulic studies and prepare documents pertaining to process design such as equipment and instrument datasheets, equipment and line list, effluent summary, etc. After our cadet-ship training, I was assigned to do actual project job.

Having gained sufficient experience, I was able to seek career opportunity in an American company. The American company is not as rigid as the Japanese company in terms of project execution. It also put more emphasis on meritocracy as opposed to seniority. The project execution in American company is not as orderly as that in the Japanese company, but there's more flexibility. Innovation or ingenuity is also encouraged in the American company.  

As a process engineer, the next career step can be in project management. In fact, it is advantageous for process engineers to become project managers. The reason is that process engineers know quite well the entire process and he or she can advice immediately what design configurations will work and not work. With project management in mind, I pursued MBA full time so I left my work.

After MBA, I got an offer in Korea still to work as a process engineer. I took it with the thought in mind that I still need more process engineering work experience before I can become a competent project manager. After my contract in Korea finished, I transferred to Singapore because of its familiarity to me and also for its proximity to Philippines.

Some of my fellow process engineers at this stage of our careers was able to seek employment in the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. As such, an experience in process engineering opens up opportunities globally. Some work opportunities are permanent and some are contract-based. Working outside of the Philippines provides a different challenge and it is nothing but moving out of your cultural comfort zone.

As such, I would say, there is a good outlook with process engineering career. There are a lot of opportunities globally and it is up to you how you can make advantage of it.

1 comment:

  1. Tag: PM202A51. Let me share all of you about #5 Tips for Project Management Success,, I hope you enjoy it

    1. Plan your day using time management techniques

    As a project manager, time management skills are essential because you are dealing with a wide range of tasks that demand a quick turnaround time. Planning your day will go a long way in keeping you organized and increasing your productivity. Assist your task planning by using project management software which helps you track the work of you and your team.

    If you are not very tech savvy, a simple to-do list can also be a great organizational tool. Prioritize your most important tasks by putting them at the top of the list and less important ones at the bottom. Having a visual plan of your daily tasks helps to keep you on track and aware of time.

    Related post: Free ebook 104 secrets to become a great project manager

    2. Include stakeholders in important project conversations

    While you will have plenty of responsibilities regarding the project, don’t neglect your clients.

    Good communication is essential is keeping both parties informed of project progression, curtailing scope creep, and apprised of changing requirements. Some clients may have different expectations when it comes to communication, so make sure to establish the frequency and type of communication (like emails, phone calls, and face-to-face conversations) at the beginning of your project.

    Establishing communication expectations early helps alleviate stakeholder uncertainty about communication frequency and delivery.

    3. Regularly communicate with your team

    Daily team communication helps keep misunderstandings and unclear requirements under control. Keeping your team informed in every step of the project is essential to project management success.

    For example, a study published by Procedia Technology found that good communication skills were the cornerstone of project management. The study examined over 300 “construction project managers, architects, construction managers, engineers and quantity surveyors” and their successes and failures on various construction projects.

    4. Anticipate project setbacks

    Even the best-laid plans often go awry.

    Remember that even with a high amount of planning and attention to detail, your project may still encounter some challenges. Pay attention to complaints from stakeholders or colleagues, and other warning signs, like a missed deadline or cost overrun, that there may be a problem.

    Preventing a crisis will keep your project running smoothly, save you a lot of time, and keep you, your team, and your stakeholders confident in progressing with the project.

    Unfortunately not every complication can be avoided. Crisis management skills are essential for dealing with the unexpected. Project managers need to be flexible and pragmatic. Improvise and make sharp decisions when needed.

    Related post: 92 free project management templates

    5. Stay focused on the details

    A common problem project managers encounter is having the project aims not aligned with the organization’s objectives. A great project manager will strategize a plan for the project to lead back to the overall success of the business.

    Know your project’s scope by heart and avoid wandering outside of the project’s requirements. It’s too easy to get lost in minor details and forget what your focus is, so a well-planned project scope is essential for success.

    And final, you should use KPI to measure effectiveness of the project, here are full list: 76 project management KPIs