Country: The Netherlands
A Levels: Chemistry, maths, physics
University: University of Birmingham, UK
I didn’t grow up wanting to be an engineer. In fact, I didn’t really have any fixed ideas about what I wanted to do but I knew that I wanted to do something that would be fun. I’d never heard of chemical engineering when I was at school but my dad was an environmental chemist. He worked for a chemical company and when we talked about career options, he told me about the chemical engineers he worked with.
I studied maths, physics and chemistry at A-level and as I started to think about university, I looked at lots of prospectuses and researched different subjects and the career opportunities on offer. I liked engineering but chemical engineering seemed to be far and away the most exciting. It looked like an interesting combination of Willy Wonka style creativity alongside a good bit of common sense!
Keeping my options open
The other major attraction of chemical engineering was that it kept my career options open upon graduation. If I had decided that chemical engineering wasn’t for me, I knew that a chemical engineering degree was well respected by employers in other sectors and I’d have plenty of opportunities elsewhere.
Studying chemical engineering at university was a bit of an unknown factor – one element that surprised me was how many different facets that were to the degree. I studied at the
University of Birmingham
, UK and my course covered everything from food, energy, the environment and plenty more besides.
My Masters course was a 4-year one and at the end of my third year, I got a summer job at
. One good thing about chemical engineering was that you could find well-paid summer jobs as a student.
Working at Shell
I enjoyed working at
and they offered me an interview upon graduation. I was successful and I got offered a starting post in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
My first job was as a process engineer, remotely supporting
’s Hydrocracker plants (a key part of the oil refining process) globally.
had 3 hydrocracker units in Germany that I worked on –generating in total around $1billion refining margin, so it was pretty major stuff.
I was based in the company’s central knowledge unit where I had access to people from all over the world with hydrocracker knowledge. As well as troubleshooting, I was responsible for developing new designs for 3rd party customers.
Travel and change
After three years in the Netherlands, I moved to a
operating site in Germany. In contrast to my first role, I got more involved in the day-to-day operations of the plant, where
supported me in becoming fluent in German.
In 2010 I moved again, this time to an oil refinery in the Netherlands. I am now a refinery economist and I help the company determine the volumes of e.g. kerosene, petrol and diesel it produces. My work is more finance and market-based now but I still rely upon and use my chemical engineering knowledge on a daily basis.