AnimationI grew up in Lewiston Idaho on the Snake River across from Clarkston, WA. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but my high school chemistry teacher suggested I might like chemical engineering. So I went to University of Idaho in Moscow and received my BS in ChE in 1991. AnimationI loved school and one of my three part time jobs was working as a tutor. I really, really enjoyed tutoring and in my senior year a portion of my job was to train other tutors at the University of Idaho. My dream was to go into teaching, so I needed to get a doctorate degree.AnimationSo I was happy that UW accepted me to the graduate program in Chemical Engineering. I worked under Professor Bill Rogers, who is now a director at the Pacific Northwest National Lab in Richland, WA. My work was on semi-conductor materials and I was primarily funded by Intel.__________Image courtesy of http://www.city-data.com/picfilesv/picv1921.php
AnimationI got married before I had finished grad school and my husband is an electrical power distribution engineer. The design engineering firm he worked for here in Seattle was downsizing and the future didn’t look good for his company. We figured that any place that needed a PhD chemical engineer would also have jobs for electrical engineers. Teaching didn’t seem to be an appropriate path at this point for me anymore. So, I took a job with Exxon (now ExxonMobil) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The picture is of the IPA – isopropyl alcohol plant and it was one of the plants I supported in my R&D and supervisor roles. The other plants made plasticizer which is used in a variety of products to make plastics softer – a fishing worm is almost 100% plasticizer and a PVC pipe has no plasticizer in it. It is used in products like dashboards and shower curtains, for example.As an aside, my boss later told me that one of the reasons I was hired into a competitive environment was due to my presentation at the interview. While my research was a little esoteric using ultra-high vacuum and examining specific electron energies in monolayer silica, the hiring team found that I was able to present the information in a simple and understandable manner. We can talk more about presentation skills later.During this time, I sat for the Professional Engineering exam in Louisiana and I have been a licensed PE since then. I had taken the EIT, which is now the Fundamentals of Engineering or FE exam, while I was at U of I.AnimationAfter working four years in R&D in Baton Rouge, I was promoted to a supervisory role where I had 22 or so union technicians, 3 professionals, and a secretary reporting to me. During this time, my direct boss relocated and so I was the acting manager for my group for several months as well. The 9/11 attacks happened just a few months before we moved from Baton Rouge to Houston.In Baytown, a suburb of Houston, I started working more in management and business roles. I had responsibility for about an $80M R&D budget and a $350M product development portfolio. This was really fun work – I loved working in innovation and I had an opportunity to conduct training for a diverse group of people. My first assignments in Baytown were with the polyethylene group so I continued to learn new technologies. Later, I became the product manager for the ethylbenzene and cumenezeolite catalysts. XOM has a different business model than most companies and leases catalyst rather than selling it. This was a heritage Mobil product so I was exposed to a different way of doing business as well during my product manager assignment. I had a staff support assigned to me who literally invoiced my customers and arranged shipping of the product to customers when they ordered new catalyst or returned the product at the end of its life cycle.Again, this was a really fun job. I had about 60 customers world wide and I visited most of them every two years. I travelled a lot – to Asia, Europe, Canada, and Brazil. And since I was in a sales role, I stayed at fancy hotels and ate gourmet meals with my customers. During this time, I studied for and took the exam to become a certified New Product Development Professional, or NPDP.AnimationThen, a friend of mine in Atlanta indicated that a new product development, which I’ll call NPD, training company was for sale because the owner’s health was failing. Innovation was my passion and I had always wanted to teach. So this seemed like an interesting opportunity.And, it didn’t work out. But, once the nugget was planted to be an entrepreneur, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. So, in 2009, I hung out the Global NP Solutions shingle and I’ve been doing training, coaching, consulting for New Product Development ever since.Recently, I also completed my MBA and took the certification exam to become a Project Management Professional (PMP). There is a larger market for certified PMPs and I am working with a company to provide PMP training in India.__________XOM image courtesy of http://www.exxonmobilchemical.com/Chem-English/about/baton-rouge-ipa-plant-upgrades.aspx?QM=00&ln=productsservices&WT.mc_id=10064&WT.mc_ev=homepage-callout
When Professor Schwartz asked if I’d be willing to talk to you guys about my career experiences I said, “Of course!!” One of the things he asked me to talk about was how do you learn or continue learning after you’ve finished school? Because I’m a lifelong learner and I have several degrees and certifications, I didn’t want to bias the discussion. So I posted a question on Linked In about how other Chemical Engineers have learned since they got their BS degrees.As an aside, I think it is really important for you to set up and manage a professional Linked In profile. Employers look at Linked In and it’s a great place to look for jobs. I have even received unsolicited job offers through Linked In because of my unique background in catalysis and project management. You should join groups like AIChE on Linked In and post questions or comments to help establish your credibility in the field. You’ll also want to grow your professional network, so get connections like the professors here at UW, people you’ve worked with and for in your internships, and even your boss from a part time job that is not related to chemical engineering. So, if you’ve worked at a department store, get your supervisor to write a Linked In recommendation for you describing your promptness and dependability. It matters. And any of you who want to connect with me, just send me an invitation and tell me you’re from UW and I’ll accept your connection.Also, you guys are juniors, right? You have some time before you’ll be looking seriously for a full-time job. So, you still have time to clean up your Facebook profile. Believe me, employers are going to look at Facebook and Twitter. You do NOT want to have a bunch of weird photos and stories about partying on your Facebook profile. Clean it up now – because even if you think it’s private, it’s not.Okay, so I’ll try not to sound like your mother any more…. Back to the survey.The vast majority of AIChE Linked In group members said they learned from on-the-job experience. For me, this meant climbing up reactors during a turn around – or a temporary plant shut down used to perform maintenance – asking a lot of questions, and not being afraid to get dirty. In most refineries and chemical plants, you will be wearing Nomex, or fire retardant clothing, going by the acronym FRC. FRC is hot, hot, hot in the humid Gulf Coast summer and it is freezing cold in the Gulf Coast winter. I was only the 2nd female PhD that they had hired in the department at Baton Rouge. So, the first FRC I had was men’s clothes cut down a little to supposedly fit a woman. It fit horribly and itches like crazy. In fact, I recently made a scarecrow out of my old FRC. But, I didn’t have a choice. I’d grab my hard hat and steel toed shoes so I could look in reactors to see the internals, take samples, or trace lines down whenever I could. Depending on the product line, the turnarounds only occur every 5 to 10 years, so it’s really important to take advantage of the opportunity to look inside equipment when it’s opened up. You can learn a lot about the process this way.Looking inside equipment also makes all the stuff you learn in school suddenly make sense. When you need to install a ¼” tubing sample line on a 6” diameter pipe, fluid mechanics starts to become very meaningful. I spent a lot of years working in catalysis, modeling reactions and helping my customers trouble shoot difficulties. Reaction kinetics and heat transfer are very meaningful if you need to figure out why there’s a hot spot in a reactor and the yield is producing nasty byproducts at a cost of $1M per day, week, or month.I’ll also emphasize the importance of continuing education. 14% of the people that responded to my survey said they used formal education to enhance their learning after graduating. While MBAs are fairly common, it is an entry way to a business assignment. XOM had a series of leadership courses that provided a lot of the same training that comes in an MBA program. However, most of my colleagues that got an MBA while at XOM left for a higher salary at another company and most of the MBAs that XOM hired were not internal promotions.My personal opinion is that certifications are going to become more important qualifiers for promotion in the next decade. Most certification programs require demonstrated experience in the field of study, a rigorous examination, and continuing education in the field. This is true of the PE, NPDP and PMP certifications. A lot of mid-career job postings require a certification to demonstrate competency, so this is something you’ll want to think about as you start working. I’ll be happy to address any questions about certification later.
I came across this list of skills and competencies for a project manager recently. I’m sharing it with you because I think it’s a really great list of capabilities that any successful chemical engineer should develop as well.A lot of engineers don’t like the soft skills training that companies encourage. It’s not really in our personalities – and that’s backed up by Myers-Briggs personality testing! But, the soft skills are often more important than the strongest of technical skills when you begin to negotiate work items after you begin working full time as an engineer. I’ve highlighted a few that I think have been important in my own career.People skills is not really well-defined, yet in my opinion it is important to be successful. I worked with all sorts of diverse cultures and people skills really benefited me. One of my customers in South Korea had an issue with a load of catalyst and the contract that we were operating under. He had cc’d a whole bunch of people on the emails filled with complaints. I didn’t know most of these people, but I assumed (and you know what assuming does…) that all of these people were important to the project. I carefully explained testing and problem-solving methods. He came back in his emails even angrier, if possible.Of course, “face” is very important in Asian cultures, so on the next email, I replied only to him and blind-copied one of my colleagues who was involved with the licensing agreement. This time, my customer in Korea replied pleasantly and was thrilled that I had offered him a solution. He invited me to dinner if I was in Korea because he was so happy with the solution. Did I mention that I didn’t change one word between the emails? It was a matter of understanding the audience to get a successful outcome to the problem.Integrity is important, I think, if you’re going to be able to look yourself in the mirror every night and know that you’ve done the right thing. Sometimes, your bosses will ask you to do things that save the company money but might introduce a quality or safety risk. We’ve all seen that BP execs are headed to jail and the massive financial judgment for the Deepwater Horizon incident.Not every ethical issue is that “big” though. I had an engineer working for me with about 7 years experience. She was dedicated and smart. For whatever reason, her ranking was low and we knew she was probably looking for another job as she was also pursuing her MBA. Being promoted was an important milestone to her career achievement. My boss at the time asked me to tell her she’d get promoted that year. But it wasn’t true. HR indicated she wasn’t due for a promotion for another 2 years. I refused to lie to her. Soon after, the boss retired.Finally, I wanted to highlight communication. This list shows verbal, but written communication is tremendously important as well. It is unacceptable in the real world to use “text” language. You must use complete sentences with nouns and verbs. It’s also really important to spell check everything you send out. And with my story about the catalyst customer, you should really give consideration to who you cc on emails. I have found that reading a lot has improved my writing skills. And the only way to improve speaking skills is take all opportunities to speak to groups. But, verbal communication is also issuing directives to operators and technicians and addressing big bosses with formal requests. At XOM, the headquarters was a very formal environment. You are expected to wear a suit and so presentations were kind of intimidating to explain the budget for my department to the VP of technology and the business unit. I found that having fewer words on a slide with back up information in a handout was helpful.Also, operators are really smart people and many have 2-year degrees. I was surprised in my first R&D assignment when the technicians told me I was the first PhD who had asked them what they thought about the changes we were making. The operators had been there 20 years and knew the plant far better than me. I believe in asking a lot of questions and gathering input from a large group of knowledgeable people. You will definitely gain the most creative solution to a problem in this way.____________Reference – Schwalbe, IT Project Management 6thed, 2008, page 25
Before I take questions, I’d just like to add a word about networking. This is more important than ever. I’ve already mentioned Linked In as a professional networking site, but you’ll also want to share info on Twitter, contribute to ChEnected, the AIChE group. You can network with people through your hobbies or your church. For example, I found a great proofreader for my ebooks through a knitting group where we knit squares for orphans in South Africa.You will find a lot of interesting groups to network – we have Husky football viewing parties in Houston – and it’s a great way to meet people.Be open to new ideas and always continue learning – be a life long learner!
UW Leadership Seminar
Lifelong Learning…after you graduate Teresa Jurgens-Kowal PhD, MBA, PE, NPDP, PMP 28 November 2012 University of Washington Seattle, WA
Ten Most Important Skills andCompetencies for a Project Manager1. People Skills 6. Verbal2. Leadership communication3. Listening 7. Strong at building teams4. Integrity, ethical behavior 8. Conflict management5. Strong at building trust 9. Critical thinking 10. Balance priorities