Hello all! I'm back with another Macademics Post! This week, I'll be interviewing my friend Victoria Henry to tell us more about Chemical Engineering.
What is Chemical Engineering?
Chemical Engineering is both designing and optimizing chemical systems for real world applications. Chemical Engineering is used very heavily in oil & gas industries, consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, and environmental industries.
Did you always want to be an Chemical Engineer? What ultimately led you to the decision of becoming an Engineer?
When I initially decided to study engineering, I had little idea of how that could translate to a career in engineering. What I did know in a general sense was how studying engineering would open a lot of doors post graduation and give me time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I still had the flexibility to be a doctor, lawyer, journalist, scientist, with a background in engineering. Studying engineering still allowed me flexibility that other majors didn’t.
As I began studying engineering, what I realized about myself was that I really enjoyed problem solving. Engineering allowed me to build capability to solve some of the systemic and scientific problems that we deal with on a day to day basis. Most things have some type of chemical basis to them, and chemical engineering allowed me to develop a solid foundation and knowledge of the fundamental characteristics of chemical systems to solve problems.
What were some of your favorite classes in school and why?
At Rutgers, I was allowed to work as a research assistant in one of Rutgers’ Chemical Laboratories to receive elective credits. In doing so I was able to connect the theories we learned in class to practical applications.
Now, you’ve recently transitioned to a new job in a completely different industry. What was that like? What skills did you take from your previous job to your current one?
While In college I dentifies I wanted to be a problem solver post graduation. Deciding in which capacity I wanted to problem solve was probably the hardest part. One of the things I enjoy doing most in my spare time is shopping. Being able to work with something I enjoy doing in the Consumer Goods industry allowed me to connect what I do with who I am. I am a consumer, so I take a lot of pride in being able to work with a product I can then go to a store and see on the shelves.
I interned at the company I decided to transition to (Procter &Gamble). When I began to reflect on the best way to develop both as a problem solver and a leader as well as have a large impact , Procter & Gamble was a natural fit. Transitioning from Financial Services to Consumer Goods was a pretty significant change in industries. Ultimately the stakeholder management skills I developed as a Project Manager have helped me a lot in my current role. Especially in terms of generating buy in and getting agreement on any ideas I have to optimize our systems.
Can you describe what you do now?
Currently I’m a Process Engineer at Procter & Gamble. My current responsibilities revolve around process reliability and process optimization. If we have any process outages I identify long term solutions and implement countermeasures. I focus mainly on quality and equipment reliability.
Constantly as a company we’re evaluating ideas to improve our products to appeal to all of the needs of the consumer. Once we decide on an idea or a plan to improve the product I make sure we can consistently produce this improved product and that it is consistently a quality product. I think about the different chemical interactions between the equipment, the product, and the consumer.
My role is pretty interesting since it allows me to utilize my chemical engineering degree in a real life application. I look at how chemical, electrical, and mechanical components interact with each other and troubleshoot how an off balance or misalignment in any of those areas can affect the end product.
Did you face any adversity being a black women pursuing a degree in engineering?
Rutgers University was (and possibly still is) considered to be one of the most diverse universities in the United States. Although Rutgers is very diverse the engineering program is not. I was often the only black face in my major classes. Because of this I was forced to step out of my comfort zone to develop relationships with others in my major classes. I had to step out of my comfort zone to cultivate an environment of success and find a support system.
Do you have any advice for our readers interested in pursuing Chemical Engineering or Engineering in general?
Don’t be afraid to go after what you want. A lot of time we can let the one “no” deter us from what it is we’re meant to be focused on. Engineering can be very complex at times. Things won’t always come easy. Stay focused on your end result and keep working towards it and eventually you will figure it out.
Thanks Victoria for letting me interview you! I loved hearing about your passion and commitment to make an impact.
Check out my other Macademics posts!