David graduated in 2008 with a Masters in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry from the University of Sheffield. He is now a graduate process engineer at Snamprogetti.
Following graduation, I was looking for a career that would challenge and interest me while utilising the specialised knowledge that I gained during my degree. I wanted a career that would give me responsibility and enable me to contribute usefully from day one.
I came across a graduate role at Snamprogetti, and working as part of a team to design, construct and commission multimillion-pound projects in exotic locations sounded like an exciting and challenging beginning to my career. I submitted a CV and covering letter and was asked to interview. I had the opportunity at the interview to meet some of the past graduates and learn about the types of project I was likely to encounter and what the work was like from their perspective. Fortunately I was offered the role a few days later!
The entry requirements for the role are a minimum of a BEng in Chemical Engineering, although a Masters is generally preferred as it makes for a simpler route through to chartership. I find I draw on my degree constantly, particularly what I learnt regarding heat and mass balances, thermodynamics and fluid dynamics. IT skills are also used every day, including basic spreadsheet and word processing alongside specialist simulation packages.
I’ve only been with Snamprogetti for six months, but I’ve already progressed in terms of my day-to-day responsibilities. I’ve been involved in the design of hydrogen production units for use in oil refineries in other units such as hydrotreaters and hydrocrackers. I’ve also taken part in a feasibility study for a gas plant upgrade in Australia, and am currently writing an operating manual for an inorganic chemical plant in China. I’ve attended external training courses and the senior engineers are always willing to spend time explaining details to me.
Of course, there are times when parts of the role can be repetitive, but I think that there’s more than enough variation in the work for most people. You spend a large amount of time sitting at a desk, and if you’re not looking for office work to form the basis of your career then I wouldn’t recommend the role. That said, there are always opportunities to visit other sites and perhaps spend time on placement while plants are being constructed, commissioned or refurbished. Managing time and deadlines are also very important in this industry, as a missed deadline can cost millions.
My immediate career aim is to develop a broad range of knowledge as an engineer and gain as much varied experience as possible. This should hopefully make chartership possible within four or five years. Gaining a wide set of experiences should allow me to find out which areas I enjoy most and where my skills are best suited. It will also enable me to understand how different disciplines are involved at different stages throughout a project.
My advice for future applicants would be to maintain an up-to-date CV and have it checked by someone who understands the current recruiting environment e.g. a careers adviser. Research the company you’re applying to and understand what they do. When you’re interviewed, be professional but be yourself!
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