The Tale of Chemical Engineering (Part VIII of I)

Previously
I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII.

Take a walk through time using the links above and watch the change in mindset of a young and impressionable process engineer. As I graduated I didn't know what I wanted. Then, after I started work, I realised that I'd found what I didn't know I wanted. Then, last year, I had realised that I didn't really like what I hadn't known I had wanted. Over time my personal views on my career and profession have shifted and morphed over time and with it my life has changed (or should that be the other way round?).

Here's a secret; I don't have a Masters degree. Instead I left University with a lowly Bachelor's in Chemical Engineering which doesn't sound too bad, but then I'll put it into perspective; of all the graduates from my degree in 2007 there were seven BEng graduates - Jonny, Stephen and I who had chosen to leave at the end of fourth year and four others who were being "kicked out" to an extent due to their lack of perceived success academically. In fact, I guess that's why I left too - to get a job yes, but also because I found university very fucking tough and depressing, especially when compared to the working world I'd been exposed to the previous summer in 2006 at Jacobs. 

I made the leap at exactly the right time; 2007 was right before the downturn and the first drop in oil price I'd experienced. I was hired in by a company gasping for new engineers worried about the bleed of staff to contractor due to the high wage disparity. In 2015 the percentage of employees that have "stayed" staff compared to previous years is dramatically higher in my intake - four out of eight of us are still here, staff, working our way up the ranks, with the other four having left for self-employed utopia. That 50% retention is better than the 0% retention of the year before us. And since that watershed it's been more and more.

The reason I bring this up is that this has been a bit of a weight around my neck. I knew that I wasn't as good as some of my closest friends at Uni and I know that I'm not amazing at Chemical Engineering. I know all the really important stuff and can do everything perfectly well (and I have an appetite for learning it all too) but it just doesn't come as naturally to me as it does to others. I am not that kind of brain - retention of the technical kind has always been hard to make stick, so when it comes to simple rules and off-the-cuff understanding of systems I struggle. I know the principles and I am (I think) pretty good at my job when it comes down to it, but there are others in my field that just "get it" and that's fine. I'm happy to be good enough to be happy with my professional quality, which can always be better, and as long as I am striving to be better I'll be happy.

The BEng problem has never really reared its head to be honest, so it's entirely a personal thing. Experience counts for everything once you're into the industry and my experience is actually up there with the best of them - I have had a lot of wonderful opportunities come my way be sheer good fortune and I can't complain too much about that. I have however finally achieved a long-term goal and this past December I became chartered.

Chartership has always been something I'd wanted. At first many put me off it, my superiors being of the generation where it didn't matter if you had it or not. I decided early on to actually aim for it, and despite taking my sweet time (partly my own fault, partly the BEng requirement being more stringent) I am now formally a Chartered Chemical and Process Engineer and Member of the Institute of Chemical Engineers.

It is quite ironic then that this career highlight has came right at the moment where I am considering a big shift in my career progression. However, that's for a different post entirely, at some point in the future. In the mean time I am just excited and happy to see the CEng MIChemE appear after my name now on official post from the institute and will hopefully be promoted to a new grade of engineer in the office, all being well. 

You'll find the Engineer side of this site has been updated to reflect this new milestone.