The Tale of Chemical Engineering (Part VII of I)

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

Recently, I have seen simultaneously a major step forward in my career as a professional Chemical Engineer and a massive step back as a member of the company I work for.

I am finialising my application to the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) for Chartered Engineer status, the culmination of six years of hard work and training to become a professionally accredited engineer. Chartered Engineer is something that, as time has gone on, has become far more important to me than I'd expected it ever to become. I was, at first, very cynical of the whole thing, partly because my senior managers and peers at the time said it was almost worthless - a trick into getting you to pay more subsciprtio fees to the IChemE each year. A tacked on thing never needed by someone in my industry due to lack of supply and increased demand.

Then, over time, I have become more aware of it's benefits - it's a professionally peer reviewed status, internationallly recognised, and something of a major milestone in my life. It took a friend who was working towards chartered accountant to really put it into perspective; I would be applying to gain a major qualificaiton, letters after my name, and to address a dispartiy in my professional career.

You might not know this, but I have a Batchelor's degree. I left University a year before most of my friends did, and they went on to attain Master's degrees. I worked for a full year instead, gaining some incredible experience that, in the eyes of the IChemE, I have to prove meets or exceeds the experience and learning that I would have got from the extra year of graft at University. Many people in the industry of my age have MEng degrees, and it sets me back that I don't.

I was a lucky boy - I left just before the downturn in 2008, and managed to get a job at the peak of the market. Any other time, I might have struggled, and since then I've never taken my employment for granted. It's been tough, learning to take the "Oh, so you don't have a Masters?" questions on my chin, rather than as an insult, but a compliment.

The Chartered status then is a status and a title that not only creates parity, but also shows that I do have the ability to be an engineer. It's a standard I want to attain, and one that I wish to embody; one that is a difficult one to achieve. I hope I am successful.

This is part of my career path - in the previous part, I moaned about the fact that the company was steering us into a post-engineer world, where many of the best become managers of engineers, and leave behind their engineering skills for business and massaging of the team. I despise this vehemtnly, especially when the company is reluctant to even admit that that can also be a success. I am very sad to report that despite these misgivings, a new programme that is rolling out is actually going to be even worse than what was before, and the people that are in control of it are blind to that fact.

I signed up for the new training scheme to try and see if it was fit for my wishes, but my colleagues were less enthused, ducking out before it had even started. I won't go into the details of the new system here (I am probably not allowed to) but safe to say they are using the wrong tests, psuedo science, and a strange tactic to try and mitigate the problems that they face in today's market - that of the lure of greater pay as a contractor, rather than a staff engineer.

I have put a lot of effort into this company, taken part in many schemes and features of it, and mostly tried to make a mark on my little corner and contributing to the discussion. So, you can imagine my dissappointment and anger when I see the route that they are taking is worse than I could've wanted or predicted, and that the rules of progression towards a goal in the company have been replaced by a asinine and broken system that won't provide results.

The real kicker is that despite their attempts to try and create a new system to which all engineers will work within, a system to try and better the company's staff levels, it is instead making me thinking about leaving, for the first time in my career here. Do I want to work in a company that does this? No. Do I have to? Nope. Will others in my position? I don't think so.

As a final note, the most annoying part of this all is that my relunctance to follow up the scheme, or to take part, is being used against me, as a threat. A "message" it was called, my annoyance and complaints, and that I was to be careful as to what it would send up the chain to managers. Well, I can say this; if my message isn't being heard or read clearly enough, maybe you should listen a little more closely, because when one of the engineers that is being targeted directly is so reluctant to get involved, surely that should be sending alarm signals that you're doing something wrong.

Or maybe they don't care. The problem is, I do. At least, I did.