Author: Ayodele Ajani, process design engineer, Prochem Engineering As the saying goes, 'A good friend remembers what we were and sees what we can be.' If only I had known that out of all the friends I met in college – such as Bernoulli, Coulson & Richardson, and Reynolds & Newton – that the most valuable of them all would be Dr Patricia Kieran, senior lecturer in UCD’s School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering, I would have paid more attention to her and made her my best friend.
From my sixth year in secondary school, my dream had always been to graduate from college and get a job within the pharmaceutical industry, but then the economic recession happened and the dream became a nightmare. I had never really doubted my ability to get a job, but getting a chemical engineering job after graduation was tougher than I expected for various reasons. In hindsight, I limited my job application choices by only applying to the large multinationals across the country but I did not realise the problem with this decision. [login type="readmore"] It was one disappointing email after another. Many times, I did not even get the privilege of an automated response. I tried to keep my motivation up and kept applying. I got lucky a few times and had a few interviews, but failed to land my ‘dream’ job. A few years later, I was to be re-united with my long-lost friend, Dr Kieran. She made me aware of the weakness in my job-seeking strategy and opened up entirely new options. I had unknowingly minimised my own options in trying to get involved within the pharmaceutical industry. She suggested to me that opportunities exist for graduates in the engineering firms serving the pharmaceutical industry. This sector is the hidden jewel in the crown that is the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland. Going down this road is perhaps the path less travelled by many chemical engineers, but it is one that deserves further consideration and exploration. To cut the long story short, after meeting with the directors of Prochem Engineering at their Kilkenny office, I was offered a chemical engineering position and relocated from Dublin to Kilkenny. DIVERSE ROLE IN  CONSULTANCY FIRM As a chemical engineer in a consultancy firm, my role is quite diverse from project to project. My teamwork, analytical, communications, time management and project management skills, as well as my attention to detail, were put to the test from day one. The daily work of a chemical engineer in a medium-sized engineering office is not very predictable – in fact, it is enjoyably unpredictable. A phone call or an email could change an entire daily schedule. It could be generating design documents, chemical engineering calculations, requests for information from clients or vendors, resolving design details with vendors over the phone or by email, or attending meetings on the other side of the country with clients. Each day has its own challenges, but I embrace the challenges and it helps in developing key engineering competencies. All of these challenges make me a better chemical engineer in the long run. I have been involved in several projects as they progress their way through the office. During the course of a project, my responsibilities vary. I have worked on:
  • Developing process and instrumentation diagrams;
  • Developing user requirement specifications;
  • Completion of process engineering calculation e.g. pressure drop calculations, heat exchanger sizing, line sizing or pump-sizing calculation;
  • Technical bid analysis/commercial bid analysis;
  • Preparation of minutes of meetings; and
  • Dealing with vendors on design queries and philosophy.
One of the many benefits of working in a firm like Prochem is the opportunity to work on various projects concurrently and develop an ability to multitask effectively and efficiently. Working with the directors, the senior chemical engineers and the mechanical and the electrical engineers on a daily basis, I have been made to realise how much effort goes into the successful completion of a project. In addition to chemical engineering, I now have a much better appreciation of the challenges of other engineering disciplines. The working relationship around the office is good. All of the directors are my mentors; I can go to any one of them for both work-related and life-related issues. My colleagues are my friends; they are like my extended family. I can gladly say I have found my ‘niche’. If the eyes could be patient, it will see the nose eventually…