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Chemical engineering is a sustainable career as the number of engineers in this discipline is expected to climb.
Good news for chemical engineers: the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates an 8 percent rise in the number of engineers in this discipline employed at U.S. companies between 2016 and 2026, noting that the median salary as of 2016 is $98,340 per year. That growth is as fast as average, notes the BLS.
However, overall growth of employment will be tempered by a decline in employment in some manufacturing sectors, despite chemical engineers working in industries whose products are sought by many manufacturing firms, adds the BLS.
The demand for chemical engineers truly depends, in large measure, on the number of products manufactured by various industries, says the BLS. So it’s also expected the ability of chemical engineering employers to incorporate new emerging technologies will become imperative for sustaining employment growth.
The fact remains that the field of chemical engineering is - and will continue to be - necessary for applying the principles of chemistry, physics, biology and mathematics to solve problems that involve the production of chemicals, fuels, drugs, food and a score of other essentials.
And as this engineering discipline continues to migrate into dynamic areas, such as nanotechnology, alternative energies and biotechnology, the demand for engineering services in many manufacturing industries will be buoyed, opening possibilities for more to enter the field and find the right career chemistry.
Meet four chemical engineers forging their own successful career paths at DowDuPont, CH2M, Praxair and Air Products.
DowDuPont’s Zewde Manages & Mentors Young Engineers
As a child growing up in Ethiopia, Anteneh Zewde admired his dad’s work as an engineer as he helped neighbors, friends and family complete various intricate repair projects.
“I watched with fascination as he put together small pieces that became one of the first solar heaters in the country,” says Zewde, who recalls accompanying his dad to work.
“My dad is the reason I chose engineering,” he says, noting how he came to the U.S., alone, as a 15-year-old unfamiliar with the English language.
Later, after deciding to pursue mechanical engineering, Zewde completed six co-ops with a petrochemical and polymer company before graduating from the University of Cincinnati. He also obtained an MBA from Drexel University. Having attained valuable hands-on experience in what he calls the “exciting chemical arena,” Zewde felt he found his calling.
Nineteen years ago, Zewde joined DuPont, headquartered in Wilmington, DE. Today he works as an engineering supervisor, managing field engineers at various plant sites in the various businesses of DuPont, which completed its merger this year with The Dow Chemical Company, headquartered in Midland, MI, to form DowDuPont.
“I work with early-career chemical, mechanical, electrical and materials engineers - all in distinct roles. Working at plant sites, with union workers, where products are manufactured from raw materials to finished products demonstrates engineering as a field that involves many aspects and provides numerous hands-on experiences,” states Zewde.
Stressing that the engineering field is considered to be of high value now and in the future, he maintains that chemical engineers are needed to develop and leverage fast-changing technologies necessary for developing next-generation products.
He further sees challenging and interesting times ahead for chemical engineers in a world that’s confronting climate change, digitization and new public expectations.
One key to enticing more minorities to consider chemical engineering, according to Zewde, is letting people know it’s a fun career.
“Engineering is about solving challenges that exist somewhere in the world. When people have problems, we help provide solutions,” he says, noting that the company continues to have opportunities for engineers, especially in the chemical, mechanical and electrical areas.
Zewde enjoys the team aspect of his work, stressing that a single individual cannot do it all. He’s active in giving back via his leadership role for the mentoring program for the engineering organization, and his participation in the American Corporate Partners Mentoring program for U.S. Veterans, as well as Engineers Without Borders.
In fact, as part of that latter organization’s Central Houston Professional Chapter, he was able bring his engineering expertise back to his native country by recently helping with the building of a public restroom in Weledi, Ethiopia.
Information about open engineering positions at DowDuPont is posted at dow-dupont.com/about-dow-dupont/careers/default.aspx. Connect on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Creating Chemistry: DowDuPont
In the past year, DuPont and The Dow Chemical Company completed their merger, creating DowDuPont with the intent to form strong, independent, publicly traded companies in agriculture, materials science and specialty products sectors that will lead their respective industries via productive, science-based innovation to meet the needs of customers and help solve global challenges.
Air Products’ Chavez-Ayala Enjoys Interacting with Colleagues & Customers
For Ana Chavez-Ayala, her 10-year tenure at Allentown, PA-headquartered Air Products has been a remarkable personal and professional experience.
A graduate of Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering and of Villanova University with a Master of Science also in chemical engineering, Chavez-Ayala immigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador as a non-English speaking high school student.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that achieving my goals and dreams was up to me. I needed to be strong, persistent and hard-working, and I still believe my ability to multitask and work well under pressure stems from early experiences that prepared me to face work-related challenges and consistently strive to improve my professional life,” she says.
Now, as project development engineer, Chavez-Ayala enjoys front-end interaction with colleagues and customers. Responsible for preparing proposals for the engineering, design, procurement, construction and operation of industrial gas standard plants for customers around the world, she’s particularly fond of addressing and solving challenges.
Stressing curiosity as an important factor in her choice of chemical engineering as a career, Chavez-Ayala underscores her long-held interest in wondering how things are made.
“That led to my decision to join Air Products, a company involved in a variety of industries - including developing the new hydrogen economy as an alternative clean fuel,” she explains.
Leading a team of engineers involved in multiple engineering functions, she’s responsible for putting together all of the pieces needed to prepare the safest, most innovative and most competitive offers for Air Product customers. Doing so, she found, fostered her development of a variety of essential skills crucial for any profession: influencing people, public speaking, guiding groups in decision-making and driving results, to name just a few.
Of the opinion that chemical engineering provides significant opportunities and can open many doors, Chavez-Ayala mentions that a chemical engineering background creates opportunities to work in both technical and non-technical positions in numerous industries - among them industrial gases, chemicals, petrochemical, food and pharmaceutical.
“As our human needs and expectations evolve, new industries and technical developments will benefit from the skills and expertise of chemical engineers,” says Chavez-Ayala, who urges minority students interested in STEM careers to consider chemical engineering.
She also participates in the company’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) teams, which are charged with building supportive communities that help attract and retain talent, as well as raising cultural awareness, fostering personal development and contributing to the company’s overall D&I objectives.
Chavez-Ayala is also an active member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and last year attended the SHPE national convention as an Air Products ambassador.
Those interested in learning more about professional opportunities at Air Products are encouraged to go to airproducts.com/careers. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Creating Chemistry: Air Products
Serving needs, solving problems and innovating are earmarks of, A 75-year-old industrial gases company with approximately 15,000 employees working throughout the world, Air Products provides atmospheric and process gases and related equipment to a variety of manufacturing markets. It also ranks as the world’s leading supplier of liquefied natural gas process technology and equipment.
CH2M’s Brown Enjoys Managing Projects with Positive International Impact
Now in her 28th year at Englewood, CO-headquartered CH2M, Courtney Brown, PE, PMP, started as a summer intern. A graduate of the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering and of Johns Hopkins with an MSE in environmental engineering, she’s currently program manager at this global engineering company.
In high school Brown excelled in science and math. Her love of chemistry made chemical engineering a good career choice - especially after attending a STEM outreach program for minorities.
“That program really sparked my interest in engineering,” she says. “Because the field is, for most people, very abstract, [so it’s good to have] programs that provide opportunities for minority students to see real world examples of how engineers make a difference [-] that can be powerful.”
After holding positions, with increasing responsibilities, Brown determined that her particular area of interest was in project and program management. “My earlier technical training, coupled with experience in staff management, business development and project management, provided an excellent foundation for managing engineers working with a variety of projects throughout the world,” she states.
Firm in her belief that chemical engineering will continue to evolve and grow, especially with changes in the manufacturing sector, Brown contends there will be no shortage of complex and intriguing problems in need of solutions that chemical engineers can provide.
She also points out that while her own career path may not have been the most traditional, given the many responsibilities she encountered through the years, it demonstrates just how versatile a degree in chemical engineering can be. Plus, she noted the president of one of CH2M’s thee sectors is a chemical engineer.
In addition to strong technical skills, Brown cites curiosity and a thirst for knowledge as essential for success. She also highlights the benefits of the consulting engineering field as a means of exposure to different areas of engineering and mentions CH2M’s many opportunities.
Throughout her long career, Brown has enjoyed working with teams of talented people - people who make a difference and have an impact on the world. As program manager for CH2M’s work with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), she finds her involvement in international development - increasing the impact of infrastructure programs on humanitarian relief and international development - highly rewarding.
Today she continues to be passionate about mentoring and coaching in these areas within her own organization and seeks opportunities to connect with people via other organizations, such as industry associations and schools.
Learn more about exciting engineering positions at CH2M at ch2m.com/careers. Connect on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Creating Chemistry: CH2M
A worldwide engineering company, CH2M provides consulting, design, engineering, operations and maintenance, and program management services for corporations, and federal, state and local government clients needing industrial and advanced facilities, environmental, transportation and water solutions.
Praxair’s Benjamen Strives to Influence Business in a Meaningful Way
When asked what experiences best prepared her for her position as Black Belt productivity engineer at the East Chicago, IN, site of Danbury, CT-headquartered Praxair, Renya Benjamen replies, “Early in my educational training I recognized my high interest in data analysis and optimization - skills that now align with my current role.”
Adding that her prior experience as a process engineer built on that foundation, Benjamen mentions being able to influence operational change and implement new ideas wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation and respect of her colleagues.
“The ability I gained through interacting with a spectrum of disciplines and drawing upon the knowledge and input of the people I work with was essential to my success,” she maintains.
Her foundational background, she acknowledges, wouldn’t have been possible without her pursuit of an undergraduate and graduate degree. Benjamen holds a chemical engineering degree and master’s degree in engineering in process systems design and operation, both from McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.
“My thesis project explored multivariate data analysis and quality control by utilizing principal component analysis to monitor the performance of large compressors,” she relates.
Since graduating she’s been fortunate to gain a diverse professional background with experience in advanced process control, statistical process control, process design, modeling and analysis.
What led to 26,000-employee Praxair as her employer of choice six years ago?
According to Benjamen, “the company’s commitment to productivity, optimization and best industry standards attracted me - and kept me here. I’ve been given the opportunity to grow in my career by having access to industry subject matter experts, state-of-the-art technology and the support needed to integrate them and drive productivity.”
Benjamen now leads Six Sigma projects of air separation and CO2 plants within the production, distribution and business value stream. She conducts value stream mapping of current operational processes, identifying waste, monitoring production KPIs (key performance indicators) and implementing process improvements.
“I most enjoy the diversity of the projects I work on, which expose me to various sectors within Praxair and allow me to grow within the company,” she states.
Benjamen feels her role is an excellent beginning to a great career at Praxair. “It’s an opportunity for me and others to impact business in a meaningful way,” she says.
“My role is highly valued as employees challenge themselves each year to improve systems and processes through efficiencies that result in measurable savings.”
As a company, and across all industries, she believes that productivity should be an integral part of how all employees review their work, the systems they interact with and, ultimately, how they improve their own work experience.
At Praxair Benjamen is a member of Connections, a company-sponsored employee resource group focusing on issues of interest to Praxair’s female employees and providing the chance to learn and grow together via various professional and social activities.
Outside of work she’s president of the Assyrian Aid Society Chicago Chapter, an international humanitarian organization that was successful in generating more than $500,000 in 2016 for immediate humanitarian needs and outreach to minorities most affected and marginalized in war-torn countries.
Further information about Praxair, as well as engineering opportunities, can be found at praxair.com/careers. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram.
Creating Chemistry: Praxair
Praxair, Inc. is a global industrial gas company that employs more than 26,000 people worldwide. Praxair produces, sells and distributes atmospheric, process and specialty gases, and high-performance surface coatings. Its products, services and technologies are designed to bring efficiency and environmental benefits to a wide variety of industries, including aerospace, chemicals, food and beverage, electronics, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, primary metals and many others.
Starting Salaries for Chemical Engineers
Degree Mean 25th Percentile 50th Percentile 75th Percentile
Bachelor’s $67,442 $66,098 $68,513 $69,489
Master’s $81,967 $72,500 $87,000 $88,500
Doctoral $77,769 $57,750 $72,808 $94,904
Source: National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Fall 2017 Salary Survey
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