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Employers Expectation to A Chemical Engineer

I apologize for not posting these past few days. I was caught with loads of work and reports. Then, my boss (engineering services manager) suddenly resigned!!! He is the one who interviewed me few years ago and decided to recruit me. His sudden resignation has caused some chaos and produced some impact to the management of the company. OK...forget about that....let's focus on the issue I'm going to highlight now...

Remember in my previous post, I mentioned about how tremendous is the amount of chemical engineering graduates produced by universities all around the world every year, both locally and internationally. However, only small percentage of these chemical engineers managed to get themselves a decent chemical engineering job. This is a phenomena resulting from several reasons. Why is this so?

1.0 Communication Skill

This is the prime reason why a chemical engineer usually doesn't get employed even with a super chemical engineering degree/grade!!!

There's no doubt that thousands of chemical engineers graduated every year. Some of them excel brilliantly in their academic. They score flying colours in all the chemical engineering subjects and many thought they will get good jobs. Unfortunately, when they are called for interviews and bombarded with series of questions, both simple and tricky ones, they froze! They have the brain but unfortunately they are not confident enough to convey the message verbally.

Most of the cliche' initial interview questions will be "tell us about yourself". This is a vital question that needs good elaborations on who you are? If you fail to narrate your background in a pleasant articulate language, your future employer will get annoyed and turned off. Your chances in acquiring yourself a job would be slim. You need to improve on the communication skills - how to communicate effectively, how to become a good listener, how to answer....and much more....You also need to have quite an extensive knowledge on the company you plan to work for to help you gain the confidence you really need.

An engineer is answerable to his superior or manager. At the same time, he has to manage his down line manpower which may include supervisors, superintendents, operators, technicians etc. An engineer also needs to know everything beyond his authority and power. One of the most effective way is to get his down line reporting and informing on a daily basis. Sometimes even shift hour basis. The instructions must be delivered clearly to avoid silly expensive errors. Therefore, an excellent communication skill would really do you good in order for you to be one competitive engineer.

In my case, for example, I make sure I know every single occurance in my plant and its present condition -24/7. I ordered my supervisor to call and report to me at the end of every shift. This way, I will keep myself updated with the latest information without me being there to monitor the plant progress outside of my working hours. My supervisor will call me at 2230 hours and 0630 hours (after their shift) everyday regardless of where I am. Whenever any problem occurs, the supervisor will immediately inform me. That's why I have to bring my hand phone everywhere including into the toilet! With this, I'm well informed of all the activities and progress of the plants. I can seek for further details later but it is very important for me to be aware of the problem before my superior because I will definitely look incompetent if it were to happen the other way around. Believe me, the last thing you want is your superior to highlight and raise the problem before you do.

2. Analytical Skills

When I attended the interview at the company I'm working now, after giving the interviewer (just submitted his sudden resignation via email yesterday) some background about myself, he began asking me some technical questions. He asked me to do some calculations. One of the test was to calculate the volume of chemical (corrosion inhibitor) injected into a pipeline (length and diameter are given) in such way that the chemical will stick onto the internal wall of the pipeline with 2 mil (1 mil = 1/1000 inch) thickness. He said, "I'm going to the toilet now. When I return, I want the answer....". Can you imagine a question like that given to me. I have to force my brain to think and recall related formulas. Luckily, I answered it correctly, though I took some time to calculate. At least, I proved him that I am capable of carrying out the chemical engineering calculations.

3. Degree Result

Well, I hate to discuss about this, because it is somehow related to me. A lot of chemical engineering student would normally have the ambition to become an outstanding engineer. A very small percentage would opt to further their study specializing in certain niche area. Normally this tiny portion of students will become a lecturer or researcher, and they have no problem to struggle and earn a masters degree or a pH.D.

For me, my truly aspiring ambition is to become a lecturer, however, I did not get at least second class upper for my degree. Upon receiving the degree result from Bradford University in 1999, I was so disappointed. I know chances of me to become a lecturer is slim.

Some good universities really look on your certificate. Although I received few interview calls and offers from other universities, I have to reject them because they are located in other states in Malaysia. I have settled down and decided not to move (my wife is having a good career and my parent is also living nearby).

I had work very hard after my first degree to compensate the inadequate qualification in order to become a lecturer. I excelled in my Masters degree and I was hoping that I can use my masters as a ticket to get there. I have produced a number of papers in seminars and journals. Together with my research group we have won numerous awards. I've published bulletins and designed research posters (which my previous boss really liked). Unfortunately, at the end of the day, most of them still look at my degree instead of my true quality and the impact that I am capable to give. Well, that is life. Sometimes, we don't get what we want. God knows better. Luckily my wife becomes a chemical engineering lecturer. At least one of us managed to and I envy her job flexibility.


Those are just three of the main reasons why an engineer might not get employed. There might be more, but the rest are not as important to me. I believe, if one can overcome all these three hurdles, one can be a good engineer and go further....

Note: The following reasons are from my personal opinion based on what I've been observing. It is not base on any influence from any source.

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posted by zaki yamani @ 7:53 PM,


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The Author


I’m Zaki. I used to be a project, process and chemical engineer. Few years ago I successfully became a Chartered Engineer (IChemE) and Professional Engineer (BEM). I'm now employed as a chemical engineering educator/researcher/consultant. Hope you like reading my blog. I welcome any feedback from you. My email: zaki.yz[alias]gmail.com. TQ!

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