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Professional Chemical Engineer - A story... Part 1

Slightly more than 3 years ago, I registered myself as a graduate member of Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM), a professional organization for engineers. I joined the chemical engineering division and search a mentor to guide me become a professional engineer.

Prior and earlier to that, I registered with Board of Engineers, Malaysia (BEM). Registration with BEM is compulsory for all graduate engineers in Malaysia. In addition, before we can be accepted to be a member under IEM, part of the requirement is to be a BEM member first. So, if you have graduated and have not yet registered with BEM, go ahead and register now. As soon as your application is approved and you get your BEM membership number, apply for IEM. If you are a student, it's OK, you can register with IEM as a junior member first, but after graduating, register with BEM and then upgrade your membership under IEM to graduate member.

But before that, here is a brief story how I got to that level (I'm not yet a professional engineer. I'm working on it now).

I asked for a list of mentors that I can select from IEM headquarters in PJ, Selangor. I checked the list for chemical engineer mentors. There were only 2 mentors for chemical engineer in Johor Bahru (the state I live and work in). I met one of them, who is a manager of a huge palm oil plantation / refinery company in Malaysia to get my certificates certified by him. I requested to him if in case he can be my mentor. Unfortunately, he was already having few mentees under him and could not spare a space for me. That's fine. I contacted the other potential mentor in Johor Bahru but unfortunately he was somehow could not be contacted...not sure why.

Puzzled with the situation, I decided to opt for a mentor from Klang Valley (a different state but in the capital of Malaysia). The first in my list was a professor from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. He seems to be a successful chemical engineer in the academic line. I tried calling him several times but all calls were disappointing. I could not reach him. Like earlier case, I don't know why the telephone was never answered. After a few days of frustrating attempts, I decided to move on and contact the next person to be my mentor.

That's when I called Ir. Hj. Tunai, a senior manager attached to a successful consulting company based in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, just few hundreds of meters from IEM Head quarters. Unlike the previous two potential mentors who cannot be contacted, I managed to reach Ir. Tunai and requested politely if he can be my mentor. He gave me a positive answer and I was finally very happy to have a mentor who is willing to coach and guide me to be a professional engineer.

Even though I have to travel up north to Kuala Lumpur when ever I needed to meet my mentor, I'm very glad and please to have Ir. Tunai mentoring me. He professionally guided me and I'm very confident that I can be a better engineer under his supervision. I have no regrets and I'm extremely proud to me his mentee :) .

My first batch of log book reports

Despite of the distance, I communicated with my mentor with telephone, SMS and email. I prepared my first log book report and sent to him via email. Ir. Tunai went through the report and provided me his sincere comments. That time I was working as a process engineer in a physical refining plant. One of the weak point working as a process engineer is my job scope is narrowly focus on taking care of my plant only. Month after month, year after year, what I have to do majorly dwell in managing my 3000 tons per day plant. Yes, that's it. Nothing else. Well, I do handle other minor tasks such but those are not really significant. Hence, in the monthly log book report, I keep repeating my jobs and my skill remain permanently the same. There was not much improvement in engineering learning curve and not much new engineering skills. The report was stagnant and boring. I kept reporting the same activities.

Although I really have learned massively being a process engineer who runs a huge physical refinery (imagine the heat exchangers, cooling towers, pump, annual shut down-maintenance, production costing, valves, handling the SCADA control system, and other environmental, mechanical and engineering matters)..., that alone would not help me be a professional engineer. According to my mentor, I need to feature more activities in my log book report.

So, what does that means?

To be continued... :)
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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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