Orlagh McCluskey’s Pathway Interview
Process Engineer in Engineering
Did you have a particular role in mind when you made your degree choices and why?
I have always had an interest in the pharmaceutical industry since I was at school. I found the drug discovery and manufacturing process very interesting. I had originally considered studying Pharmacy at university when I was making my applications and completed my school work experience in a community pharmacy and at the Royal Hospital in Belfast. I also attended a few open days at different universities where I discovered Chemical Engineering and what it involves. It was at this open day I decided that engineering seemed more of a fit for me and that I could work as an engineer but still work within the Pharmaceutical industry.
What has been your study route to this career?
I studied A-level Chemistry, Biology and Maths at school. I then attended Queen’s University Belfast where I obtained a First class Masters of Engineering in Chemical Engineering. This was a 4 year sandwich course which included an industrial placement year, which I completed at Almac. After graduating I worked for 6 months in Kildare as a Graduate Process Engineer, before returning to Almac a Process Engineer where I have now worked for almost 3 years.
What does a typical day in your job involve?
I don’t think there is such thing as a typical day in my role. The most interesting thing about my job is the diverse nature of projects we are involved in. I could spend one day working with a design team on the design requirements for a new laboratory facility, then the next commissioning a new piece of process equipment which has been installed. Some days are spent on construction sites working with contractors and some are spent in the office completing documentation. We get involved in the entire life cycle of projects from conception to commissioning and handover so there is always a variety in the work we are doing.
What type of other skills do you need for your job, other than educational qualifications?
Aside from technical ability there are many other skills which benefit a Process Engineer. Communication skills are very important. We work with a lot of different people on different projects both within the company (project managers, quality teams, maintenance teams) and outside of the company (architects, designers, contractors, suppliers) and need to be able to communicate requirements and give project updates often. Organizational skills are also very important as we often manage multiple projects at the same time, therefore you need to be organized to keep on top of everything and keep all projects moving on time.
Would you say that being a process engineer represents a good career?
Yes, absolutely. If you have an interest in Science and Maths, I view process engineering as an excellent career choice. I find it interesting, challenging and rewarding. There are also so many opportunities within process engineering to work in different roles and in different industries which is why I think it appeals to young people who aren’t quite certain what they want to do exactly just yet.