This week we got in touch with Anna Jotejko, who is a graduate of West Pomeranian University of Technology with a Master of Science (MSc.Eng) in Chemical Engineering from 2017. She got her diploma from Poland and is currently living and working in Denmark. She works in the environmental protection industry at a company called BlueBenu as a Chemical Engineer.
The company and her current work is aimed at developing a method of efficiently recycling waste into chemicals that can be reused in the industry.
She started her career by getting her first job at Grupa Azoty Police through standard recruitment process. The company produces mineral fertilisers and nitric fertilisers as well as compound fertilisers, ammonia, phosphoric and sulphuric acid, titanium white and side products, such as iron sulphate and post-hydrolytic acid. Hence, she has a direct hand-on experience from multiple types of industries.
Engineering School Days
We started by asking her multiple questions regarding her experience from engineering school. The questions and her insightful answers are provided below.
Chemical Engineering can be a broad field, so what did you specialise and/or focus during your degree?
I got my engineering degree in chemical technology and spent most of my time in an organic chemistry lab. I got my master's degree in chemical engineering and here I continued my work with organic chemistry, but in terms of its physical side. Organic chemistry is my specialty and I have extensive knowledge in this field. I graduated in technology and chemical engineering and started working in the heavy chemical industry during my studies. I cannot imagine my life without chemicals because I love what I do!
Many students spend ample amount of time worrying and planning for their thesis research project and it is considered to be the hardest part of MSc. What did you write your thesis on and how was the workload?
The topic of my thesis was the separation of olefin mixture. The work included an overview of separation methods and thermodynamic calculations for the three-component system in the selected method. The work required a deep study of literature. I also had to make friends with the book "Physical Chemistry" by P.W. Atkins. I used specialised chemistry programs and MathCad for this. It was a great 5 months spent in the library with a laptop.
Chemical Engineering is considered to be quite a tough degree. What topics did you find the most difficult during your degree?
It was easy for me to understand most of the subjects in my studies. It was a bit more difficult to understand physical chemistry, but once I understood it, everything else was no longer problematic for me.
Did you have any student jobs during or between your education? How did you get them? Where did you work? How did it help your education or future career?
I was in apprenticeships in various chemical plants in my country and in a foreign practice. During my studies, I started working in one of the largest chemical companies in Poland. All my student work allowed me to define the further direction of my education and career. Thanks to her, I knew what to expect during the recruitment process and what are the requirements for chemical engineers in chemical companies. The variety of student work also gave me the opportunity to move freely in many areas of chemistry. Contact with already working engineers was also very important to me. The knowledge they shared with me is invaluable, because we won't learn such things at university.
The Work Experience
Anna is a competent chemical engineer with a strong foundation in multiple aspects of the engineering disciplines. She is currently employed at BlueBenu as a Chemical Engineer and assisting them by reaching their global aim of sustainability.
What is your daily routine like at the workplace?
Within her current role, her daily work routine consists of Designing technological processes, project management, team management, collecting literature materials, defining tasks to be performed for the entire team for the whole year, planning meetings, preparing documents, controlling the stages of task implementation, as well as helping in their implementation.
What are the typical tasks which you have to deal with?
First of all, it is the implementation of the grants we received. I must ensure that everything we committed to is carried out with the best possible effect.
What hard and soft skills are the most important for your job?
The hard skills include, for example, laboratory skills, project management skills and knowledge of Office programs or other specialised programs (Aspen, Ansys Fluent). Soft skills are primarily analytical thinking, teamwork, effective communication and interpersonal skills, effective problem solving and flexibility.
Everything you have said sounds interesting. What is the best thing about your job from your point of view?
We have a chance to have a positive impact on the environment, and this is especially important now, when we have a huge problem with waste management. The awareness of how much we can help our natural environment is our driving force. We want to support a circular economy.
You are currently employed as a chemical engineer and the jobs entails some technical aspects, hence which topics from your engineering degree do you use the most on the workplace?
What I find most useful is the ability to plan an experiment, conduct it, and evaluate the results. This has a huge impact on further development planning. It is on the basis of laboratory tests that it is possible to make the necessary calculations to select the appropriate design of the installation and the materials from which it will be made. We must take into account all the critical points and take care of the HAZOP analysis, which is necessary to maintain safety.
How was job like working at chemical plants?
For most of the work in chemical plants, we took samples from the plant, which were then analyzed in the laboratory. It required entering installations, which were very often dangerous and there were accidents. My worst memories are of working on a plant that produced sulfuric acid. Very often it was work in the vapors of sulfur oxides or in the company of acid "mist".
How easy was it for you to change company and/or jobs if any?
It is very difficult to find a job in the Danish market. So far I have not received any other job offer in my profession. This may be because of my unfamiliarity with Danish, but I'm still learning it.
What are you future plans for your career? What does your current job allow you to do in future?
I would like to develop BlueBenu as much as possible and would like to continue to deal with project management. I hope that it will be done on a larger scale in much larger companies. I would love to get the chance to work for Haldor Topsoe.
Any suggestions for future graduates? Something they should be doing while they are still in university getting their degree.
Stay open to knowledge and learn all the time, because technology is always moving forward and you have to keep up with it.
When asked about whether the future graduates should focus on any skills during their engineering school days, she told us that it depends on what they do. You can't demand knowledge of chemical software from someone who will never need it.