This week we got a lovely chance to have a conversation with a competent industrial chemical engineer, Junaid Shah. Junaid is a Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech) graduate of Chemical Engineering from National Institute of Technology (Srinagar) in India from 2010. He graduated with impressive results and specialization within membrane based separation using inorganic membranes.
Apart from studying a tough engineering programme from a renowned institution, he also took time to do some internships during his university years. He interned with different companies and polished his technical and theoretical skills by applying them to real-world problems and solutions. Currently, Junaid is a working as a Senior Technical Service Engineer at Haldor Topsøe A/S, hence his role is of a core chemical engineer in oil refining industry.
Junaid started his career with Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. as a Production Engineer and then rising up to the rank of Assistant Manager of Operations within the same company. He has also served as Process Design Engineer at Honeywell UOP before coming to his current role.
Undoubtedly, Junaid has strong experience and know-how of the core technical chemical engineering from the industry, having worked with such big names. His career reflects a very technical ChemE path and therefore we were to lucky have a conversation with him to learn about the opportunities of chemical engineers in the real world.
ChemE is considered to be a very tough degree, so in your experience, how was the workload and what did you spent most time on?
The ChemE degree course program was very rigorous. Most of the time was spent in doing course work, lab work, experimentation and completing assignments as well as projects.
Many people confuse ChemE with chemistry, so was there a lot of chemistry in your curriculum?
There wasn't a lot of chemistry in my curriculum, this is what sets the divide between chemistry and chemical engineering.
What topics did you find the most difficult during your degree? Why and how did you cope with it?
I found the subject of transport phenomenon which covers the momentum, energy and mass transfer on molecular level to be most difficult during my degree. The thing that was difficult about it was the extensive high level of mathematics involved in the course and the interdependencies between transport phenomena which one always had to figure out during the coursework. I coped up or I should say sailed through due to some excellent guidance and mentorship that was provided by the faculty who was responsible for this course.
What line did you choose to focus during your degree?
I focused on membrane based separation using inorganic membranes during my degree.
Did you have 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 did internships during my degree education, which helped me a lot. I got these internships through my university placement cell. These were very helpful for me as internships allowed me to see chemical engineering in action in real life. All the abstract and theoretical concepts from text books were right in front of me during my internships These internships were also pivotal in building my professional network as my degree coursework was over.
What was your first job after graduation and how did you get it?
My first job after graduation was at Indian Oil Corporation Ltd as a refinery operations engineer. I got this job through campus recruitment which was organised by my university.
What is your current occupation?
I am currently working as a Senior Technical Service Engineer at Haldor Topsøe A/S. I am currently working in the Oil and Gas Industry and have been in this field for a little over a decade now.
What is your daily work routine like?
My typical routine involves the following tasks:
Review the performance of our licensed units and catalysts in refinery units.
Perform reactor design and catalyst calculations for new grass root units and catalyst reloads.
Answer customer queries regarding our catalysts and technology offerings.
Troubleshoot refinery unit.
Scout for new business opportunities
Preparation of sales forecasts and execution of sales plans for assigned accounts. New client acquisition and customer relationship management.
What are the typical tasks which you have to deal with?
My typical tasks include:
Preparation of technical proposals in response to open tenders related to hydroprocessing catalyst, technology and equipment sales.
Catalyst and reactor calculations for naphtha, kerosene, diesel and VGO hydrotreating units.
Defining strategies for answering and determining performances, operating conditions and fixing technical guarantees accordingly.
Participation in clarification meetings with clients in order to provide technical support to defend our offers.
Undertaking marketing actions (presentations at conferences, seminars, training and workshops) in order to promote our image, services and product portfolio.
Providing office and on-site technical assistance to our clients including on-site missions at the customer’s premise to present performances, unit follow-up review, catalysts loading, activation start-up, regeneration, troubleshooting, optimisation etc.
What hard and soft skills are the most important for your job?
Very sound chemical engineering fundamentals especially Catalysis, Kinetics, heat & mass transfer and fluid mechanics
Additionally, my job requires Effective communication, Good listening skill, Capability to deliver and Perform under tight deadlines
You work in a refinery, so how is the working conditions and hours like? Do you spend most of the time on the shopfloor or between office/lab?
During my work spell in a refinery, I used to work in 8 hour long shifts during normal operations. But the shift times could be extended due to emergencies in plant or during turnarounds. I was Operations Engineer for Crude Distillation Units, Catalytic Reforming Unit and Kerosene Hydro Desulphurisation Unit at IOCL Haldia Refinery. Most of my time was spent within the plant control room and unit area managing shift operations with 3 Panel Operators and 12 Field operators to achieve production targets as well as achieving maximum asset utilization.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best part of my job is that I still get to visit and work in refinery units, which I love to do. Travel through different geographical regions while working with people from diverse cultures.
Which topics from your degree do you use the most on the workplace?
I use a lot of topics from my degree including Reaction engineering, Petroleum Technology, Mass Transfer, Fluid Mechanics, Heat Transfer, and Heat and Mass Balance.
How easy was it for you to change company and/or jobs if any?
If was tough for me to change from my first job as a refinery operations engineer to a hard core process engineer.
What are you future plans for your career? What does your current job allow you to do in future?
My current jobs enables me to be a part of the energy transition that is ongoing at a rapid rate in order to make our future sustainable. I plant to be very proactive in this transition by learning and picking up new skills especially in the areas of renewable fuels, green hydrogen, carbon capture/storage and plastics recycling.
Any suggestions for future graduates? Something they should be doing while they are still in university getting their degree.
Build your professional network.
Do industrial internships/apprenticeships
Focus of keeping your basic engineering concepts clear
They must remember that handling people and crisis is a skill that is not taught in many universities. Try to hone your skills in these areas while still at the university before you step out into the corporate world.