This week we got a chance to have a talk with Pavithana Prakhash, who is a graduate of the prestigious Technical University of Denmark (DTU) with a Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng) in Chemistry and Biotechnology from 2019. She is currently working within the pharmaceutical industry as a Manufacturing Engineering Specialist at Agilent Technologies. Agilent Technologies, as many of you might know is one of the biggest pioneers of the pharmaceutical industry.
She started her career by getting her first job as a Production Associate, which she found through LinkedIn. Using that job, she built up on the necessary skills and experience to improve her engineering knowledge. Undoubtedly, she has direct extensive hands-on experience of the core of production and manufacturing processes and techniques, making her an attractive engineer to any employer and industry. At the same time, the right person to interview to ask for guidance and mentorship for the betterment of future graduates.
Engineering School Days
We started by asking her questions regarding her experience from engineering school. The questions and her insightful answers are below.
Chemical Engineering can be a broad field, so what did you specialise and/or focus during your degree?
I did not choose any specific field, because there was not any focus area in my programme. But if there were, I would have definitely chosen Process Engineering.
There is a huge misunderstanding among high school students, who believe chemical engineering involves a lot of chemistry or is basically just chemistry. Was there a lot of chemistry in your curriculum?
There were not a lot of chemistry in my curriculum, only the first year of my Uni. In the following years, the subjects became more technical with only a hint of chemistry. It was perfect for me that there was not that much of chemistry. Since I am more interested in the technical phase.
Out of all the engineering degrees, chemical engineering is generally regarded as one of the toughest degree? What did you find the most difficult in your degree?
For me I found Chemical Process Control and Mathematical models for chemical and biochemical systems difficult. The way of calculating and setting up the mathematical models was not quite as easy as I thought. But to get help from your professors and to do other tasks that resembles of the subject, really helped me a lot on my understanding.
How was the workload of your degree? What did you spend most time on?
The workload was different from semester to semester. I spent a lot of time on projects and exams. The distribution between lectures and assignments/projects was evenly distributed. It was pretty nice. But of course it is the exams you spend the most time on.
Many students have difficulty making a decision regarding whether they should move ahead for a MSc programme or go directly into the industry after their BSc.Eng. Do you have any plans on moving ahead to a MSc programme? Or do you believe that in the real world, does relevant work experience can be used as a replacement for getting a MSc degree?
I chose not to get a Master, as I can work with a B.Eng. If I really wanted a master’s degree, I would not have chosen my bachelor as B.Eng, but B.Sc instead. By choosing B.Eng it has really helped me with my work experience. In my study programme we had an opportunity to do an internship, and this was the catalyst for my career. I have not regretted my choice.
Gaining experience as student can be quite beneficial for ones future career. Did you have any student jobs during or between your education? How did it help your education or future career?
I have worked at Sweco A/S as a student worker, where I worked with environmental management and recycling. I have also had an internship where I chose to work in Toronto, Canada at Covalon Technologies (Medical industry). Here I worked in the R&D department where I worked with process optimization and further development of coating of urinary catheters and dressings for chronic wounds. This experience helped me to get an insight of seeing/working as a chemical engineer. And it has helped me a lot. And I just love being a chemical engineer. And by doing it this way I was confirmed that I have chosen the right education. I love being a Chemical Engineer.
The Work Experience
Pavithana is a highly qualified chemical engineer with in-depth know-how about manufacturing and is currently working as a Manufacturing Engineering Specialist. Her position is a core engineering role; hence it was only wise to ask her about her job insights and whats it like to work in that role.
What is your daily work routine like? What do you do at your job?
I work in LEAN and GMP, where I am responsible for daily support for the production line, raw materials, packaging, materials and optimization of processes. Support and create by Engineering Change of Order and Lifecycle Change of Order. As well as work with various production projects and validation projects.
What are the the typical tasks which you have to deal with?
Typical tasks will be problems in the production and to solve them as quickly as we can or to do a case on the problems so we can make a change so it would not happen again. Process optimization and validation. Right now, I am working on expiry for our products in Agilent.
What hard and soft skills are the most important for your job?
Hard skills: Special programs (SAP, Agile, Maple), Office programs, project management and controlled environment, sterile production.
Soft skills: Integrity, Dependability, Effective communication, Open-mindedness, Willingness to learn, extrovert, flexibility
Everything about your job sounds interesting. Still if you had to pick one, what is the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is that it is not the same day everyday a new problem can appear all the time. And I kind of like that.
You job is very relevant to process engineering which is the core of chemical engineering. Do you use any topics from your degree on the workplace?
I have had project management and it has taught me how to prioritize the tasks and how the time distribution should be. Another subject I have had was Innovation pilot, a way of thinking new and thinking differently. It has helped me in the further development as well as process optimization.
How easy was it for you to change company and/or jobs if any?
I would not say it's easy to get a new job, because you have competition. And you must be unique and different. But it depends on your working experience. You have to stand out.
What are you future plans for your career?
My future plan are to build up my CV and to be a Manager in a large scale and I am working hard to be that.
Any suggestions for future graduates? Something they should be doing while they are still in university. Build your CV - get more experience while you study
We sincerely thank Pavithana for her time and the wonderful insights. We wish her the very best for her future career.