Process Engineer in Operations, supporting European plants on a day to day basis.
I have really enjoyed my time at Air Products. I have not only enjoyed the work side, but the social side as well. For work, I have had my own projects and responsibilities and have been trusted to carry out such tasks to a high level, with support when needed. I have also been involved with the Football, Badminton and Running clubs. The 12 weeks that I have been here have flown by, which can only be a good sign!
As a Summer Student who had only completed 2nd Year at University I did not expect to be valued as much as I have been. I have been working on an important project to the company, which will make a significant difference and in line with this I have been respected and valued by all my colleagues. I did not expect to become such an expert on my project that my colleagues ask me for help rather than the other way around.
Together with my manager we assigned achievable objectives at the start of my placement to guide what I should complete during my time at the company. Supervisor introduced me to the department and helped me to get set up in my first week. All of my colleagues were friendly and willing to help with any questions that I had, and would also encourage me to think about problems for myself. Overall I couldn't ask for a more friendly and welcoming atmosphere at the office.
I almost always had something to work on, and frequently had several projects to work on simultaneously but never felt under pressure due to a heavy work load. There were a few occasions when I had to wait for a reply to continue a certain task, but even then I could ask a colleague if they needed anything to be done and usually they would give me another piece of work to get on with in the mean time. I have been especially busy in my last few weeks due to trying to wrap things up and handing over projects; however I enjoy always having something to do.
For all the projects I have been involved with I have been given a large amount of responsibility. In my main project I have become the local expert on the subject and have been almost solely responsible for the developments in the project. I have also had responsibility for my other pieces of work either solely or jointly with another engineer. On the whole I have been allowed to complete tasks by myself, with assistance when needed, and to be responsible for those tasks.
The most important thing I will take away from this placement is the experience of working as a Process Engineer in the Operations department of an engineering company. I have gained invaluable insight into the way the company operates and the day to day life as a Process Engineer, which will no doubt assist me in my career. I have learned extensively about Air Separation Units, including a visit to a running site which gave me a sense of perspective on the theoretical knowledge I have gained. This will both assist me in my degree and future career. I have frequently used Piping & Instrumentation Diagrams during my placement and become familiar with the structure and layout, which is a vital skill for a Process Engineer.
In my placement I have not had many opportunities to build upon my theoretical knowledge, e.g distillation, which would be particularly useful for my degree studies. I may have liked a little more theoretical exposure/training during my placement, but I know that this very much depends on the department and work that comes at the time. In contrast, I have certainly learned a lot more about Microsoft Excel, a skill that is important both at University and the office - even learning how to create a Macro.
Overall I have learned a lot during my time at Air Products and will definitely call upon this knowledge in my studies and future career.
As offices go, I would say that the atmosphere was very friendly and informal, but professional at the same time. Desks are organised into pens of 5 or 6, so that there is always someone nearby to talk to or ask for help. The air conditioning has been much appreciated in the summer heat, and I have no complaints about the arrangement of desks or the office in general. Often a colleague would bring cakes/biscuits as a treat for everyone. Colleagues would always wish each other a good morning, good evening or good weekend.
The placement was organised well, with a defined structure. We had an introduction day at the start, and have to present our work at the end of the placement. There was plenty of information available about the placement itself and assistance was available if needed. The one thing I would want more of is help with timesheets, since I had to mostly work out how they worked by myself, although there was a contact at the company who helped with timesheets.
At the beginning of my placement I was given some training exercises to work through, both for health and safety and to introduce me to the technical side of Air Separation Units. These consisted mainly of Powerpoint presentations that were not the most exciting way of learning and could do with updating. However, my Supervisor did go through with me how an Air Separation Unit works in person and I also had a meeting on safety with my Supervisor.
I would love to be able to return to the company for my year long industrial placement next summer, if I am able. This is because I am now familiar with the company, have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and I recognise that the company is one of the best providers of placements for Chemical Engineering students. After University I will definitely consider returning for a graduate role at the company, and I have only heard positive things about their graduate scheme. Everyone I have spoken to is happy as an employee of Air Products and this encourages me to return.
Yes, all of us placement students and graduates had lunch together each day. The graduate council organised events and socials, including a pub quiz, golf, nights out and a talk by one of the senior members of the company. We all got on well and enjoyed talking about work and life in general. As mentioned previously, I very much enjoyed playing football 2 or 3 times a week as well as running every week and the occasional badminton game too. All of these activities allowed me to meet new people, and all of them were very social.
Being located in Surrey, the cost of living is very high and that's something you just have to accept. It would have been nice if the company subsidised accommodation or living costs, but the placement paid well enough to easily cover these costs. Accommodation is expensive, but not as bad as London. Eating out is also fairly pricey depending on where you go. However, the living cost shouldn't be the main consideration for a placement, especially considering the pay you receive.
I am not much of a party-goer myself, so I have not had much experience of the Nightlife in the area. From what I understand, the local area in Surrey around the office is not very exciting, but you are only 20 minutes away from London which has all the Nightlife you could ever wish for. Other placement students and graduates tend to go into London and enjoy it, but that's not for me.
As mentioned, the company has many sports clubs and societies, similar to university. I have been playing football, badminton and going running with the company. If you ask around you'll find plenty of enthusiastic people who do activities outside of work that you can get involved in. There is an on-site gym (not free), which many people use as well. There is also an occasional department dinner where everyone goes out for dinner together.