Working in Business Change as Chemical Engineer

Updated: Jun 19, 2018

Name: Gugulethu Masuku

Based In: Liverpool, United Kingdom

Education: Arundel School, Zimbabwe

Bachelor of Engineering (Hons.) Chemical Engineering (Loughborough University, United Kingdom)

1. Why did you choose to pursue a degree in chemical engineering?

I remember being in primary school and always excited to school trips to the factories. One trip which stuck to me was my trip to Dairiboard. I was fascinated by the size of the equipment and tanks. It led me to want to pursue studying a degree that allowed me to be involved in manufacturing. When I started researching what degrees to pursue, Chemical Engineering stood out to me because the course gave me a varied education and the degree itself enabled me to have transferrable skills across various professions. The course gave me the flexibility to pursue manufacturing, work on the operations side or pursue management. Being eighteen and still only half sure of what I wanted to do I felt this was the best option.

2. I’ve met a number of students who go into engineering without a firm grasp of what to expect or what the program actually entails. When you decided on engineering, did you feel that you had been well informed?

I do not think anyone really knows what to expect academic-wise when they start university. You choose a course based on reading and you try make sense of what you’ve researched on the programme, in your understanding which is only at about AS/A Level. In terms of the branch of engineering I chose, I am very happy with my choice. I was informed of the modules I’d take throughout my years of education. Chemical engineering was a bit more varied in the approach taken as I managed to touch aspects of other engineering functions, so I just went for a well-rounded degree. I did not expect the upscale in knowledge I required to be able to excel and I think that is the major shock for everyone who pursues a degree in engineering. If you want to have a good well-rounded social life at university, do not pursue engineering.

3. You currently work as a business analyst and junior project manager at the National Nuclear Laboratory as well as a project analyst at management consulting firm, Grayce. Can you tell us what exactly your work entails?

My role as a Project Analyst at Grayce allows me to be able to diversify my role at the client site. My role at my client National Nuclear Laboratory requires me to have two hats; Business Analyst and Junior Project Manager. As a Business Analyst I am required to conduct analysis’s on change projects. I do this by analysing the effect the projects will have on the business should the scoped changes be implemented. This requires a lot of information gathering, data analysis and communication – which is probably the most important.

The Junior Project Manager side of my role involves tracking risks and issues, identifying key dependencies, assumptions and maintain the project plan. This allows me to track where the project is in terms of meeting the end date.

4. What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your work?

Working in Business Change is challenging because people are generally resistant to change even if it is a positive one. This means there are times where you must examine your approach in obtaining or presenting information.

The most rewarding part of the job is when you get close to the project close date. I like it because I get to see everything that I have been working on coming together. It is a moment where you appreciate all the ups and downs you experienced in the process because it was all for a specific outcome.

5. What does a day in the life of Gugu look like?

My day starts with a freshly brewed cup of coffee. That is an important beverage. Preferred beverage aside, my day usually involves checking my emails to see if there has anything that has come up which I need to consider moving forward with any design work or plans.

This is followed by planning any workshops or meetings necessary for me to meet my objectives. A workshop is a large meeting where I facilitate getting information from attendees to help build processes and business tools. Facilitating workshops allows me to travel around the country to meet different stakeholders which is a broadening experience.

My days aren’t always the same so days when I’m not planning the next workshop, I’m running the workshop. The days after the workshop I’m extracting the information I obtained, into data sheets or process maps.

Some days I am doing a lot of administrative work, which is checking plans and actions to make sure the project is running to schedule.

6. Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?

In the next ten years, I would like to see myself as a programme manager. I have no idea what type of programme I would like to manage. I know that I want to stay in a manufacturing/engineering environment.

7. Finally, what advice would you have for other women looking to go into your field?

I wanted to be in a change environment because while I was on placement, I had the opportunity to manage projects and see them through into implementation. I really enjoyed the thrill working on a timeline with a tangible outcome.

I chose my profession based on what I exposed myself to during my education. Firstly, I’d say try get involved in as much as you can before you graduate. This is vital in helping you decide what career path you want to pursue. Secondly, you need to have good verbal and written communication skills and lastly, you need to be analytical and be okay with challenging opinions.

If you'd like to find out more about Gugu's career journey, connect with her on LinkedIn.

© 2018 by nnyasha.

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