AIChE Election Candidates Answer: What one piece of advice would you share with Young Professionals?

3/5   in the series AIChE Election Candidates Q&A
Voting for the 2013 AIChE Board of Directors is underway at The Young Professionals Committee (YPC) asked potential members of AIChE's board a few questions about Young Professionals and AIChE. They were asked to answer up to three questions, so you won't see responses from every candidate for every question. Over the next couple of weeks, you'll see their answers and get to know them better in a series of posts. Feel free to visit the election page to learn more about the election process and each candidate. Let's get started with the third question. Answers are shown in alphabetical order by position and then candidate last name.

Otis Shelton -- Running for President Elect:

My advice - get involved as a volunteer! AIChE is your professional home. Dr. Jack Lemay, an AIChE Fellow, approached me one day at the NY office and said "Let's Go"; I asked him where? He said a local AIChE section luncheon meeting. I went to that meeting and, after a few meetings later, was "hooked." I'll admit, at times it was not easy. The topics were informative and seasoned ChE's reached out to counsel me as a young engineer. Why do I volunteer? My profession, chemical engineering, has provided many rewards to me and my family. I have used my engineering skills to improve social issues, to support my family, develop technology, and improve safety operations in our plants. Personally, I feel a need to give back and support my profession. My success is due, in large part, to the Institute and the many chemical engineers before me who pioneered the path forward.

John Tao -- Running for the office of President Elect:

After spending 37 years in two Fortune 500 companies in the chemical and forest products industry, I have collected a number of observations if I had to start over as a YP. The advice that I would give the YPs is to remember that the best way to do well in your career is to consistently add value to your company. Whether it is volunteering to go on assignments that are considered tough or working in a remote location or traveling over a weekend or holiday, it should be something that brings added value to the company's products or services. The company does better financially and grows more in earnings when costs are saved and revenues and margins are increased. It takes more than just putting in time and doing a job that is expected of you. Remember, the company's customers and clients are what drive growth. Find out what their needs are and what value your products and services can offer them. Stay involved with the profession through professional societies and work-related associations, attend conferences, and keep up with new developments in your field. In addition, be a good team player; no one likes a smart but difficult-to-get-along-with colleague. Know thyself and what your preferred working style is (Myers-Briggs type indicator is a good tool for this), learn the style of others that you interact with most. In conflict situations, put yourself in the other person's shoes and think through what is driving his/her position and why. Don't be quick to criticize or judge until you fully understand the whole situation.

Jim Hill -- Running for the office of Secretary:

I have four pieces of advice. First and above all, be honest and keep your promises in your job as well as in your personal life. The most successful ChE's (CEO's, VP's, and chairmen) on my department's advisory council credit honesty, dependability, and high ethical standards as the secrets to their own and their top employees' successes. Second, get involved as YP's with your local AIChE section. Some of the larger sections (e.g., South Texas, Chicago, New England, and some others) have well-developed programs and in some cases separate YP meetings. Most likely your local section needs your help, and you can help brand new ChE's transitioning from college by being mentors. Active involvement in your local section provides good leadership experience that will help your career and provide useful professional contacts as well as friendships. Third, start saving for a home, for your children's education, and for retirement. It's important to start early (the magic of compound interest) and to resist the temptation to overspend upon suddenly finding yourself in the top half of US income earners. Also you need some financial reserve if you need to take time off to find another job (here AIChE networking can help) or to start your own business. Fourth, lead a balanced life (find a hobby). In my own case, I played piano semiprofessionally as an undergraduate, played competitive volleyball for nearly 20 years (I was not Olympic caliber), and currently advise our school's solar car team.

Christine Seymour -- Running for the office of Secretary:

I'd say don't over plan your career - it is good to have a plan and also consider opportunities as they arise. My thesis was in chemical process design and I thought I would work in that role my whole career. And then my site was closed, and I looked into other options. Regulatory wasn't in my initial plan but it has been a very good opportunity.

Tom Degnan -- Running for the office of Director:

I especially like Professor Richard Zare's advice to recent graduates. Professor Zare, who is a Stanford University faculty member, is a winner of the National Medal of Science for Chemistry. "Make your work something you love. Life is short and a career is even shorter. If you don't love your job, you'd better think about leaving it for some other job that you do love. Be aware that no perfect job exists. Every task has its drudgery and its frustrations. No situation is free of politics. What is important is to be able to pass through the negative so that you can dwell in the land of the positive. No job should serve as a substitute for your family or for a rich personal life. Blessed are those who achieve equanimity in this age of information overload. Recruit mentors and make friends. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the value of critical friends, folks who will not simply tell you what you want to hear, but who will speak the plain unvarnished truth, even if it hurts. Critical friends are priceless. Of course when you ask this of others, you must be willing to offer the same quality of friendship in return." (from Richard Zare's ACS Charles Lanthrop Parsons Award address, 2001)

L.S. Fan -- Running for the office of Director:

Continue to ask questions and to be active and creative. I would encourage young professionals to not be afraid to question the conventional. Challenging the norm will bring about new ideas. I would also recommend young professionals to take initiative in what inspires them. Regardless of whether you are in industry or academia, you want to be an expert in a subject that you love. In that way, you can be passionate and dedicated about your work. This will improve not only your work quality but also your quality of life.

Paula Hammond -- Running for the office of Director:

Be versatile in your skill set, establish strong relationships with your current peers and with those who are senior to you in your working world, and when you present or meet with someone to discuss your science/technology, always aim for the highest level impression you can make. Whether in academia or industry, new opportunities often come from those strong impressions you have left with other working professionals.

Annette Johnston -- Running for the office of Director:

Do not let lack of complete knowledge impede your progress toward a big vision. Ever. Value the information you have. Accept it as fact, not fault, that you don't have all the information you need. That is what your AIChE network is for.

Michael Poirier -- Running for the office of Director:

To have a good work/life balance. Learn more about the candidates by reading their bios and then vote.


nefeli's picture

congratulations on the article. it was really helpfull. I'm now studying chemical engineering in greece and i'm thinking of starting a new language that will help me find a job in the future. i already speak english and german. does anyone have any suggestion? thanks a lot... and have a nice day;)

Congratulations on learning English and German—those are two great languages for engineering. Certainly another language could be an asset, but perhaps there are other skills that might prove more useful than another language. You might find it interesting to join the Local Virtual Section online tomorrow evening. A speaker will discuss early career strategies. Given the time difference between New York and Greece, you also have the option of listening to an archived version that will appear on this page after the meeting: To listen/participate live: Hope that's helpful. Good luck in your career pursuits!