Meet Process Engineer Caroline Thery

56/65   in the series Meet the Process Engineers

Welcome to the latest in a series of AIChE blog posts profiling process engineers, a diverse group of professionals spanning multiple industries and regions. In this series, we profile process engineers who work in a wide range of fields, including petrochemicals, pharma, bulk chemicals, food, or any process-intensive industry.

Are you a member and process engineer interested in being profiled? We’d love to hear from you via this volunteer opportunity. Please also check out our online discussion group specifically for process engineers. You can find out about these initiatives and join our efforts by visiting aiche.org/process-engineers.

This month, we introduce you to Caroline Thery, Process Pilot at Michelin. She discusses the path that led to her career in process engineering, overcoming challenges, and the importance of her work. 

Tell us a bit about your work as a process engineer.

I have worked as a chemical engineer for over 18 years; 16 of those years were spent with Michelin producing synthetic rubber. I have worked on small and large projects, optimization studies, VOC destruction, and qualification of new processes and products. Most recently, my work has been focused on the design, commissioning, start-up, and ramp-up of a new greenfield site. I have had the opportunity to learn new languages and work in North America, Europe, and Asia, with diverse teams.

I consider myself a very traditional chemical engineer and I directly apply fundamental chemical engineering principles on a daily basis.

Why did you become a process engineer?

With several other engineers in my family and a love of math and science classes, engineering was an obvious path. Chemistry was always fun for me, so I thought surely chemical engineering would be the same! However, university studies did not prepare me to understand the reality of working in different industries, and I wish the same co-op programs currently required by other universities were available to me at the time. If my university offered the same programs, I would have been better prepared. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your role as a process engineer?

Making reasonable assumptions to fill data gaps is always a sensitive task, as well as focusing on well defining the problem before designing a solution. The technical part of a project is usually the easy part, while changing habits is the hardest part and requires intense planning and effort to succeed.

Working in a small petrochemical division of a large manufacturing company brings both challenges and opportunities to define process safety systems according to specific needs of the local site.

How is your work as a process engineer critical to your particular job assignment or industry?

Job mobility is undoubtedly increasing, but there is a strong need for production facilities to develop and retain technical expertise. With my past experience and historical context of our process, I now have the credibility to help define the future of our business by steering investment and innovation.

What do you think is most important about what you do as a process engineer?

My professional success has been built on three foundations: (1) technical competence, (2) honesty, and (3) effective communication. This balance is necessary to influence cross-functional teams to work towards a shared goal, whatever the particular situation or role within the team.

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