(212a) Chemical Engineering for Entreprenuers Compared to Traditional Chemical Engineering | AIChE

(212a) Chemical Engineering for Entreprenuers Compared to Traditional Chemical Engineering


Privitera, M. - Presenter, PreProcess, Inc

Engineering in an entrepreneurial environment is very different than traditional engineering.  On the whole engineers are a conservative lot.  The majority of engineers spend their career focused upon presenting a solution to a problem with defined problem parameters.  Entrepreneurs have to be fluid.  They have to move with the opportunity presented in the moment.  They have to pivot on the new information that emerges and be able to scrap what might have been hours, days or months of painstaking work to evolve with the fast moving changing situation.  They have a paradox in that they also have to be focused, and deliver the goods without a constant churn of changes.  They must create clarity from chaos and they need to deliver on blistering fast pace.

In both entrepreneurial start ups and in traditional business ventures a root cause of many failures on both sides is the mis-match of the type of people who are placed in these roles. 

Entrepreneurial projects focus where to expend precious resources.  Many times options are evaluated without full access to all the needed information.  Decisions must be made using experiential judgment and plans must quickly be put into place to validate the direction in parallel with other efforts.  Start up “parallel pathing” experience must be brought to the game to reduce the entrepreneur’s risk by eliminating dead ends and quickly turning around proof of principal experimentation to keep the effort on the best path forward.  All this must be done with the utmost focus on safety.  In either an entrepreneurial effort or a traditional effort, no safety evaluation or mitigation short cuts can be allowed.  This requires creative and confident chemical engineering experience.

Real time situational analytical information is critical to an entrepreneurial environment.  Many decisions have to be made using the data available.  Information that is built from the data to make decisions must be valid and relevant.  Too much analysis will inhibit decisions.  The trick is knowing how to get the relevant data and how to apply it.  For example, two or three indicative measures of a systems performance fits with a focused entrepreneurial effort to insure that the development of the program is on track.

Communication and team camaraderie are critical entrepreneurial efforts.  In many engineering efforts the attitude by which the problems presented are approached drives the success of delivering the solution.  Open acceptance of ideas with a “we will find a way” attitude is critical to the chaos of entrepreneurial efforts.  Many traditional engineering relationships may have embedded in them a sound and successful history, this knowledge must be harvested and applied to the chaotic game changing efforts that may need more of an open and collaborative approach.  Many time traditional sequence of engineering events needs to be replaced with multi-directional thinking whereas all members of the team focus on meeting each other at some defined datum as opposed to a sequenced approval, certified and next discipline comments and review.  Parallel thinking is needed versus the traditional series sequence.  Efforts are stressed when the game is played one way with the intent another.  Like poker, you must play the tone of the table.