This post is an installment of a current series, Industry Insights, where we talk to Purdue graduates about working in the industry. Today, chemical engineering graduate Julia Hom talks about her experience in Eastman and the industry as a whole.
“Hello! My name is Julia Hom and I graduated from Purdue in 2015 after studying Chemical Engineering. Since then, I’ve been working at Eastman Chemical Company where I perform experiments to refine different manufacturing processes. I loved being a part of PSWE and want to share some pieces of advice I’ve learned since graduating.
“Advice I try to remember as a young engineer:
1. Define the skills you know, the ones developing, and the ones you want to develop in the future. Adopting this strategy has kept me focused in my current role and reminded me to stay open to new opportunities. This process requires understanding which skills I have already mastered, then incorporating those into my career. The books “The Pathfinder,” by Nicholas Lore and “What Color is Your Parachute,” by Richard Bolles have both helped me enter this mindset. Talking with coworkers has been encouraging, but ultimately, I had to invest time alone into thinking about it. The clearer the picture I have about my skills, the better I can communicate my career aspirations to my manager, mentor, or someone who can help expose me to new experiences.
“2. Take time to learn the true objective of the task at hand and its priority before leaping in immediately. I have learned that knowing background information pays off in the long run because that knowledge provides motivation for yourself and others. Also, there have been scenarios at work when I didn’t have time to address every task in my queue and had to follow through with higher priorities first.
“3. Define what you don’t know, figure out who can best help you, and then ask for help! Since starting working, I haven’t been expected to figure out everything on my own. It took me time to understand basic organizational flow and which people had what expertise. After building relationships, it was easier to find who the right person was and ask for help.
“Lessons I learned in PSWE that I have used:
1. Network with those both older and younger than you. One of my favorite parts of PSWE was meeting people who were not my age. I have found that learning how to relate to people of different ages is essential in the workplace. The age gap becomes larger after college, and I work with some people who are grandparents. In this way, being a new hire feels similar to being a freshman. In embracing the feeling of being inexperienced, I can ask obvious questions to everyone.
“2. Success can be contingent on communication. In PSWE, I found that a simple idea, if communicated clearly, will stick. In industry, there are many moving parts and keeping key stakeholders informed was essential to a project’s success. If I made a change or carried out a plan, I work to communicate and document it well!
“3. Listen intently to all feedback. I remember being a member of PSWE and looking back at the survey forms for events and programs, then deciding how to improve the event based on that feedback. Similarly at work, respectfully listening to others will bring new perspectives and ideas. I learned that the more I listen, the more honest feedback I receive.
“4. Don’t forget to have fun! In college finding free time could be difficult, but without it, burning out is inevitable. PSWE became my outlet to meet fun people and develop new skills. As work gets busier, I rely on friends, Krav Maga class, and my piano to recharge.”