Alumni Spotlight: Sequoia Murray

This is another Alumni Spotlight, where we interview past PSWE members. Today, we feature Sequoia Murray, a former PSWE treasurer. If any of you have any questions at all for her, feel free to email her at sequoia.murray@honeywell.com. #IWorkAtHoneywell

1. Where do you work, and for how long have you worked there?

I work for Honeywell UOP as a Technical Advisor. UOP is an energy company that has been an industry leader in oil and gas refining technologies for over a century. UOP does not own any refineries/chemical plants/power plants etc; it is a company of patents. For example, there are 36 major technologies used in the refining industry today, and UOP has invented 31 of those technologies. UOP then leases or rents out patents to customers, so they can use the technology in their refineries, power plant etc.

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Hanging out with John Kerry at the India-US Higher Education Dialouge

I completed two internships with UOP before accepting a full time position. My first internship was in Des Plaines, IL working in Adsorbents R&D. I worked on the IONSIVTM IE-910 series of adsorbents. This adsorbent was used to clean radioactive cesium from ocean water after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. My second internship was in Engineering. I participated in Honeywell’s Passport to India program, a Federal State Department endorsed initiative to increase US study and work abroad in India. I worked out of UOP’s Guragon office (just south of New Delhi) running Aspen simulations to improve the UnionfiningTM Unit’s CAPEX and OPEX (capital and operating expenses). Unionfining removes contaminates from heavy hydrocarbon streams and is often used for low sulfur fuel oil production.

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Loving on elephants at Elefantastic in Jaipur, India

I’ve worked at UOP for 3 years now, and I’m currently completing UOP’s Career Development Program (CDP). It involves a two year rotational program in the Chicago area then 3-5 years traveling “on the road” in Field Operating Services (FOS). During my time in Chicago I’ve held several roles. My first rotation was in Hydroprocessing Technology Services for 8 months. For two of those months I worked on a UnicrackingTM Unit in New Orleans, LA for a revamp, loading, and restart. Unicracking uses hydrogen, high temperature, and high pressure to clean and break down heavy hydrocarbon feedstocks into usable products like diesel, kerosene, naphtha, and LPG. Additionally, I became a Six Sigma Green Belt by analyzing and redesigning how UOP designs their hydroprocessing reactor internals. I also supported our customers by analyzing data and working with Technology Service Specialists to provide unit operation feedback to customers.

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After my first confined space entry

My second rotation was in Manufacturing Product Technologies. For nine months I helped develop UOP’s latest generations of hydrocracking and reforming catalysts. I worked closely with our manufacturing plants to assist in UOP’s new hydrotreating catalyst line production scale up. I was the lead engineer on night shift for 4 catalyst production trials making operational changes to achieve on spec catalyst product. Catalyst trials are exciting because we are making large scale batches of newly developed catalyst for the first time, so there are often many unknowns and troubleshooting opportunities.

My current rotation is a Technical Advisor on the CCR PlatformingTM Health Check Team. Platforming takes low octane naphtha feed and increases its aromatics content (ie increases octane) while producing valuable hydrogen. I visit customer sites to collect data and advise on unit operation with the goal of increasing a customer’s Platforming Unit profits or lowering its costs. The role is ~50% travel.

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Attempting to stay warm in Russia

When I’m not onsite, I’m back in the office analyzing customer data and writing technical reports. The reports contain operational recommendations to better equip our customers to address and troubleshoot their problems. This September I will move to FOS and transfer to 100% travel. In this role I’ll travel to customer sites working on various UOP technologies to help customers commission, load, start-up, or troubleshoot their units.

2. What did you major in at Purdue, and why?

I majored in Chemical Engineering, but wow was it a long road to get there! I initially started out as a chemistry major. I loved science, particularly chemistry. Senior year of high school my dad was encouraging me to pursue engineering. The thought really scared and confused me because

a. I had never heard the word ‘engineer’ in the context of chemistry before

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b. Don’t engineers drive trains?

My high school had no engineering classes, and there were no engineers in my family. My dad said, “Sequoia, I hire chemistry majors all the time right out of school for 30 grand a year who don’t do a lick of chemistry. I know that you are envisioning working with chemistry on a daily basis, and with a bachelor’s in chemistry that’s very difficult to do.” Still weary, I applied for Purdue’s College of Science and was accepted into their Chemistry program. Upon further research and speaking with my academic advisor on my STAR day, I found out Purdue had a duel Chemistry/Chemical Engineering degree. It was a 5 year program, but you graduated with both a Bachelor’s in Chemistry and a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering. I thought I had found the perfect compromise. I would double major in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. This way my dad would stop nagging me, and I still got the comfort of having pure chemistry. I also decided to double minor with Psychology and Global Studies.

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Baby Sequoia on her STAR day all wide-eyed and smiley – completely unknowing of what she was about to get herself into

Junior year I ended up dropping the Chemistry major for a variety of reasons. Chemistry and Chemical Engineering are both difficult majors in their own rights. Put them together? I was exhausted. I was working my body to the point where I was constantly sick and never sleeping. Frankly, I was a hot mess. I had a sinus infection for essentially a year straight, mono, pink eye, the flu, colds, torn ankle tendons and crutches/boot for a semester etc. I would consistently get 0-3 hours of sleep a night and still not complete all my work. I was drowning, and it started reflecting in my grades. For my chemical engineering friends, their chemistry classes were their “easy” or “break” classes. Since I was double majoring, I was taking chemistry major specific versions of those “easy” classes. More was expected of me: I had double the lab and class hours they did and was designing my own experiments. Freshmen through junior year I took between 18-20 credit hours every semester. Between my double major, double minor, research job, SWE responsibilities, and various other organizational commitments – I was a walking zombie. I didn’t know when to quit or how to say no (or that it was okay to say no). My mom had always taught me that I could do anything. The problem was that I interpreted that advice to mean I could do everything.

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I meant zombie literally. From the PSWE 2013 Region H Bid Video.

Another aspect of me deciding which major to drop were my job prospects out of school. I found out quickly that my father was mostly right. I could do nearly everything I wanted to do with a four year chemical engineering degree that I would need an eight year chemistry degree to do. My job possibilities were so endless with a chemical engineering degree. The broadness of the degree was a beautiful thing for me because I could work in any industry. My interests and passions evolved A LOT in college. I was able to change what I wanted to do (pharmaceuticals to agriculture to energy) without having to change my actual major.

The final aspect which lead me to choosing engineering and dropping the chemistry major is hard to explain. I seemed to “fit” in engineering. Subconsciously I was making decisions that pulled me toward engineering and away from chemistry through the organizations I joined and study groups I formed. I became more excited about how to implement the real world large scale applications of chemistry and science versus the discovery and/or proof of concepts in a laboratory (UOP provides an excellent combination of the two).

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ChE homework “party.”

Alas, at the end of junior year, I finally came to terms that majoring in chemistry wasn’t for me, so I dropped it down to a minor. By the time I decided to drop chemistry, it was too late to graduate in 4 years; I needed one more semester to graduate. If I were being honest with myself, I would have dropped the double major after sophomore year. So why didn’t I? I didn’t because dropping one of the majors felt like failing. I was afraid to fail; I did what was wrong for me for two years because of my fear to fail. The failure I was so scared of ended up being the best decision of my life. My failure was my opportunity – I learned so much about who I was and what I wanted out of my life. I was able to intern in India and spend several months with my family in Brazil before starting my full time job. I also became much less sickly. It’s amazing what 3-6 hours of sleep per night (and actually finishing all your work) does for you compared to 0-3 hours of sleep per night (and not finishing all your work).

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Me melting as the Wicked Witch of the West in PSWE’s 2011 Homecoming float.

3. Why did you join PSWE?

I took my first engineering class second semester of my freshmen year at Purdue. When I was double majoring, I started in the College of Science and had to CODO (Change of Degree Option) into the College of Engineering before I could sign up for any engineering classes. I was 1 of 2 girls in a class of 120 students. It was in that moment – the shock of females comprising 1.67% of my class – I vaguely remembered my BGR leader talking to me about SWE. I had to find out more about it, so I attended the Spring Callout. By second semester of freshmen year, I had gone to A LOT of organization callouts. Not a single one held a candle to PSWE’s.

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The traditional, awkward/scary “Pass the Torch” picture to the new officers.

The Executive Board was so organized, goal focused, and friendly – PSWE was a well-oiled machine. They had a variety of things to offer from professional development to social activities. Each directorship knew what they wanted to accomplish and had paths to get there. Also, they were HUGE – 450+ women huge to be exact. It was such an amazing network I knew right away I had to be a part of it. I was an office assistant and then applied for the Job Fair Chair position for the following year.

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I served as the 2012-2013 treasurer and spent my last semester of school as a very active general member. I owe many of my best college memories to PSWE. I made lifelong friends with many strong, smart, and amazingly accomplished women who will always support and encourage each other to grow. I am privileged to know them and to have worked so closely with them.

4. What is the most exciting aspect of your job?

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Opening day of the September 2016 Sumo Tournament in Tokyo, Japan.

Hands down for me is the travel. I absolutely love traveling. In the past year I’ve been to South Korea, Russia, Japan, Texas (twice), Oklahoma, Louisiana, Trinidad, Romania, and Finland. I also really love the customer interaction of my job. I’ve learned how to work successfully with many different cultures through this job, and I find great satisfaction from helping a customer solve a problem or improve their operation. It’s also nice to travel and explore with the majority of costs taken care of by the company.

5. How do you balance your work and personal life?

I’m a very bad example of someone who has a balanced work vs personal life. I’m definitely still learning. The nature of my job makes this difficult as well. With all the traveling, particularly in FOS, flexibility is the name of the game. With a 100% travel job you have to be available at all times (including weekends and holidays). I end up missing quite a few weddings, birthdays, holidays etc. My best advice for this would be to have open communication with your manager. If you find yourself becoming overworked, talk to them. There have been several projects that required me to work 70+ hours a week. A good boss will recognize that and let you recover for a few days or work from home after the project, but don’t expect them to automatically give you something like. You have to keep an open line of communication with your manager, and you can’t be afraid to ask for the things you need and deserve. My philosophy is “ask and you shall receive – if you have the supporting data.” If you find yourself working 70+ hour weeks regularly – you likely have that data.

-Subhiksha, your editor

P.S.: If any of you would like to connect with Sequoia, here is her LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sequoia-murray-0a797930

Alumni Spotlight: Claudia Aguilar

This is another Alumni Spotlight, where we talk to PSWE alumni about their careers and experiences upon graduating from Purdue. Today, we feature Claudia Aguilar, who graduated from Purdue in industrial engineering. 

1. Where do you work, and for how long have you worked there?

I work for The Hershey Company and it will be 3 years in March.

2. Why did you decide to go to Purdue?

I was fortunate to have an older sister study civil engineering at Purdue. I had the opportunity to visit Purdue multiple times during my junior and senior year of high school and grew to love the campus. Once I decided to pursue engineering, Purdue was the perfect fit. It’s an excellent university with a great reputation, plenty to do and having an older sister there with me made it seem like home away from home.

3. Why did you join PSWE?

PSWE was my support group that got me through school. It’s a great way to meet people/make friends and give Purdue a ‘small school’ feel. It allows students to be as involved as they want, there really is something for everyone. Not only does it allow students to begin building their network with classmates, but students also have access to professionals. It was a great resume builder and helped prepare me for life after college. I was fortunate to be on the executive board for three years ( I was an officer my senior year). PSWE really helped break me out of my shell.

4. What do you like and dislike about your job?

At Hershey, I work in the continuous improvement group. My role is a mixture of a typical industrial engineering position and an autonomous maintenance SME (subject matter expert). I enjoy the fast pace and constant challenges a manufacturing environment provides. It’s great seeing the immediate impact your work can make. There’s always something new to learn and processes to improve. However, the culture and old-school manufacturing environment can be challenging to work in. My role requires the engagement of hourly employees and it’s not always easy to get in a union facility. Free chocolate is always a plus though. 😉

5. How do you balance your work and personal life?

This is something I’m constantly working on. It’s easy to turn an 8 hour day into a 10 or 12 hour day. Although it’s something I’m still working on, if I stay late I make sure not to bring any work home with me. I’ve noticed that when I work long hours and take work home, I’m not as productive or engaged the next day and it starts a vicious cycle of long work days. I try to use the time away from work to do things I enjoy and make sure they’re completely unrelated to work. Lately, I’ve been crafting, working out and learning how to play the piano in my spare time.

-Subhiksha, your editor

Alumni Spotlight: Sarah St. Clair

This is another installment in our series showcasing PSWE alumni. Today, we feature Sarah St. Clair, an AAE graduate and engineer at SpaceX. 

1. Where do you work, and for how long have you worked there?

I have been Quality Engineer at SpaceX since May 2013. My first day at the company was just two weeks after graduating from Purdue, and I’ve loved every minute since then!.

2. What did you major in at Purdue, and why?

I majored in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering (AAE) to fulfill a lifelong passion for space flight. Growing up, I wanted to expand humanity’s reach in the solar system and travel further than ever before. It was evident that Purdue had (and still has) a major role in aeronautical and astronautical advances. Purdue is known as the Cradle of Astronauts – I didn’t think I could find a better place for my studies!

3. What do you like and dislike about your job?

I am in love with the fast-paced nature and teamwork-oriented environment of my job. It is incredibly motivating to work among some of the brightest minds I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, all working towards the same goal. I look forward to getting up and going to work every day. While I believe that all jobs have their challenges, those challenges are part of what makes a job interesting and allows us to grow professionally AND personally.

4. How do you balance your work and personal life?

Work, especially work that you love, will take up as much time as you allow. I do actively schedule some time each week to enjoy other pastimes and spend time with the important people in my life. When I am not building rockets, you’ll finding me in a dance class, on the hiking trails, volunteering with STEM outreach, and/or enjoying community events in my favorite city: Los Angeles.

5. What do you miss about PSWE?

I always looked forward to every PSWE event! This organization and the people in it consistently kept me inspired and energized. There was a sense of camaraderie among the members that I feel is so important to continue to foster in our professional lives – I thank PSWE for playing a prominent role in guiding me towards this and so many similar realizations. Over my four years with the group, I most enjoyed (and now miss!) participating in the variety of outreach activities that PSWE coordinated at Purdue and in the surrounding community.

-Subhiksha, your editor

Alumni Spotlight: Ashley Lane

This is part of an ongoing series showcasing the PSWE alumni. Today, we feature Ashley Lane, who graduated from Purdue with a materials engineering degree. She now works at TimkenSteel Corporation. 

“1. Where do you work, and for how long have you worked there?

I am a materials engineer/metallurgist in supply chain and design engineering at the TimkenSteel Corporation working with new steel grades, determining various capabilities (chemistry, heat treat/properties, etc.) and doing various project work. I am approaching my 5 year anniversary this May.

2. What did you major in at Purdue, and why?

I earned my degree in Materials Engineering (MSE). Materials science and engineering is constantly producing opportunities to push the bounds of what we think is possible. I was drawn to how MSE combines the microscopic level (through structure and chemistry) and the macroscopic level (through processing and applications). I also knew that my major would open doors for me regardless of where I wanted my career to go.

3. Besides PSWE, what organizations were you a part of?

Society of Material Science Engineers, Emerging Leaders Program (ELPS), Women in Engineering Program (WIEP), Purdue Opportunity Awards, Purdue Debris and Yearbook, Women and Leadership Conference Student Committee, Material Advantage (Provides membership to 4 international material societies)

4. What do you like and dislike about your job?

I like that everyday is a bit different than the one before, and there is always a new challenge to tackle. I also enjoy being able to teach others what I have learned. My job has given me the flexibility to do that both in my current position and in volunteer work I do with students.

5. How do you balance your work and personal life?

This is an issue that everyone constantly struggles with as work-life balance looks different for everyone. Knowing your “non-negotiables” or things that you are not willing to give up is key. Depending on where a person is in their lives, a person will spend more time working, while other times they will spend more time with family. I also find organization and planning keeps me on track, while also ensuring I do not overwhelm myself.”

-Subhiksha, your editor

Alumni Spotlight: Stevie Kennedy

This is an installment of Alumni Spotlight, a series that showcases a PSWE alumnus and her experiences. Today, we talked to Stevie Kennedy who majored in chemical engineering at Purdue and now works at Air Liquide. 

“1. Where do you work, and for how long have you worked there?

I work for Air Liquide, Large Industries. I’ve been with Air Liquide 3.5 years now. I started in the ALLEX program where every 6 months for 2 years I rotated locations and positions to get to know the company and to see where I would like to end up in my final placement with the company. I’ve been the plant engineer at our Nederland Texas Air Separation Unit on the Gulf Coast Pipeline for a year and half.

2. What did you major in at Purdue, and why?

I majored in Chemical Engineering because I love chemistry, but I was swayed by family members to do engineering. Engineers are able to see a problem from start to finish, apply it, and put solutions into action!

3. Why did you join PSWE?

I joined PSWE to be more involved, meet people, and start a network at Purdue and beyond. SWE also helped with (and still does) help with professional development too, which was so useful for me at Purdue.

4. What do you like and dislike about your job?

I like the unknown of the job! Being at an older plant, every day is so different, you don’t know what to expect. Of course you perform preventative and predictive maintenance, but every problem that comes up is a unique challenge and opportunity for me to learn even more about the technology that I’m working with.  I dislike the fact that I am the only female at my site (~18 people), but I get along with everyone well. I have joined our Women’s Initiative Network as the Operations Chair to bring more operations personnel (females and female advocates) into the network for more ideas and opportunities to keep us females in the field still involved with the on-goings of the Air Liquide hub in Houston.

5. How do you balance your work and personal life?

I make an effort to join groups and stick with their events in the Golden Triangle area of Texas. It’s important to follow through and expand your network (personally and professionally) so I continuously look for ‘extracurricular’ opportunities to be involved in Air Liquide, the community, and my church. It can be hard at times when the plant trips or has a major unplanned maintenance item that keeps you at the plant for a very long day(s) or late into the night. Everyone’s very flexible here and we try to rotate personnel so that people get their time off that they want/need. Everyone’s all in it together though when something happens, which makes the team here so great – it feels like a big family. We take advantage of quiet moments when the plant is running well because we know that there will be a time later where all hands must be on deck to see something through. I always try to prioritize my day and week too. Some things can wait for tomorrow and somethings can not. Sometimes it gets hard to distinguish that, but it’s important to remember that some things really can wait so you can take time for yourself.”

-Subhiksha, your editor

Alumni Spotlight: Kateri Gilliland

This is the first installment in a series of articles highlighting alumni of PSWE who wanted to share their experiences. Today’s alum is Kateri Gilliland.

“1. Where do you work and how long have you worked there?

I am currently a graduate student in the department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington. I have been here since September 2014.

2. What is your favorite part about your job?

I enjoy learning new and interesting material in my courses, and when I teach undergraduate courses, I really love seeing students really grasp the material and leave the class as better engineers than when they entered it.

3. What is a new hobby you’ve been able to pick up (or re-start)?

Still having classes of my own, I have not had as much time for hobbies as I would like, but in summers when things are slower, I have been able to start reading again for fun and learning craft projects like cross-stitching and knitting.

4. What do you miss most about PSWE?

I miss Purdue and being closer to family and friends (both of which contain PSWE alumni) as Seattle is really far from Indiana. PSWE (and additionally WIEP) has created a very unique and supportive community for women engineers at Purdue that I have found that not everyone has. Additionally, there was always something cool to get involved with from Rube Goldberg to activities with future engineers to monthly membership meetings. Also bagel breaks were the best way to start a Friday morning.”

-Haley & Jennie