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 firstname.lastname@example.org. #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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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?
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