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Rising Stars: Finding Satisfaction in Solving Tough Engineering Problems

By Erdin Beshimov

Starting out as an electrical engineer at a chemical plant, Alisa discovered her passion for applying her skills to a broad range of problems. Alisa encourages students to seize all the experiences they can and not shy away from opportunities, whatever they may be.

Name: Alisa Franklin
School: BSC - St. Louis University; MSC - Georgia Institute of Technology & University of Houston
Major: Electrical Engineering
Years Out of College: 5-10
Title: Control Systems Engineer
Company: Shell

First Steps

"My first job was as an electrical engineer at a chemical plant. I supported four production units (half of the plant) in their power and distribution needs, including that for daily operations, small projects, and unit shutdowns. There was a lot of learning involved, and I liked getting hands-on experience with the wide variety of electrical equipment. While the work was interesting and challenging, I came to the realization that I did not want a long-term career as a technical expert in electrical engineering. Instead, I wanted the opportunity to try out roles that would broaden my skill set and offer me a wider range of responsibilities. I discussed this with my manager, and he was supportive in helping me attain a new position."

My Experience

"I currently work as a control systems engineer, which involves ongoing interaction with the process specialists, unit management, and others to devise solutions that optimize production rates and simplify the level of complexity for the operators. Therefore, my typical days are a mix of meetings, time spent designing and building programs and interface screens, and interactions with the process operators in the control room to discuss control problems. I support daily operations, where things change quickly, so I often receive emergency calls (sometimes in the middle of the night!) to provide technical guidance. The best part of my job is the fulfillment I experience when I am called to work an existing problem, analyze it, and provide a solution. Coming up with the solution may take five minutes or five weeks, depending on the issue, but either way, the sense of accomplishment and the satisfaction of helping others are still there."

Next Steps

"My last four years as a discipline engineer, first in electrical power and now in control systems, nurtured my technical capabilities, showed me the forces at work at a manufacturing location, and exposed me to the opportunities available in an energy company. I do want to stay in the energy industry, but I want some broadening experiences outside the range of single discipline engineering. I expect my next job to leverage my quantitative and analytical skills with growth opportunities in project execution and work process development; I think these skills will be transferable to any job I take in the future. After that, I aspire to a job as a supply chain analyst, as I would like to build a career in supply chain management."

Advice for Others

"'If you are going to do something, care about it and do it well.' My parents have said this since I was a child; they are words I still live by. With my summer jobs and internships, my work background has ranged from jobs with an environmental NGO to a small consulting business in Belize to a large Fortune 500 multinational. Together, these experiences have helped form me into who I am today, and have shown me that there are so many things I am quite capable of doing. I don't think I would do anything differently."

"Therefore, even if students are starting off as electrical engineers, I usually tell them to seize all the experiences they can and not shy away from opportunities. Whether it is working one summer at a car wash, or taking a trip to the mountains, there is a lot to be learned and this learning can be applied in various ways. Of course, do it, and do it well. In the end, I think in life and at work it is all about options. The greater your range of experiences, the greater your options."

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