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Koch Engineers Thrive in 'Constant State of Transformation'

For Engineers Week 2021, we asked some engineers across Koch about their profession and passion

February 22, 2021

min read

Across Koch Industries, more than 9,000 engineers put their experience and training to work every day. They keep the wheels of industry turning, processes optimized, resources efficiently used and people safe. Representing dozens of engineering specialties – from chemical to mechanical, industrial to electrical, process to environmental – their expertise and capabilities are essential to Koch. For Engineers Week 2021, we asked some engineers across Koch about their profession and passion.

 

Q: Why did you decide to become an engineer?

 

In my hometown, my family owned a furniture and appliance store and did residential HVAC repair. When I was six years old, I began taking apart appliances in their shop to see how they worked and would ride along with my father on service repairs. In high school I worked at a machine shop. I’ve always had a passion for being able to visualize how things work and how they are created, which led me towards mechanical engineering.

- Taylor Wright, project engineer, Koch Fertilizer

 

I was so sure I was going to be a dentist. My dad was an electrical engineer and I always thought his job seemed kind of boring. But I knew an engineer used math and science to solve problems, and that sounded like something I would enjoy and be good at. After reading about civil and structural engineering, I knew I’d found my match. I loved the idea of taking something imagined, such as a building or a bridge, and designing and implementing that idea.

- Kayla Waller, process safety supervisor, Flint Hills Resources

 

I chose chemical engineering because I loved chemistry and math as a kid, as well as building things. In addition, I wanted to study chemical engineering as my pre-med degree for medical school. Ultimately, I ended up loving chemical engineering and did not go on to medical school, which was one of the best decisions of my life. 

- Ugochi Egbe, transformation project manager, Flint Hills Resources

 

Q: What qualities or interests are ideal for an engineer?

 

Some of the biggest qualities that have helped me as a chemical engineer are having a curious nature, being persistent, building trust with the groups I work directly with, and being an effective communicator who can explain ideas in terms that make sense. 

- Daniel Frank, production engineer, Koch Fertilizer

 

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Curiosity and problem solving. Engineers are, at the base level, really good at solving complex problems. When you add in the initiative and curiosity to see things through, you end up with a really interesting, engaging career. 

- Jenni Dickson, process controls leader, Koch Fertilizer

 

Like a lot of engineers, I grew up enjoying Legos and video games. An engineer is someone that enjoys solving problems and achieving something that was once impossible. You need a blend of patience, resilience, curiosity, humility and awe to enjoy such a pursuit.

- Andrew Meyer, process safety manager, Koch Fertilizer

 

Chemical engineers are typically very curious, creative and understand the parts and pieces that come together to make a product. This also makes them a great asset in helping optimize processes.

- Ugochi Egbe, transformation project manager, Flint Hills Resources

 

Q: How is your role as an engineer transforming?

 

Currently a lot of what we are doing to transform process safety at the refinery is related to technology, which is really cool. We get to learn and teach ourselves about new technology that can help us make better decisions with the best information possible. I just love that my role encourages me to continue learning new things to improve process safety at the refinery. 

- Kayla Waller, process safety supervisor, Flint Hills Resources

 

Our work is uniquely set up to be in a constant state of transformation. We have a slogan for a lot of the initiatives we’re working on: “Let computers do what computers are good at, then humans can do what they are good at.” One of the things we are currently working on is advanced process control, which will move us more towards our vision of a “Plant of the Future.” This will also free up time for our console operators to do more high-value work.

- Jenni Dickson, process controls leader, Koch Fertilizer

 

Q: What is it like being an engineer at Koch?

 

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I’ve worked at companies where experimentation was looked down on. It almost seemed like they had adopted a zero-risk philosophy with the mindset of, “If it’s working, why fix it?” With Koch, I’ve seen a huge change in my three years at our facility and within my own role. We shy away from saying, “There’s no way we can do that.” Instead, we ask the question, “How can we make that happen?”

- Daniel Frank, production engineer, Koch Fertilizer

 

As any kind of engineer at Koch, you can use your skills to do things that wouldn’t necessarily be traditional for your degree. For example, I’m an electrical engineer and have worked on pipeline controls, which is traditionally electrical engineer work. But I’ve also been a plant manager, which is typically a chemical engineer.

- Janelle Reese, director of global environmental health & safety, INVISTA

 

I wear a lot of different hats working at Koch. I might complete work that is more process, mechanical, electrical or logistics-related. In some industries I wouldn’t have that opportunity; there would be other people who specialized in one of those four areas.  

- Christian Larson, reliability engineer, Koch Fertilizer

 

With so many companies and facilities, there is no shortage of problems to solve or opportunities to improve. Koch will actively push you to self-actualize and develop into – or even create – your next role.

- Taylor Wright, project engineer, Koch Fertilizer

 

Q: What do you think the future holds for engineers?

 

As long as people need to eat, travel and use technology, there will be a need for engineers. The future is especially bright now as we move toward automated processes.

- Taylor Wright, project engineer, Koch Fertilizer 

 

Engineering is an evergreen field where new technologies and inventions are continuously made. There are always opportunities for improvements in a running facility to increase the safety, quality and production rate through innovation.

- Jignesh Patel, instrument and controls project manager, Koch Fertilizer

 

The future of chemical engineering continues to be very bright. As the world is changing, new industries and processes are developing (in energy production and storage, equipment and materials, and computational methods). These developments will continue to drive progress, and chemical engineering will be involved in – and benefit from – all these opportunities.

- Ev Shishkin, process capability leader, Koch Fertilizer