Working at Dow
I joined Dow in October of 2021 as part of a program for fresh graduates at the Terneuzen site. In this program, you are placed in one of Dow’s production plants or engineering departments for 2 years, where you develop an understanding of the company, the industry, and the different roles that you can do after finishing the program. Dow is one of the largest materials science companies in the world, and the Terneuzen site is Dow’s biggest site in Europe. I am working at one of the polyethylene plants, where we produce LLDPE for use in a wide range of applications, from packaging to food and personal hygiene products.
The role I’m currently doing is that of an improvement engineer- and I can’t think of a role that would be more suited for an IEM-SPE graduate. To understand why, you need to imagine the process at a large manufacturing company like Dow: at the production plant, you have an office with production engineers, improvement engineers, technical advisors, among other roles that are essential to keep production lines running. You also have separate departments where maintenance and construction technicians are working. Additionally, you have our engineering group. As an improvement engineer, I act as the contact person in between these three groups, by being a project manager and a representative for production. For example, most of the projects that I work on originate as an idea from the production group. This can be implementing changes in the process to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste, improve operability, improve production rates, or to introduce a new product family, among many other things. My role is then to first get a detailed understanding of the scope, the background, the urgency, the benefits, and the potential alternatives that were considered. Most importantly, I will also need to prepare a cost estimate to illustrate the financial feasibility of this project to decision-makers.
Once I have a clearly developed scope, I will bring it to our engineering group to discuss. In the engineering group, I interact with process, piping, mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers on a daily basis. My interaction is to present the scope to them and get feedback on what they think is doable, in addition to following up on progress and answering questions. Keep in mind that the people I’m interacting with in production, engineering, and maintenance are all coming from very different cultural and educational backgrounds, so proper communication skills are key here.
If the above sounds familiar, it’s because it is almost exactly what we are trained to do in IEM: have a strong technical background, understand the “problem-solving cycle,” have commercial acumen to evaluate opportunities, in addition to strong project and people management skills. This combination of skills is unique in technical environments and will make you stand out when combined with a strong work ethic and willingness to learn- so don’t underestimate this aspect of IEM!
The coming years will be very exciting for the company, as we are undergoing an environmental transition to reduce energy consumption and eliminate carbon emissions, as well as integrating circularity into our products and processes. In fact, some of these efforts are also sponsored by the Dutch government as they are integral to reaching the country’s emissions reduction goal. In short, there will be plenty of opportunities in the coming years!
For those of you curious to learn more about Dow, I invite you to look at the Operations Rotational Program. I have already met several colleagues from Groningen who joined the company this way. Alternatively, if you are interested in supply chain, Dow has a Supply Chain Rotational Program, which is also very suitable for IEM graduates. You can find more info by visiting campusemeai.dow.com
I am of course always happy to talk about my experience at Dow and careers in general, so don’t hesitate to send me a message on Linkedin!